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A Virtual Tech Gadgets Smorgasbord!

September brings word of new gadgets — smartphones, tablets, cameras, wearables, whatever else — and it all looks so tasty!

Ah, September. Summer holidays fading into memory, work ramping back up, children getting settled into new school routines, a hint of a nip in the air (at least once the sun goes down) as autumn begins baby-stepping into place, and the usual blast of new gadgetry hyper…er, news…no, had it right the first time.

Thick and furious, it seems that this week new smartphone goodness was announced by every player in the space (save for Apple, which has its circled-on-every-calendar iPhone event set for next Tuesday). Most if not all of this activity is in conjunction with IFA Berlin 2014 — Europe’s largest consumer electronics event — though it seems that none of the interested parties could be bothered to wait for the start of the actual event (today, that would be). Among the smartphony gadgets soon to show up on shop shelves are:

  • Samsung: Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge
  • Sony: Xperia Z3, Zperia Z3 Compact
  • Microsoft/Nokia: Lumia 830, Lumia 930, and Lumia 730

And those are just the smartphone devices put up for media scrutiny fawning prior to the IFA Berlin 2014’s official opening. Over the next five days similar smartphone announcements are due from HTC, LG, Acer, Lenovo, Huawei, Asus….pretty much everyone except Big Daddy Apple.

As if all of that is not enough, a kit-n-kaboodle of tabletish shiny things are also set for intro (or have already been intro’d), along with some wearable whatnot, and all kinds of digital fun that lies outside of phones and tabs.

It doesn’t take much in the way of deductive reasoning to understand why we as consumers get tech-dumped on during September every year. The mechanisms of hype need a bit of oiling up in preparation for the holidays, interest has to spread from those who are too-in-tune to those who listen to and/or depend on those who are too-in-tune, and the marks…no, no, no…the buying customers need time to get their heads around the cost of the new delights (and time to save coin to buy them).

Only 100 shopping days until Christmas*!

*And 7-8 fewer until Chanukah…but I couldn’t find a website for tracking that.

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What I Did On My Summer Holiday (Digital Issue)

Recounting a (digital) summer holiday, well spent.

I didn’t intend to take a break from writing during this year’s La Famille Kessel summer holiday in Normandy. No, I had plans to regale stalwart readers with missives on the nature of my vacation from the digital perspective, intending to carry the content flag for anyone out there hungering for fresh pixelated meat during these dog days of August. Of course, I also planned to put sugar in the Latte Cannelle that just arrived to the left of KoryChrome here at Paris’s RROLL. Not salt.

Offering up the Yiddish proverb my departed mother used to wield easily and quite often, “Man plans and God laughs.”

Failures aside (gee, that was easy), in an attempt to backwards-engineer satisfaction of the aforementioned hunger I will recount five (5) areas of computer-based fun I indulged in around the edges of my mostly unearned R&R over the past four weeks.

<OK. Everybody take a breath. Here we go.>

  1. As an R.E.M. fan(atic) dating back to the 1983’s “Murmur” I was thrilled to learn in May that the band was finally making good on their long-held promise/threat to issue a rarities collection. And in typical R.E.M. style the boys over-delivered, kicking out not one collection but two — Complete Rarities: I.R.S. 1982-1987 (50 tracks) and Complete Rarities: Warner Bros. 1988-2011 (131 tracks). 181 tracks, the equivalent of 18 albums of “new” material. Of course, the fact that I already had 98% of the tracks didn’t make this treasure trove any less interesting, oh no! These two digital “boxsets” represented an UPGRADE opportunity supreme, as well as hours and hours of artwork foraging and data tagging and reconciliation amusement. Just my kind of BIG data.
  2. It seems that every summer for going on who-knows-how-many years I have on some late night or other sat down at my computer determined to finally get a definitive handle on media information delivery. Or, in other words, figuring out how to configure RSS feeds in a way that not only brought links across from my favorite resources in a great many areas, but that did so in a way that allowed me to spend more time benefitting from the deluge than managing it. I hesitate to whether I succeeded this time, but with RSS Notifier in place and tweaked pretty darn well I can say that my hopes are high. If next summer I find myself NOT re-attacking this project, at that time I will know that “Paid” has finally been put to this bill.
  3. The new site that you hold in your hands, dear reader, has been praised far and wide, end to end, and in between the cracks (yes, I am the reason the store is out of clichés until next Tuesday). And on the surface it rocks far and wide, end to end…well, etc. Behind the scenes, though, quite a bit of work remains to be done to really get the thing humming. One major effort taking place is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) enhancement/reconciliation for legacy posts going back six-plus years, an ongoing task that represented pretty much all of the work I did on the site during August, between opening my throat for copious food and drink intake, forming a marvelous first-impression of Guernsey (the result of a brilliant 4-day holiday-within-a-holiday excursion), and doing whatever-the-heck-else constituted a holiday well taken. Regular visitors to the site will likely not notice any changes to their experience, save perhaps for greater crowds milling about the more popular attractions therein.
  4. 38+ rolls of film. In the four weeks stretching from 27-July to 24-August I shot over 38 rolls of film. “Holy Shutterbug, Batman!”, you are no doubt thinking, because presented like that the feat sure sounds impressive. And expensive. Leyna the Leica is quite the digital camera, though, so please temper your awe accordingly. Still, I do shoot in RAW and that necessitates that I “develop” the photos into .jpg files, adjusting various photo attributes as necessary (exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, white and black clipping, saturation, sharpening, noise reduction, and perspective correction, to name far too many), so if you want to let your awe (awe for RAW?) run rampant then by all means please do.
  5. The “La Famille Kessel” cookbook project continued during summer holiday 2014, with 10 recipes added, the appendage of notes and photos to existing content, and even some scant thought paid to eventual production. The collection, an ongoing concern, is an amorphous beast of a thing that will bring together pass-down family and friend recipes and a wealth of those found in key cookbook/magazine/whatever over the years. Promises to be quite the tasty thing when version 1.0 is finally completed…sometime in 2022 or thereabouts, coinciding with the kicking of The Boy out of his broadband-enabled nest.

So in summing up my digital meanderings for summer 2014, it is apparent that it was all about data and databases (about as surprising as water flowing out of the spigot when the tap is turned on). And naturally, we at are curious to know what you did to wile away the long days and short nights of summer — nobody will laugh — and thus invite your prolific Comments input. C’mon…have at it!


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The Hump Day Five (23-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five this week goes to the pictures, gets the picture, migrates the pictures, wants a phone that takes the pictures, and offers a picture of Paris on Summer holiday.


A few days ago a filmmaker friend of mine asked if I would be interested in screening a rough cut of a documentary he has been working on for some time. I was somewhat flattered that he would ask, of course, and I have quite a strong propensity for documentaries, so I instantaneously responded with “Yes, please.”

Not long after I received the details of screening the documentary, and it was at that point that it all started to tweak my interest beyond the subject matter of the film itself, for two reasons. One, the film was presented to me as a video stream via Vimeo (password access, naturally). And two, my friend specifically requested that I promise to watch the film straight through with no breaks and without distraction.

So this is where we are today. Able to grant immediate access to video works in progress via the Internet, and as a result of that delivery method needing to beseech the viewer to take special care to not multi-task when viewing said film via the Internet. Not that I don’t get the reasoning, because I absolutely do, though it does have me thinking that in the not-too-distant future there will be technology deployed to tighten such tasks up. Insistent Streaming? You can watch vwxyz, but you have to do so in Full Screen mode and without screen deviation lest you have to start over from the beginning.

The screening request came across five days ago and I have yet to watch my friend’s film. Really, it is pretty sad that I am finding the idea of being-connected-yet-essentially-disconnected from AppleKory for 90 minutes straight to be daunting!


I’ve been hush-hush for a while now regarding my search for my next smartphone, waiting patiently for the one I had mostly settled on — the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom — to become available in France. I did manage to put my hands on a GKZ while I was in London for’s Pissup in a Brewery last month, and this helped to both move me closer to pulling the trigger and towards establishing a sharper perspective on my decision.

In short, I realized that as much as I would love to have a Galaxy K Zoom as my next smartphone friend, I will only do so if my carrier (Bouygues) can offer it to me at a subsidized price. They do this with a good many other Samsung smartphones, including the flagship S5 (which costs €599 unlocked, without subsidy, but only €221 paid out over 24 months with a correlating commitment), so I came to expect I could put myself into a Galaxy K Zoom for under €200 (versus €499 unlocked, without subsidy).

No dice. Or, at least, no dice yet. Despite my best efforts to make such a deal happen, and the encouragement of a Bouygues drone who told me he could do so but in truth could not (seems that he was willing to say just about anything to me over the phone to get me to walk in the shop), I remain wanting. And with the Summer holidays descending quickly in France, it seems I will remain saddled with my iPhone 4 at least until the start of September. And with the iPhone 6 announcement likely to take place that month…?


A few months back I made one of those big decisions. You know, the kind that changes everything, after which nothing will ever be the same and from which there is no going back. A paradigm shift of immense magnitude.

Thick, running irony, like motor oil straight from the can.

I decided to change photo management software, from Apple’s not-bad-for-a-toy iPhoto to Adobe’s truly terrific Lightroom 5.

For a good long time iPhoto worked for me. There were some significant bumps along the way, to be sure, such as dealing with the product’s generosity when it came to gobbling up AppleKory hard drive space with it’s need to maintain two copies of any photo that was modified in any way (including simple rotation). For the most part, though, iPhoto and I got along fine, even as my photography skills outgrew the software’s cutesy function set.

I suppose I knew that at some point I would need to move from iPhoto into something more robust, however in dabbling with other photography management packages over the years — window-shopping, as it were — I became fully aware of how difficult and tedious an endeavor it would be, fully switching over. Man, that is one deep and dark path to walk down, and if it wasn’t absolutely necessary…well, I could make iPhoto continue to work for me. That is, until I couldn’t.

For reasons unknown, at right about the same time I was beginning to explore shooting in RAW (though this had nothing to do with the issue), iPhoto stopped accepting modifications made to picture files. The changes I made — upping the contrast or vibrancy of a photo, for example, or cropping an image — would stick, but only until I exited iPhoto. Thus, when I would start the application again, any modifications I had made during the previous session were gone.

Naturally, I google-binged my problem, and I discovered that I was not alone. A great number of my fellow iPhoto users had been dealing with the same problem, and as far as I was able to tell in my digging none of them had come up with a solution short of abandoning iPhoto for one of its competitors..

The writing, as they so (too?) often say, was on the wall. iPhoto, it has been nice. Enter Lightroom 5.

It has taken patience and time to do it to do it to do it to do it to do it right, child…er, move everything over, and I have hit my share of lulls, but a marvelous documentary I saw last Friday about the recently-discovered photographer Vivian Maier kicked me back into it, and finally I am finished. And nothing will ever be the same.


It has now been three weeks since I took AppleKory into the Apple Store at Opera to have one of their supposed Genius folk render opinion and possible solutions for a fan and heating problems. For reasons unknown, the poor girl’s CPU was running regularly at about 90 degrees Celsius and her fan was blowing at the maximum 6204 rpm. A friend who is also my OSX Guru has long told me that I run too many apps and processes simultaneously (foreground and background), and he was convinced that was the problem, but even when I turned just about everything off the CPU heat spiked and the fan in response ran loud enough to her in the next room (quite strange for a MacBook Pro).

The Genius who attended me ran some diagnostics and found no problem. He then, though, suggested that it could be a problem with the thermal paste in conjunction with the heat sink, and that such a repair would only cost €29…and a three separation. Wanting to have a happy and healthy AppleKory, I swallowed hard and handed her over. I then went home and told my Guru that he was wrong (Wrong! Wrong!), and that the problem was not running AppleKory too hard, but that it had to do with a hardware issue.


Two days later the Apple technician called. He told me in broken-but-not-bad English that the thermal paste was fine, and that as far as he could tell there was no problem with my system. “Perhaps you are asking it to do too much at the same time?”, he said. “Anyway, it is ready for you to pick up anytime.”


I retrieved AppleKory soon after, and — go figure — since then she has been purring like a kitten (so to speak…that is, without the noise). I have changed nothing with regard to the software I run or the intensity of such (over 20 Google Chrome tabs open as I type), and yet it is a rare occurrence when her temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius or her fan exceeds 5000 rpm (and most of the time both of those numbers are significantly lower…at this moment, 72 and 2588 rpm).

Like the child whose symptoms disappear upon realizing a visit to the doctor is in the offing? Or the sick cat who seems to get better when a visit to the vet is imminent? That Apple technician must be one scary dude, indeed!


Approaching the end of July, it is evident that the France Summer holiday has begun to take hold. Signs are appearing in the windows of shops and restaurants announcing date ranges of closure, the foot traffic on the street is significantly lighter, there are fewer people in the Metro (and fewer trains running, as well), there is a lot less ambient and incidental noise leaking into Chez Kessel. You would think, though, that with fewer people in town taxing Internet pipe capacity that my broadband service would be much improved, wouldn’t you?

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The Hump Day Five (16-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five is on Red Alert this week, getting all Google-y powerful on music in the cloud, Leftovers, and Ping Pong Mania.


Started watching a new TV show a couple of weeks back called “The Leftovers”. If you haven’t haven’t seen or heard of it, the premise is quite simple. On 14-October at a precise moment in time approximately 2% of the world’s population randomly disappears without a trace. Drivers from moving vehicles, criminals from prison cells, babies from car seats, one moment there the next moment gone. It doesn’t take much imagination to see compelling story elements in such a framework, and in fact it is easy to see how the utter chaos of such a situation could become too much of a good thing (entertainment-wise, that is). The creators, though, very smartly opt to confine the drama to a single small town somewhere in America and how “The Departure”, as it is called, has affected and continues to affect the populace three years down the line. Succulent details are offered via ancillary media — overheard radio, television news programs being watched by this-or-that character, etc., not a small amount of Internet-y stuff — and go so far as to include a list of celebrities who number among the 2%. Dark stuff riddled rich with despair, sure, and as television goes it isn’t for everyone, but if you like your diversion disturbing and in-your-face I highly recommend checking it out.


Since late June a new application for both iPhone and Android has been making its way through the zeitgeist in direct response to the once-again-heightening tensions between Israel and Palestine: Kobi Snir’s Red Alert Israel. The idea behind this new app is to alert users of incoming rockets so they can stop whatever it is they are doing and take shelter*. The alerts received (tied directly to Israel Defense Forces and Homefront Command) can be configured quite tightly — there are a great many individual areas, considering the country’s small land mass — and each alert offers allows for comments, which can include prayers and encouragement, as well as — not surprising, but enraging nonetheless — inflammatory notes full of disparagement and outright hatred. Red Alert Israel also includes streaming Israeli radio (in Hebrew) to supplement its alerts with more detailed information (I assume). All in all, it is a noble idea that falls definitively on the side of the angels (and I say this even knowing that there is no Red Alert Palestine equivalent).

So I am sensitive to the dead-serious nature of Red Alert Israel and applaud and support its above-reproach mission, but I would be fibbing BIG-time if I said the image of people running for cover from flying ordinance with their hands flailing high above their heads clutching their phones didn’t loosen a small smile. Got too many episodes of The Simpsons under my belt, I suppose. Please excuse (or feel free to flame me up but good in the Comments).

The Red Alert Israel app is free, as you would expect, though it does run shifting banner advertising, because in these times absolutely nothing should go unsponsored. I mean, think about it…is there an advertiser out there who wouldn’t want their product or service to be associated with the saving of lives? And thus a new business model is born!

*The users in Israel, that is, as it is quite evident that Red Alert Israel is being downloaded and put into use by people living elsewhere..for purposes of showing solidarity, inspiring prayer and greater empathy, to stoke flames of outrage, to feed whatever vicarious needs, perhaps to serve as the basis for gambling or drinking games, etc.


For someone who spends as much time driving keyboards and mice as I do, I really can be late to the party at times. Take cloud-hosted music (aka online music lockers, aka online music storage services). Available in various flavors for a few years now (the majors all bowed in 2011 — Apple, Amazon, Google — whereas an early achiever called AudioBox left the starting block in 2009), it was only this past weekend that I started to consider the idea of throwing some of my music up into the ether for ready access across my computers and smartphone. Naturally, I was aware of the cloud-hosted music concept, but that awareness was mostly relegated to Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud/iTunes Match service, and as I trust Apple’s software and service offerings about as much as…well, not at all, actually, I put up a willful “blind spot” to the whole idea. Of course, it also helped that my music collection far exceeded the 25,000 song limit put on the $25-per-year service by Apple, and that at the start – as is unfortunately so often the case — the service was available to U.S.-based users only.

A couple of years passed, and then along came KoryChrome. And with KoryChrome came promotions for Google services. And with the promotion in particular of Google Play Music — which I learned is now available in France and which includes the ability to load/match 20,000 songs absolutely free — came my revisiting the subject of cloud-hosted music this past weekend. 20,000 songs for uploaded/matched for free? Songs I can access from any Internet-connected computer capable of running a browser (Google Chrome need not be that browser, either), or from any Internet-connected smartphone? All without commercials or listening limitations?

Yeah, I know this party started ages ago, but as far as I am concerned there is still beer in the fridge and it’s still ice-cold.


On the subject of KoryChrome, La Famille Kessel returned to our Pays d’Auge family hovel in Blangy-le-Château this past weekend, and my keen and cool new Chromebook was thus reunited with its power source. And this time that power source made it into my computer bag for the trip back to Paris at weekend’s end. No doubt, a great many of you will now breathe easier and will stop wanting for sleep.


Got struck hard by a serious wave of irony a few hours ago when My Missus and I put The Boy on a train to summer camp. The camp he is attending is called “Ping Pong Mania” (translate from French), and it promises to be exactly that, with 90+ minutes of table tennis play and training each morning and another such session each afternoon. I blush with a certain amount of pride in saying that my kid is really quite masterful at the game, in no small measure because other than ping pong his free time these days is overwhelmingly consumed by Minecraft, Clash of Clans, SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition, youtube videos galore rooted in gameplay and game parody and what-have-you, and a bevy of other sofa-bound veg-and-play games and experiences.

My hope is the next 10 days will find The Boy matched up with other kids his age who are at or near his level. Otherwise, his hesitance to get off the couch and get out in the world (read: separate from his MacBook and iPad and Nintendo DS3) will have been justified…or so he will say and think, anyway. And this is where the irony lies as 32 years ago I remember feeling similar hesitation at heading off to summer camp, too…summer computer camp!

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Yes, I Read Super Hero Comic Books

There are far worse things you can carry from childhood to adulthood than super hero comic books (and fewer that look better on your tablet screen).

For me, super hero comic books are just one of those things. I loved them as a child in single digits, continued to look in on them occasionally (and sometimes more often than that) through my teens, and plugged in harder than ever when Frank Miller and Alan Moore took them to the edge of serious dark pop art in my early 20s. I suppose I lost the thread somewhat as my 30s approached, though I am not sure if that was me or the simple fact that both Marvel and DC jettisoned creative storytelling during the 1990s in favor of marketing tricks designed to make every issue a collectible (not to forget to mention doubling the price of single issues…and then doubling it again). Regardless, moving to Paris — a land where reading comic books is less a geek tattoo and more proof of an enlightened mind — hooked me back in kinda-sorta, a side effect of my haunting the English language comic shops in and around the Rue Dante lying in wait for the latest can’t-miss graphic novels by the likes of Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, and Daniel Clowes, among many others. And I am sure that is where I would be today — hooked back in kinda-sorta — were it not for the darn things all going digital.

I don’t recall the first time I read a comic book on a computer, though it certainly predates my 2008 Mac re-entry. I do remember, though, how awkward it felt, viewing each scanned page one at a time before moving on to the next page using the → key or the Space bar. I also remember how annoying it was to have to hit the ← key repeatedly to go back to check some plot detail I skimmed past (annoyance that was multiplied by having to then hit the → key repeatedly to return to where I had left off). It all felt so trivial at the start, so “Take it or leave it.” And I left it. For a while, anyway, I left it.

Mostly, I left it. OK, every now and again, usually nipping at the heels of 3AM, I would download some issue in the Batman or Daredevil scheme of things and indulge (won’t say how or from where or whether it was a legal happenstance or not, no way). Just to stay up on the story, you know? Keeping up with the characters, these old friends of mine from childhood/teenagehood/young adulthood..whichever ‘hood I am inhabiting as I barrel towards 50.

And then My Missus brought home the iPad.

Like so many of us, I was tuned into the whispers and rumors of the iPad that were flying thick and furious during the back half of ‘09 and up through its introduction by Steve Jobs in late January of 2010. By the time of that announcement, though, I had driven an iPhone around the town a little bit without falling under its spell, and at first blush the iPad looked like nothing more than an iPhone on growth hormone. Interesting? Sure. Curious? You bet, because it was the birth of a new gadget category (and, naturally, because it was a new Apple product). Necessary? Uh…no. Not for anyone who had access to a computer and/or smartphone, anyway.

Not long after the iPad announcement I was able to put my hands and fingers on one of the first to make it to France. I can slide the apps pages back and forth. Smooth. I can touch an icon and open an app. Expected. It plays music and movies. Hmm. OK. Here you go, and thanks for letting me play with your new iPad. Enjoy. Oh…uh…can you make phone calls with it?

So getting back on track…a first-generation iPad made its way past over the Chez Kessel moat towards the end of ‘10, courtesy of My Missus, who as a publisher had been tasked with starting down the path of developing textbooks for the darn thing. Again, I held an iPad in my hands, and again I swiped the screen from side to side, touched app icons to watch the apps open, and clocked that it could be used to input music and video content. Then just as I was about to hand it back I had the thought, “I can read .pdf files on it, and book files in Amazon’s .mobi format…maybe…YES!”

Digital comic books, most often traded in .cbr (Comic Book Reader) and .cbz (Comic Book Zip), had proved to be a somewhat strange experience on a computer screen, but the iPad looked like it just might be a worthy delivery vehicle for suchness. And when a short google-bing turned up info on Cloudreaders, a free program able to read files in these two file formats (.pdf, too), I was on my way back to regular sustained web-slinging, shield-wielding, power-ringing, bataranging, billy-clubbing, hammer-throwing, repulsor-raying…OK, I’m OK. Can stop that now.

Now I had the means and the method, but what about the content? Well, as I stated earlier WITHOUT ADMITTING TO ANY INAPPROPRIATE ACTION OR BEHAVIOR, at some point I became aware of ways in which a person with an interest in doing so could easily obtain digital super hero comic books and at no cost. Speaking further about that person and their interest, it is a fact that pulp science fiction and comic books were among the very first pieces of “analogue” reading materials to be fan-digitized, to the point now where it is seriously difficult to think of content that cannot be had, ripe and ready for e-reading (and quickly, at that). Just to illustrate, do-do-that-goo(gle)goo(gle)-that-you-do-so-well on the following terms: “Complete Marvel Chronology” and look for links to Internet file-sharing destinations that I AM NOT TELLING YOU TO CLICK-THROUGH TO.

To close, I will share here that I really was (am!) one of those cliched kids whose now-priceless super hero comic book collection fell victim to tragic circumstances. In my case, “tragic” means a parental ultimatum issued: I could sell my comics at our “We’re Moving” yard sale or I could give them away, but there was no way they were being placed on the truck that would complete our summer 1976 family transfer from Chicago to Dallas. I unloaded hundreds of valuable pulpy friends* for $0.07 to $0.10 each on that August day, imagining not for a moment that I might be reunited with them someday down some dusty ol’ digital road (feel free to replace “digital road” with “information superhighway” if you must, because I just cannot bring myself to do so).

*Valuable to me, that is. Despite all of the ballyhoo I offer, my comic book collection wasn’t priceless…most of the issues were in tattered well-read condition, in fact, and fewer than five pre-dated 1970. I did, though, have issues 121, 122, and 129 of “The Amazing Spider-Man”, and you most assuredly did not.

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The Hump Day Five (9-July-2014)

In line with Broadband Week on, the Hump Day Five either benefits, suffers or remains mind-numbingly inconsequential…you decide.


Need for Speed HubFourteen years have passed since I arranged my first broadband Internet service in Paris with France Telecom, and yet it is no effort whatsoever to recall that first setup. Is this because I have an elephant’s memory? Well, it could be (because I do), but it is far more likely due to the utter ridiculousness of the Alcatel Speed Touch USB ADSL modem that came with that subscription. I remember when the box arrived, modem and instructions inside, and opening it to find…an aqua-green jellyfish-serpent cyborg!

Holding that creature in my hands — and there really was no way to think of it in any other terms — I could not help but think, “Man, these French people really do have a different way of doing EVERYTHING!” By this point I had been in the country for nearly a year, so this was not an uncommon thought for me (more like one I tripped over at least once a day), and yet…well, I laughed because there really was no other possible reaction. Then I connected the darn thing up — one end of it kchinged via standard RJ11 cable into the T-plug ADSL filter that plugged into the phone jack, the other connected via USB cable to my Dell Inspiron 3700 — and got to work.


Not long ago my ISP in Paris (Bouygues) informed me that my 100 M/ps service was being upgraded to 200 M/ps at no additional charge, which would’ve been cause for celebration if the service had actually changed moved out of its actual speed range of 20-40 M/bs.


As an American male born in and partially raised in Chicago and later seasoned in New York, I am fortunate to have what is doubtless the top U.S. sports fan’s pedigree (offer arguments to the contary in the Comments if you must, but…well, come on, really?). I can more than hold my own in any beery statistics-laden conversation, am a rabid fan of both the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants, bask in having seen Michael Jordan ascend to the position of Greatest and Most Influential Team Sport Athlete of All Time (and also recall easily the days when Muhammed Ali held that position), am able to maintain the “High Road” in the face of any so-called sports fan from delusionally-skewed Texas or rant-before-they-think Philadelphia, and really don’t take it all that seriously while managing to be dead-serious about it all at the same time.

All of the above accepted as unshakeable truth, when I resolved to move to France back in 1999 I did so knwowing that the whole sports thing would be one of the hardest points of separation. The 5-8 hour time zone difference was something of a factor — though I am a scar-branded member night owl — but by far the biggest obstacle to maintaining my U.S. sports culture was to be the near-absolute lack of interest U.S. sports in France, and thus the complete lack of game-viewing options and opportunities. Horror! Still, in for a penny in for a pound, I let it all go…that is, until I became broadband-connected (see aqua-gree jellyfish-serpent cyborg item above in the first slot). First I got back baseball, via an Internet radio broadcast product called Gameday Audio (and baseball really is at its very best over the radio, anyway, as any true fan will tell you), and that just in time for the Chicago Cubs epic 2003 season which saw them…no, it’s just too painful. Broadband and broadband-connected technologies continued to improve, of course, and just a few years after I got baseball back via radio the floodgates opened with streaming video and — the coup de grace — the introduction of the Slingbox.

So for me, courtesy of a Slingbox I have set up in south Florida (thanks, Dad), broadband means the NFL on Sunday, the World Series, and all of the U.S. sports punditry (and idiocy) I can stand, all just an application click away. To paraphrase Warren Zevon in closing, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”


Evey morning upon sitting down with AppleKory, one of the very first things I do is check for torrents of the television programs I keep up with broadcast the night before. Of course, I won’t say here what I do when I find those torrents. Before broadband, though, this daily exercise was not even possible (though before bittorrent there was KaZaA…and Helllllloooo Skype!).


And with that “Helllllloooo Skype!”…

Like 98.6% of the readers looking over these pixels, I am bound to at least one telephone line. Anyone with one of my telephone numbers can pick up any telephone and call me, and if I am not blocking the incoming number for some reason the odds are good that I will pick up. Landline, cellular…I have both (two landlines, in fact). If I do pick up, maybe I’ll even talk for a short while, though with the dovetailing advent of widespread broadband and instant messaging my career as a prodigious telephone talker came to a shockingly fast halt. Why talk, after all, when I can type nearly as fast (and when I am so much more well-written than well-spoken)? And if I do want or need to have a verbal exchange, why use up one of my hands holding a phone when I can instead make the voice connect over my broadband connection using Skype, or Google Hangouts, or whatever-whichever VoIP-driven service I can push my utterances through (and, yes, receive utterances back from) at little or not cost and without having to leave the comfort of my keyboard?

Broadband, baby…it just works.

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Eurostars Upon Thars

Being a somewhat regular visitor to London over the past 15 years, and having spent more than a year commuting weekly from Paris to a start-up gig there way back in ‘00-’01, I have Eurostar stories to burn. Nothing I could recount, though, compares to the head-shaking cock-up I was a party to this past Friday.

I arrived at the Eurostar departure area at St. Pancras at 15h00 on the nose, ready to flash my ticket’s QR code at the gate. A gentleman in front of me had a problem getting the gate to take his QR, and he waved me ahead. At that moment the gate opened, and with it all happening so fast I rushed right through. A no-no, to be sure, and I knew it (gotta flash your code, otherwise the databases aren’t fat and happy), so I immediately turned around to hand my ticket to the guy who waved me ahead so all could be reconciled. And if that had been all that happened, it all would’ve worked out fine. No harm, no foul.

Alas, as I was handing my ticket to the guy whose entry I had assumed, a Eurostar person jumped in the middle of it all. This woman took my ticket into her hand already full of tickets, working diligently to get not only the guy I mentioned through but others with him as well. That accomplished, she handed me back what should’ve been my ticket, but which I was soon to learn was not in fact my ticket but the ticket of one of the others in the group. Soon to learn, but not quite soon enough as it turned out. Keep reading.

Sneetch Star

Security, Passport Control, a Cadbury Flake purchased, 15h31 train to Paris boarding, up the escalator, down the platform, onto Car 18 and (almost) into Seat 72…which was inhabited by another person with a valid ticket for the seat. My ticket? Valid for the same seat on the train leaving at 16h02. Oh, and the name on the ticket was not anything remotely akin to my own.

Realizing quickly what had happened, I sought out someone in Eurostar-logo-emblazoned clothing to explain my situation to, thinking there would be high-techy solution to it all. Instead I got “Well, all the trains are overbooked today, so we’ll put you on the 16h02 and just hope things work out. Maybe the person with your ticket got on the 15h31. If not, we’ll handle it then.” Thus, Eurostar’s idea of fixing the situation boiled down to this: Perhaps the person traveling with those other people realized he had been handed back your ticket for the 15h31 and instead of staying with his group on the 16h02 he instead bid them a quick “Ta ta! See you in Paris!” and ran to take the 15h31. Oh, and he opted for a different seat than the one on my ticket — although there weren’t any free seats on the train — because he was not the guy I encountered when I tried to take the seat on the 15h31. So just take the seat on the 16h02 with the ticket you are holding and hope.


So I boarded the 16h02, took Seat 72 in Car 18, and waited. Not long. Soon enough, the guy who I originally encountered at the entry gate boarded the train with his group. He saw me, immediately knew why I was there, and together we set off in search of a logo-ed person who could offer much-needed resolution. And this is where things get anti-climatic, because we quickly found a train manager who found me an empty seat in Car 17 using a handy-dandy tablet with some proprietary app connected to some up-to-date database in some datacenter somewhere nearby, and that was that. I would make it home for the weekend, I wouldn’t have to stand between cars or sit on someone’s lap to do so, and I could spend the two hours pondering why some Eurostar trains are 2014-tech-ready while others seemingly are not.

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The Hump Day Five (2-July-2014)


Friday afternoon found me riding the Eurostar rails, on KoryChrome (new Samsung Chromebook 2*), pounding out on a “First Impressions” piece…on KoryChrome. Using Writebox, one of those sometimes-useful writing applications that are intended to take the distraction out of the process, I was about 700 words into it when for reasons unknown I decided to go exploring. A sparse environment — which, of course, is the point — there were only six (6) icons to check out in the upper right-hand corner (which conveniently hide when you aren’t hovering your cursor over the spot), and as I was enjoying my new application and curious about it I thought I’d see what I could do with it.

Faux Leather Stitching!

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty about what the Writebox icons are for (syncing, settings, preview…the usual), except suffice it to say for the one that has me typing here now, a + symbol in the farmost left position on the very short toolbar. That particular icon opens a new Writebox file that effectively dumped my nearly-finished “Hello (again) KoryChrome” post into the ether of lost-forever 1s and 0s.

Infuriation and frustrating, yes, and the prospect of starting the post from scratch makes me shudder (still haven’t gotten around to that, but keep reading)…but from the I-can-rationalize-anything perspective, I am truly glad that as I make my approach on 50 I am still able to touch the hot part of the stove.

*Handed off to me by good ol’ globehopping Tref at our Pissup in a Brewery event this past Thursday at Fourpure Brewery in Bermondsey…if you missed it you are the lesser for having done so, but there will certainly be others so watch this space.


As long as I have the date here pinned to my short trip to London last week, I will burn a line or two on my latest experience with airbnb. Finding a reasonably-priced non-lethal-seeming accommodation for said trip that was within the Underground’s boundaries proved to be quite the challenge (only later did I realize this was due in no small part to Wimbledon being among the other usual goings-on in London), but eventually I did manage to wrangle a roof and bed in the tiny Bermondsey flat of a young couple (complete with an adorable 3-month-old kitten named Binxy). This being my third airbnb experience I was hoping it would be the charm, and I am glad to report that it was just that. If you consider yourself something of a brave traveler and have not yet taken a chance on airbnb or one of the other Internet home-invite services that are shaking up the hospitality industry, well this is me adding to the white noise urging you to do so.


The “Broadband Week” is coming up fast and I am furiously editing away on received submissions. That said, if you have an idea for a Contributor post that aligns with our theme there is still a sliver of time remaining to pitch it and get it in for publication next week. So if you want to see your name up on our marquee, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]. I will be glad to help you bring your epiphany to the page.


Last week in London I finally got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, the little-bit-country-little-bit-rock-and-roll smartphone I have been kvelling over quite a bit here since its announcement two months ago, and I was far from disappointed. With new gadgets I wait for that special tingle (usually it comes from putting fingers on the device, but there are no hard-and-fast rules about that), and once I feel that it is just a matter of determining whether its strength is enough to kick me into “Want”. Consider me kicked well and good. Just need to find a way to get my provider to subsidize the pocket beast…


My lead-in KoryChrome tidbit illustrated for the umpteenthsomething time that I could do with a few more smarts, and I expect that my Hump Day Five wrap-up for the week is sure to remove any lingering doubt.

Hot off the Eurostar back to Paris on Friday I found myself in a rented Škoda barreling towards our tiny family hovel in Pays d’Auge’s Blangy-le-Château. Over the 8 years La Famille Kessel has so often made the jaunt that certain routines have formed, including for me the ritual of connecting AppleKory up — power source, monitor converter, USB peripherals, etc — and at visit’s end, disconnecting it all. Sounds simple and is simple, though early on I did once make the gross error of leaving my MacBook Pro power adapter behind. This resulted in a frantic run to the Apple Store Carrousel du Louvre upon arriving back in Paris that Sunday evening to buy a new one. As with all things Apple, the new power adapter wasn’t cheap, but the impossible alternative was to go a few weeks with a single battery charge. And in the end, the €69 I pushed across for it has turned out to be quite a good investment, both for peace-of-mind (it lives in my computer bag, making it possible to always leave the original at home) and from a value standpoint (darn thing has put in 7+ years of service and counting).

So. Routine. Routine is good. And as so often happens when a routine undergoes any kind of change, things go pear-shaped. Last night, just as France was putting the spank to Nigeria to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil quarter finals, the new KoryChrome’s battery slid down to 2% and I realized I had left her charger back in Blangy. Not too long after she became just a sleek good-looking techy brick, and will remain so until the Friday following the next (or until I can suss out a replacement, of course…for a new product that is not yet for sale on the right side of the Atlantic).

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The Hump Day Five (25-June-2014)

On Wednesday’s Editor-in-Chief serves up The Hump Day Five, a weekly collection of short (and not so short) glimpses of the life in progress.


Bolting to meet My Missus for a Pay-For-Weekend-Well-Spent swim (the value of which we will immediately negate with a hearty follow-up Mexican lunch), and just realized that my mobile phone charge is at 9%. And being that this is my still-hanging-on iPhone 4 that ‘9’ might as we’ll be a ‘2’ as over the three-something years iPhoneKory has occupied my key right-pocket space I have seen it go from 7% to black so many times…

Is seven the new zero?


Despite promising myself I wouldn’t do so, I hung until 02h00 on Sunday/Monday watching the USA-Portugal World Cup match on ESPN via SlingBox, all the way to its bittersweet 95th minute. And in spite of a poor connection and a wildly unbalanced announcer team (Ian Darke = terrific, Taylor Twellman = dead awful), and although France has been my one-and-only International association football team since I moved to Paris in 1999*, I could not help but get caught up in it all. This was helped along in no small measure by social media, as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were crackling with excitement and the wonderful over-the-top enthusiasm borne of sports spectatorship. Every breakaway, clearance, crossover, save (Tim Howards’s remarkable double-save!), and goal, by the USA or Portugal, had my feeds flying fast. But with that insane last play, with less than 25 ticks left in Injury Time…silence.

Yes, silence. The stunned heartbreak of that gorgeous equalizer — its sheer beauty cannot be denied — led to what may very well be the loudest imaginable Internet silence I’ve ever (not) heard. I have no doubt that goal was replaying on constant loop through the minds of a great many Americans on Monday, I am just as certain it was doing so in a soundproof vacuum.

*No true lover of the “Beautiful Game” will ever forget France’s unbelievablyf*ckingamazing come-from-behind last-gasp victory against Italy in the Euro2000 final, a game…no, an experience that galvanized this transplanted American’s association football fandom.


Readers going back three months — my long-term dyed-in-the-wool fans — will remember my enthusiasm for the latest Marvel Studios film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, and perhaps even the near-pathological (pathetic) need I had to see the film after having to wait 10 days following its release to find my way to the cinema. (And no matter if you aren’t one of those readers, because my preface sentence sets the table for where I am heading, regardless.)

With all of the build-up, all of the hype, the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed “Captain America: First Avenger” (I expected to hate that first film as the character is an all-time favorite of mine — since I started reading super hero comic books at the age of eight — and just figured there was no way Hollywood could get it right), the scads of terrific reviews I was so careful to scan-without-spoiling, you would think that disappointment was inevitable. Not only was this not the case, though, but the film so deeply captured my imagination that I soon after found myself pondering a newed look in on the comic book itself, figuring the source material for such a great flick might be worth my time.

In days of yore (and up until actually not all that long ago), it was a lot more difficult to find and read back issues of comic books than it is today. In fact, without admitting to anything here or anywhere, I will say that despite my predilection for riding near the cusp of the Internet for lo on 20+ years now, I still find myself utterly floored by the ready digital availability of comic books new and old (and extremely old). A minimal amount of surfing revealed that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was based on Ed Brubaker’s run on the “Captain America” title from 2004-2012, and a single google-bing turned up the following torrent:

Brubaker Cap Torrent



In less than a year I will turn 50, a number on the age scale that I know is supposed to mean…something. A greater sense of dignity? Less prone to silly excitements? Better perspective on what was and is and will be? Conversations turning ever more towards health issues? Yadda yadda yadda. To all of that, I have to call “Bunk!”, because (1) in my mind’s eye I am not balding, overly thick in the middle, saddled with mild hearing loss, or in need of glasses to read, (2) I feel no less a thirst for life than I did 10 years ago…or 20, and (3) I still get all kinds of giddy in the lead up to putting my mitts on new techy toys…such as the new KoryChrome (Samsung Chromebook 2), which I look forward to running my fingers over for the first time at some point tomorrow!


Today is the first day of summer vacation for The Boy, and he is marking it in style, sitting on the couch in front of the TV while simultaneously playing both “Minecraft” and “SimCity 4” with friends on his MacBook, and also looking in on “Clash of Clans” via the family iPad. Now if only he could get his toes engaged in some kind of input manipulation My Missus and I would have one reasonably efficient and well-entertained child! The drums, perhaps?

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Owed to the Laundromat

Friday afternoon finds me well-lunched (New Mexican-ish place that opened nearby about a month ago) and passing roughly 45 minutes at a laundromat that is about 100 steps from the door to our building in Paris’s 18th Arrondissement.

Decidedly not Web 2.0 — no wifi, no URL on the door or windows, no comment field anywhere upon which to register user opinion — the local laverie (that’s French for…well, I trust you can work that out, cherished reader) is actually proving to be somewhat comforting in the mere fact that it has seemingly not changed a lick since my first and only previous visit almost 13 years ago (that being right after My Missus and I moved into our flat at 57 Boulevard Barbes and before the delivery and hookup of our washer and dryer, natch). Of course, the pricing is different now with regard to both the amount and the currency, but everything else is the same or similar enough to register as such…the basic floor plan, types of machines in service, signage, the definitive lack of furniture upon which to wait for the various cycles to complete, the character stereotypes aiding me in occupying the place (and we aren’t talking butcher, baker, or candlestick maker)…


==> To answer the hanging question for the one person out there who might crave the answer, my lavage moment is brought to you today by frugality and a need to clean a winter duvet that is simply too bulky to launder at home (and which the La Famille Kessel decision-makers are good and sick of paying the teinturier — dry cleaner — upwards of €50 to clean every spring). <==

I must admit that a broad idiot’s smile broke across my face when I realized a few moments ago that this is only my 2nd time in a laundromat in a great many years. The reason for said smile being that before that September 2001 visit to my current perch — with the exception of 1993, a year I spent living in a big house with three other people (and a washer and dryer) — I could always count on spending two hours every couple of weeks passing the time exactly as I am now, reading and writing amongst giant industrial behemoths chewing on my washable wearables and slucking down my hoarded dimes and quarters for the privilege.

Through the dormitory years, frathouse life, this apartment, that apartment, another apartment, apartment-apartment-apartment, and on through a house that while cute and cuddly was simply not able to harbor a washing machine (let alone a dryer), it was a steady diet of laundromat boredom for me. Regular as phone bills and cheap thrills, lest I be a dirty boy.

In the early 1990s a wave of innovation washed over the public laundering industry in urban America, and before long laundering types had some options. You could have a drink and try your luck at picking up a fellow launderer while your clothes getting sudsed up, or you could bowl a game during the rinse cycle. Of course, the good old-fashioned laundromats that I tended to inhabit soldiered on — those offering a rundown pinball game or an ancient Pac-Man machine for entertainment…if that — but now instead of the dull sense of tedious contentment with which we old-fashioned launderers were familiar, we were instead subject to a new and strange sense of unease, knowing that somewhere out there on that mundane Laundry Night there were those who were dancing or enjoying karaoke while their unmentionables were tumbling.

Did I bite, you are no doubt wondering? Did I turn my back on the underprivileged and overworked, the single old-timers, the vagabonds and homeless folks with enough esteem to occasionally freshen and soften their garments, the students squeaking by on budgets too small to be seen with the naked eye? I did not! But then, none of the new-age laundromats were offering free Internet access.

Nearly a decade and a half of years pass. Have passed. Past. A quick google-bing today reveals that clean-your-clothes multi-tasking has continued to expand and evolve, with Laundromat-Cafés (yes, offering free wifi) and even Laundromat-Restaurants now heavy in the mix. All we need now is Laundromat-equipped office cubicle farms and the evolution of the public laundry arts will be complete.

Duvet spinning fast now. Yes, I do think there is a song in there somewhere, but it is just past the reach of my tongue at the moment. Two minutes to go and I am outtahere.

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Flying Away on a Wing and a Prayer

I’ve been daydreaming about technology. Again.

Oftentimes you will see me, fingers unmoving on my keyboard, my mind skimming the clouds (not “the cloud”), blissfully imagining features that I want/need/must have in my next computer.

**Cue dreamy fantasy, Fender Rhodes-ish, 1970s-era TV comedy music. Cue LOUD thunder crack.**

…a monster SSD (I recently carved a Samsung M9T 2TB HHD from a sealed-and-not-meant-to-be-opened Backup Plus external hard drive to install in AppleKory, so you know that when I write “monster” I am not messing around…s’gotta be BIG), a good degree of voice command capability, a separate GPU, a battery that can reliably deliver 10+ hours of juice regardless of use intensity, integrated cellular Internet connectivity, and — naturally — MacBook-level build quality across the board…

**Fade out goofy cue-in music underlay.**

Gadget This Gadget ThatIntegrated cellular connectivity. Something of a Holy Grail among a great many of us who drive MacBooks, this functionality has been on my “Features and Functions for AppleKory Upgrade” list (yes, I really do keep such a thing…don’t you?) for so long that I am not entirely sure I can reclaim the pixels. That said, my blue-sky tech whimsy is relegated not only to computers but also to smartphones, those marvelous wonders of technology that by their very nature connect to the Internet via cellular. Regular readers know, of course, that I am deeply ensconced (stuck?) in the the search for my next smartphone, which at this point still looks to be the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. I have yet to actually put my hands on the GKZ, however, and as my near-decision to be among the Zoomed has me feeling as shaky as it does giddy, I am guessing there is a moment of reckoning waiting for me once the darn thing actually becomes available in France. Early reviews are all over the place, though they all seem to reflect less the smartphone’s build quality and feature set and more the usage values of the reviewers themselves. In aggregate, though, those reviews fall mostly in line with expectation, describing the not-so-little bugger as a “niche product”…a niche that, when described, sounds an awful lot like one into which I enjoy lanyard pass access. Still, it seems that every week there is yet another new player on the field that deserves consideration — just yesterday Amazon’s Jeff Bezos splashily announced his company’s entry to the Smartphone Wars, the Amazon Fire Phone, which has not one and not two but SIX cameras on-board — and until such time as I can try on the Galaxy K Zoom for size (and weight) my musings on the device will be blue-sky whimsy indeed.

**Cue dreamy fantasy, Fender Rhodes-ish, 1970s-era TV comedy music. Cue LOUD thunder crack.**

…ready to perform as smartphone and compact camera, and serving well as both while requiring the precious pocket space of of just one…sharp and responsive camera function, especially in low-light situations requiring tight optical zoom…well-designed apps serving essential and not-so-essential needs…easy and thoughtful interaction and synchronization with AppleKory…elevation of my walkabout effectiveness from the sludgy puddle into which my iPhone 4 currently has it imprisoned…ah, bliss…

**Fade out goofy music.**

Pie in the sky, baby!

So have you gotten the impression that for me it is all about the Internet? Nay, I say! Let’s have a little talk about tweedle beetles…er, cameras (and set aside the fact that many of them these days have some kind of Internet capability, because nobody buys a camera primarily for that). Up front, let me say that nearly four years in I continue to be utterly besotted with my Leica D-Lux 5 (the lovely Leyna). Despite this, however, nary a full day passes without me dropping into some camera review site or another (, I’m talkin’ ’bout you) and gorging myself on the latest this-and-that in the world of photo-taking apparatus goodness. My next camera…my next camera…

**Cue silly dream fantasy whatnot music for last time. LOUD thunder crack, too.**

…weather-resistant…compact size, but with interchangeable lenses…built-in wifi file transfer capability…insanely-high resolution EVF and rearview monitor…somewhat retro…finger-tingling build quality…

**Fade out. End the darn post already.**

Yes, yes, me likes me cameras.

Me also…I also (Bizarro voice only works in teeny tiny doses) thirst to soar with new-gadget-happy, like all qualifying tech geeks who have over the years read an embarrassing number of comic books and tuned into far too much sci-fi television. I am sorry to say, though, that the wearable-whatever getting most of the ink these days just isn’t getting me up to escape velocity. I haven’t worn a watch on my wrist since 1992, a streak that I cannot imagine coming to an end any time soon, iWatch or whichever Dick Tracy contraption notwithstanding (including this watch). And as for Google Glass, I have never been able to get my head around the idea of wearing glasses for reasons other than dire necessity (2-D cinema-going guy that I am), and more than halfway to my own personal Finish Line I have yet to encounter a pair of sunglasses that looked like anything other than a waste of money. iBelt? Amazon Fire Shoes? A power ring or magic lasso? No no no no no. I don’t daydream about wearing my gadget tech these days…I want it IMPLANTED!

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Fruity Simulation

Watching the World Cup matches over the weekend I was struck not for the first time by the lightning-quick tendency on the part of the players to flop to the turf at the slightest contact with a member of the opposing team.

“That guy’s elbow touched my arm. I am gravely injured and in need of a Free Kick!”
    “His foot tapped my foot, which means I was tripped! Owww! Bring the stretcher out! Rev up the ambulance! Alert the hospital that we may soon be on our way! Yellow Card that serial tripper!”
    “I fell to the ground when so-and-so ran by me in front of his goal, which means he violently knocked me down, and therefore I deserve a Goal Kick!”

Nothing unexpected, of course, as even the most casual fan of the so-called “Beautiful Game” has come to expect an abundance of ugly on-the-pitch acting antics. I didn’t expect, though, to flash so easily to the parallel of Apple’s hair-trigger propensity to sue any competitor that wandered into their path (usually Samsung), claiming an assault on their design and utility, “original” though it may be.

No Diving

“Rectangular mobile phones with rounded corners…that was our idea! We deserve billions of dollars because your phones are also rectangular with rounded corners, and you should not be allowed to continue making phones with that form factor!”
    “A main button…that was our idea! We should get billions of dollars because your phones also have a main button, and your phones should be prohibited from having a main button!”
    “Little square pictures that users can touch to open apps (which is our word for “applications”)…that was our idea! You should pay us billions in damages for having little square pictures that users can touch on your unlawfully integrated touch screens to open applications on their unlawfully shaped phones!”

Extract tongue out of cheek.

Of course, one good turf dive deserves another, and the non-Apple entity in all of this (usually Samsung) has proven fast to counter-sue. All of which just leads to more suing and counter-suing, and so on and so forth…hey, just like the players do in association football (Americans out there are invited to read that as ‘soccer’)!

By this point players of association football — henceforth, I will just write ‘football’ and assume my American readership is sharp enough not to lose the plot — have not just accepted flopping as a reality of the game, but no doubt consider it to be a skill worthy of serious practice (rehearsal?), one that they may be called upon to perform without hesitation at any time or may even be asked to condition themselves to do in certain circumstances. And this goes not just for those playing footy/footie at the highest levels, but through the ranks, all the way down to the kiddie leagues. Really, I mean, does it get any cuter than those five-year-olds rolling to the ground holding their shins and screaming for a Red Card?

Five-year-old behavior. Yup. That rings just about right. Players participating in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and the C-Level officers at Apple and Samsung alike…

Fair play? If it ever was it certainly isn’t today, when instead it is gamesmanship that is so often revered and celebrated. It matters not nearly as much how the gooooooooooal was achieved as the fact that it was achieved. Your opponent has gathered up a lethal storm of momentum? Flop to blunt the tide. Need a breather, to regroup? Dive, grab knee, and scream for justice. Innovating not and iterating plenty and wanting to avoid notice of such? Cry out to a referee…er, judge to stop the other guy (usually Samsung) before he can catch up to and stop you.

Now you might be thinking, “OK, Kory. Clever. Bit naïve, though. Football is all about the sport! Competition! The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! ! Business is just about money!

And I am the one being naïve?

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Watching the Football

Yesterday a friend of mine in the UK asked me if I was “going to watch the football”, stating his own excitement over the soon-upon-us 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil (the official label of the event, if the website is any indicator), and then asking “Have you converted a little? Soccer to you, I guess.”


I actually converted 20 years ago as a direct result of the excitement surrounding the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Of course, the football punditry out there will immediately assume that this American finally clued in that year due to the tournament being held in the U.S. for the first (and so far only) time, however that assumption would not only be disingenuous but wrong too. No, my sports imagination was finally captured by International football in 1994 not because I was swept up in host country hoopla, but because I was living/working/traveling Europe that year and found myself instead swept up in the remarkable national enthusiasm and spontaneous celebrations I encountered in England, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany as the tournament played out. Walking around Namur, Belgium, for instance, on a Tuesday night in early July, seeking out a priced-right-for-a-backpacker dinner, I was left aghast and delighted by the string of cars going by with horns a-blarin’, people hanging out the windows hooting and hollering and waving the Italian flag. The people of one country so unabashedly showing their colors, whooping it up on the streets of another country…what is this International sporting thing, anyway? And then five days later, being fortuitous enough to be in Germany to witness first-hand the crashing out of the Germany team1…I was hooked!

1994. The world turned its eyes and ears to the most commercial country in the world to watch “The Beautiful Game” on television and radio, and only on television and radio. And not a single URL in sight.

When my pal asked me whether I was going to tune into the 2014 FIFA World Cup my knee-jerk first thought was “Will it be available via the Internet?” to which my second thought instantly responded “Are you kidding? Of course.” Sure, I know the games will be broadcast on television, and I am relatively sure the one we have in the main room still works (The Boy watches it from time to time…I think), but it wasn’t until long after I answered my friend’s oh-so-rhetorical question that I even paid a thought to the idea of actually using the device to watch a match.

Football TV

Naturally, the picture the Chez Kessel television delivers is plenty sharp (as so many are these days, we are Triple Play kitted), and something prompted me long ago to wire the sound to come through our stereo speakers (think it was the 2006 FIFA World Cup that prompted that…friggin’ Marco Materazzi, sister-and-mother-insulting classless b*stard), so it isn’t a poor viewing option that had me defaulting to the Internet as my top-of-mind football entertainment resource. It’s just…well…you see…c’mon, you know…it is so much easier to simultaneously Web-out with ⌘+Tab (Alt+Tab for the Windows-fettered readers out there, and whatever-equivalent for UNIX deities and whichever others) than it is via some lap-bound or hand-bound device supplementary to the television.

Addiction. Always lurking, eminently humanizing, and available in oh-so-many forms.

1994. When to the layman “Internet” meant email and bulletin boards and nothing more. The World Wide Web was just starting to poke its head up, and “streaming” was a word relegated to tape data backups.

Without admitting to anything (and there will be no Q&A), I will cagily say here that a long time has passed since I last watched a television program at the time of broadcast (other, that is, than hypnotized channel-surfing-and-staring borne of jetlag). This is not to say that I am accomplishing the impossible, foregoing television entertainment in what is unquestionably a golden age for the medium (too many programs to list, but suffice it to say that I can speak “The Wire”, “The Sopranos”, “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men”, and this Millenium’s “Battlestar Galactica” reboot with anyone…buncha great UK-produced programs, too!). I do, though, manage to forego the starchy advertising that comes with all of the good TV meat on offer, and without littering my shelves and floorspace with DVD sets gathering dust.

Yes, packaged up nice-and-digital and stripped of its impurities, television for me has come to mean the Internet. And I find it a richer and far more satisfying experience for that, too.     ==>Twenty-three minutes into the sixth episode of Season Two of “The Americans” a reference is made to an earlier plot point that I skied past. Pause. ⌘+Tab to Google Chrome. Type “The Americans episodes ” into the Address/Search field. A quick click and read. ⌘+Tab back to VLC. Un-Pause. Good to go.<==     Of course, certain television events practically demand in-progress viewing — cannot-turn-away news events and, yes, some sporting events (though "condensed" recordings can now be acquired after the fact, such as three-plus hour American Football games boiled down to 58 minutes!) — but these have not kept that really big monitor in our flat's central room from looking more and more novel with each passing season. 1994. Televisions were definitively three-dimensional, whereas the scripted programming they delivered to the quivering and drooling masses was two-dimensional at its very best. Which inevitably brings me back to "watching the football". I imagine that as was the case the last time around, La Famille Kessel will ease slowly into 2014 FIFA World Cup action, eventually ramping up interest as the meaning of the games increases (and if France makes a move, as in '06, getting downright rabid about it all). And as that happens our somewhat dusty black Samsung-emblazoned flat-panel Living Room window into the Global Village (clichés flowing thick and furious here at the end) will no doubt once again find its purpose.   1Is there anyone who isn’t German that likes to see Germany win at anything? 🙂

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Wherefore Art Thou, KoryChrome?

Knowing that Tref was heading over to the U.S. for this week’s Genband Perspectives 14, I asked the fearless namesake of the cracking website you hold in your hands if he would be up to muling a spiffy new Samsung Chromebook 2 back over the pond for my pickup at’s Pissup in a Brewery (which you really don’t want to miss) later this month. Unsurprisingly, he responded with a hearty “Sure, M8.” and I was off to the races…well, off to find a shipper who could deliver the device shipping-free and tax-free to Tref at his Orlando hotel prior to his return flight, that is.

Naturally, my first surf-to destination was, however although they had my desired Chromebook in stock I would have to pay extra for both shipping and sales tax (6%). Sales tax? Amazon? Said to be on the cusp for years, I guess some law somewhere was passed and it finally took hold.

Next I tried, which promised free shipping…and no sales tax. Oh, except in states in which the company has a physical business presence, such as Florida. Needed to go all the way to the final click to learn that (and confirmed it with a Samsung Phone Drone, too).

Finally, after a few more hits-and-misses my search ended at New York’s famous B&H, which not only promised free shipping to the Sunshine State but a tax-free transaction as well. The only problem was that I would have to wait a little over 30 hours to actually place the order due to my having stumbled onto the B&H site during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, because although you can peruse B&H’s website during Jewish holy days — the Sabbath each week, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the two-day periods that bookend Sukkoth and Passover…and Shavuot — you cannot actually place an order while any of these days are in progress. To their credit, B&H clearly indicates such restrictions on their site when pertinent, even going so far as to offer a very useful countdown clock on the site that indicates when they will once again be open for business. Free shipping, no sales tax, a one-week window for it all to happen in…I could wait 30 hours.

Faux Leather Stitching!

The reviews are rolling in on the Chromebook 2, and while they aren’t universally great — it’s certainly no “Jesus Phone” — they reflect my expectations for the my soon-to-be-new friend and then some. Sleek, light, stylish (that faux black leather case and stitching!), the Chromebook 2 also has a lot more under its keyboard than its predecessor (which was NOT saddled with the moniker “Chromebook 1”), being markedly faster and offering a somewhat better screen and trackpad. All good stuff. Good enough, in fact, to pull me back into the Chromebooked less than four short months after having eBayed the original KoryChrome back in February. References to “The Godfather, Part III” unnecessary.

30 hours later. 09h00 Eastern Standard Time (15h00 in Paris’s GMT+1), and following a quick touch-base with a B&H Phone Drone (who assures me the package will arrive on the promised date of 12-June, which is one day to spare…might even show up on the 11th) I pull the B&H trigger on Chromebook 2. And less than 30 minutes later I learn that my delivery window is short by a day due to my having boneheaded the nitty-gritty detail of Tref’s #orlandoroadtrip. Yes, our man’s adventure runs from 6-June to 13-June, but he is actually set to clear U.S. on 12-June…the day B&H Phone Drone near-guaranteed the new KoryChrome would make its grand entrance in Orlando.

Did I really do that? Me, the guy who in the past 15 years has overnight-flighted the Atlantic no less than 120 times? Well, no matter. Chromebook 2 hadn’t shipped by this point — B&H was happy to take the order on the Friday, but due to the Sabbath it woudn’t actually ship until Sunday — and I was relatively sure I could cancel it if need be. So I pinged Tref, just to let him know my swirling thoughts on it all. He clued me into his late-ish departure time on 12-June, and with that I made my leap of faith (into the abyss?), opting to let the order fly. After all, even if the package misses Tref in Orlando, how hard could it be to arrange for its return via the hotel, United Parcel Service, and B&H? (He writes with a touch of both sarcasm and extreme naiveté.)

And that is where things stand on this fine late spring Wednesday. B&H confirmed my order on Sunday via an efficient email, and I know that the package left Maspeth, NY on Monday evening. Where between Maspeth and Orlando it is now, though, is nothing more than a WAG, though ever-faithful readers are welcome — encouraged, even! — to join me in attempting to track the new KoryChrome’s voyage to Orlando. Crossed fingers, good thoughts, focused karmic energy, muttered chanting, speaking in tongues…whatever any of you have to give that can help ensure the new KoryChrome’s safe passage into Tref’s hands, I’ll take it!

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One Out of 1,874,161

Over the weekend I received a Twitter request from someone unknown to me to participate in a dm (direct message) exchange. Figuring it at first to be some kind of scam or sales come-on I was just about to use TweetDeck’s “Block” function to keep the party from contacting me again when I noticed in their Twitter handle something we have in common…a four-letter sequence beginning with ‘k’ and ending with ‘y’ (and just so you know, my Twitter handle is @kory).

Here we go again.

Since registering to use Twitter (7-March-2007) I have been approached more than a few times by other Twitter uses looking to appropriate my Twitter handle for their own use. These enquiries have nearly always been of the friendly variety — there was one guy who dealt with my “Thanks, but no.” by trying to rally his thousands…er, hundreds…well, dozens of followers into hotboxing my acquiescence (and I am happy to say that his call to action backfired, with plenty of this fella’s so-called “friends” publicly shaming him on Twitter) — and in most cases even led to mutual Twitter following for a time. Knowing what it is to grow up Kory, I understand the propensity all Korys out there seem to share in wanting to have @kory for themselves…it is simple, direct, easily remembered, somewhat unique (it isn’t ‘David’, ‘John’, ‘Steve’, ‘Alan’, or ‘Mike’, anyway), and it is short. Really short. In fact, it is that very four-letter quality that seems to stir the pot of desire more than any other, likely because the shorter your Twitter handle the more freedom with characters you can provide to those who might want to tweet to you, or retweet your tweets or your own retweets!

1,874,161. That is the number of valid four-character Twitter handles, taking into account that the valid characters for Twitter usernames include all 26 letters, the 10 digits, and underscore, and the fact that characters can repeat. 37x37x37x37. 1,874,161. One of those 1,874,161 is my @kory — yet another is’s very own Trefor Davies’s @tref — which I first used to tweet seven years, three months, and three days ago. So with so many four-letter Twitter handles to be had, why is my own proving so popular? Silly question, I say, as any self-respecting Kory on Twitter must certainly aspire be @kory! Would be and should be thrilled to be @kory!

So pea-cocking aside (maybe just a little more…being @kory really is terribly cool, but it pales in comparison to this), I need to give some credit where it is undeniably due as I didn’t just stumble into the Twitter scene early enough to be the 817,772nd registrant to the service. No, the reason I am one of the First Million Twitterers (and before you can ask whether that is a real select club I will stop you with a “Heh. You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?”) is because long ago I hitched my social media caboose to the barreling-fearlessly-into-all-things-social-on-the-Internet phenomenon that is Jeff Pulver. I won’t go into deep detail here on Jeff’s exploits, antics, and achievements in social media as just a wee bit of googling and or binging will tell his story far better than I can here. I will say unreservedly, though, that were I not attached securely to his new technology bullet train it is far more likely I would be @kory498852 on Twitter and not @kory. So kudos once again, @jeffpulver.

@Kory Stats

Getting back to my story, the tweet I received at 06h09 on 7-June-2014 simply said, “@kory hey man dm me when you get this”, from a Twitterer (Tweeter?) going by “@korycomtois”. Being a diligent type, once I had decided not to immediately block this fellow Kory I clicked over to his Twitter page to learn what I could, which honestly wasn’t much. Still, @korycomtois looked harmless enough. Also, I am almost always up for a little back and forth, and — who knows? — maybe this would be the magical Twitter exchange that would change my life, thus I tweeted back. It took another day to get our DMing ducks in a row (my fault as although @korycomtois was following me I was not yet following him), however before weekend’s end we had made contact. And sure enough, @korycomtois was keen on ending my reign and assuming the @kory crown.

Yup. Here we go again.

No doubt, there is a question lurking on the collective tongues of my readership, that being whether I have ever been offered actual cash money for the @kory handle. The simple answer is…I think so. I think so because although numbers have been bandied about — back in 2011 one seemingly determined soul went as high as $5000 — I have never encouraged or considered such offers to the point where the nuts-and-bolts of actual payment and follow-through became part of the discussion, and as such I cannot definitively say the offers were legit (and, yes, that $5000 offer did get me thinking for a short while).

@korycomtois wrote, “I am very interested in it (your handle), would you ever consider parting with it?”, and when I wrote back I mentioned that I had once turned down $5000 for it and asked whether he was prepared to offer “an amount that is worthy my giving it a re-think”. I didn’t have to wait long for a response.

“I’m sorry I cannot come close, I am a high school student that just wanted my first name as my handle.”

Young Kory went on to apologize for wasting my time (he hadn’t…I found myself delighted with our exchange, his politeness, and just the fact that he steeled himself up and asked the question as so many would not have), and we parted as fellow followers, for the time being at least. Then earlier today, seeing a tweet @korycomtois posted I found myself dwelling a bit on the connection. Here was a kid who when I first leaped onto Twitter was at most 11 years old (The Boy is a year past that), who joined the service 1,151,558,938 Twitter accounts after my own @kory was issued (not a real number as at some point Twitter skipped whole swaths of numbers…a fun one nonetheless, though), throwing a flag out into the ether hoping for a connect and a magical Twitter connect that would change his life (or, at least, his Twitter handle). Jiminy!

So I say this to @korycomtois: I am going to hold onto @kory for now and into the foreseeable future, but you have my solemn word — 140 characters of it — that when the day comes that circumstance or decision results in my vacating @kory it will be yours to carry forward.

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Saturday Snapshot (07-June-2014)

Yesterday My Missus and I decided to cap off Saturday with “Skyfall” and a big bowl of pasta, figuring that at the ripe age of 12 The Boy and his visiting friend were both ready for a bit of Bond, made the all the more tasty accompanied by fussili drenched in freshly crushed-out pesto.

Being a well-raised soul I feel compelled to share the goods, however as 3-D food printers are still quite rare I will instead do the next best thing to help satisfy all of the hungry readers out there and share my pesto recipe, complete with not-very-good iPhone 4 photo illustration (still twiddling my thumbs waiting for Samsung’s imminent Galaxy K Zoom, but that is another story).

1. Get yourself some good walnuts.

1. Get yourself some good walnuts.

2. Gotta crack a few walnuts.

2. Gotta crack a few walnuts.

3. Trim and clean plenty of basil. When you think you have enough, double it.

3. Trim and clean plenty of basil. When you think you have enough, double it.

4. Place your basil into your mortar, and add a 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt (for taste, of course, and to aid in the grinding).

4. Place basil into your mortar, and add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt (for taste and to aid in grinding).

5. Grind the basil into pulp, add your crushed walnuts, and keep grinding.

5. Grind the basil into pulp, add your crushed walnuts, and keep grinding.

6. Next, add your peeled and trimmed garlic...keep grinding.

6. Next, add your peeled and trimmed garlic…keep grinding.

7. Grind until you have a aromatic paste, heady and delicious.

7. Grind until you have a aromatic paste, heady and delicious.

8. Add olive oil. if you cannot be bothered to use a fine extra virgin olive oil, toss the paste in the trash and buy a jar of ready-made.

8. Add a fine extra virgin (preferably unfiltered) olive oil.1

9. Add freshly-grated parmesan to your oily paste and grind some more.

9. Add freshly-grated parmesan to your oily paste and grind some more.

10. Taste your pesto, adjusting salt, pepper, and oil until it is just right.

10. Taste your pesto, adjusting salt, pepper, and oil until it is just right.


Once you have your pesto ready to go, put that big pot of water on the boil. Cook pasta, drain, return pasta to pot, dump in pesto, mix it all up nice, add a tad more olive oil, mix one last time, and cue up “Skyfall” (or 2006’s “Casino Royal”, which works just as well). Serve with chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, and extra grated parmesan on the side. Oh, you might want to make sure you have laid in a good supply of take-a-break-after-the-opening-credits ice cream, too.

1If you cannot be bothered to use a fine extra virgin (preferably unfiltered) olive oil, toss the paste in the trash, buy a jar of ready-made, and wallow in shame.

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Fie on Eye-Fi

Transferring photos directly from your digital camera to a hard drive via wifi. A sweet idea, to be sure, and a functionality that now seems to be built into pretty much every new digital camera model coming off the producton lines. This was not the case just a short time ago, though, and this is the raison d’etre for Eye-Fi.

For those of you not already in-the-know, Eye-Fi is a company that produces SD and SDHC memory cards that supply digital cameras with secure wifi capability in addition to the usual photo file storage. They also produce software that works in conjunction with their product line, helping their customers to facilitate the use of their Eye-Fi cards (read: essentially owning the process of wirelessly transferring their customers photos and video from camera to computer). Eye-Fi memory cards work with just about any digital camera that makes use of a SD or SDHC memory card. They come in a variety of different storage capacities, are powered via the camera itself, and — supposedly — work up to a range of 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors (yeah, that made me go “Huh?” too). Setup is quite easy, though due to configuration necessities it is a bit more complex than just pop-in-and-go. Of course, with so many different cameras in Eye-Fi’s purview it simply is not possible to offer a single file transfer performance standard, however to the company’s credit they do offer copious information and support on their website that is granulated down to the camera maker model level. And the associated Eye-Fi software extends the basic functionality of an Eye-Fi card, allowing for fine-tuned file organization, real-time file transfer, and file geotagging.

So all in all, Eye-Fi offers one handy-dandy, extremely cool, and very useful piece of digital photography tech…none of which is going to keep me from slagging it from one end of this page to the other.

Regular readers (and understand, please, that by ‘regular’ I am not implying normalcy) know that I have something of a propensity to slightly anthropomorphize objects to which I assign high value. My computer, my bicycle, my moped, certain knives…all tactile things that I have given names to, might in rare moments utter a conversational word to, and which I have kitted out with high-quality accessories. Naturally this extends to my go-to digital camera, my beautiful and beloved Leyna the Leica D-Lux 5, which over the years I have adorned with an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder), a lens adaptor tube, various filters, extra batteries, and a handcrafted leather half-case. And because I adore the lovely Leyna both outside and in, last summer I bought her an Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB card.

Fie on Eye-Fi

Finally! Wireless file transfer…the one essential feature Leyna did not have! I can take a picture here…and it will render over there! No longer would I need to remove Leyna’s SD card to experience the fruit of her labor. Now I could just navigate to the date-stamped directory created by the Eye-Fi software or open iPhoto and there my photos would be, ready for editing, viewing, sharing. Internet-age technology at its absolute zenith!

Heh. No. Eye-Fi started breaking its promises from the get-go, without even a brief “Honeymoon” period. Dingy slow file transference, an inability to circumvent Leyna’s power savings settings when doing its work, a need to be in a direct line of sight with the network router (thus partially explaining the “outside” versus “inside” transfer distance “Huh?” listed in the specifications…numbers that were wildly exaggerated, too, I must add), dropped connections…it all made for a lot of expectations swallowing on my part, while also forcing me to change workflows and camera settings just to get some semablance of usable functionality from my new handy-dandy, extremely cool…yeah, whatever.

I persisted with Eye-Fi in spite of the distinct lack of satisfaction I was getting from the device and technology, believing that I could adapt to the workarounds I had to put in place to get it working in my digital photo scheme of things. Perhaps a future firmware update would smooth out the kinks between Leyna and Eye-Fi, I thought (hoped), or maybe the two devices would spontaneously comee to work better together over time (OK, I didn’t really believe that, but I’d spent $99 on the darn card and really really REALLY wanted it to work as expected…as promised). And a firmware update did come along, as did a software update, and I boosted the wifi in both the flat and at our Normandy maison secondaire…but still, the relationship didn’t markedly improve. A few months in, frustrated yet again with Eye-Fi’s slow and spotty performance I found myself (gasp!) taking it out of Leyna and putting it into AppleKory’s card reader to more quickly grab the files therein. Purpose defeated, and now I was the owner of an extremely expensive 16GB SD card.

And that is the way it was with me, Leyna, and Eye-Fi tech until just recently when I became just a little more serious in my photography, making the leap to shoot in RAW and migrating from Apple’s game-but-wanting iPhoto to Adobe’s magnificent Lightroom 5. Now, a passionless relationship mired in apathy has gone downright cold. When asked to transfer jpeg files via card reader the Eye-Fi card and software proved up to the task, performing as well as any other SD card. With much larger RAW files, though? This past Sunday evening upon returning from a 4-day weekend I removed the Eye-Fi card from Leyna and set it up in the card reader for file transfer. It had been a few weeks since I had last offloaded the card and in the interim I had snapped about 2000 photos (the result of a conspiracy involving a glorious spring in France, three stateside visitors, a two-day London excursion, a day at Futuroscope, and a three-day weekend spent in and around La Rochelle). 14+ hours. That is how long it took Eye-Fi to empty 12GB onto my hard drive. 14+ hours, a speed of just under 2.1 mbps, and this via card reader…I shudder to imagine how long it would’ve taken via wifi!

I know a lot of people are quite satisfied with their Eye-Fi cards and have been for some time — did my due diligence, I did — and that one man’s bad experience does not a product assessment make. That said, with all of the problems and disappointments I have endured, and following the utter debacle of my last file transfer, I will soon be turning my own Eye-Fi card loose on the ravages of eBay, and let the buyer beware!

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Everything Looks Worse in Black and White

Photographer-wise I have long aspired to ‘avid’, seeing photos in my mind’s eye everywhere I look, composition, line, contrast, patterns, snippets of structured vision that I ached to capture and share. And like so many of us these days I am reveling in the sheer liberation afforded (key word, that) by digital technology’s heist (takeover? coup? overthrow?) of the picture taking discipline.

Disc film

My first camera was a Kodak Disc 6000, which is sure to cause at least a cringe from anyone out there who remembers the disc camera wave-fad of the early 80s. I don’t remember what I paid for that camera, but as I was 17 and sacking groceries for pocket money at the time I know it couldn’t have been much. I do remember quite vividly, though, realizing that the cost of film and its development was going to shackle the intense photography enthusiasm generated by my camera purchase…even with the Eckerd Pharmacy down the street offering free double prints! In retrospect, it is probably good that I didn’t have the resources to go mad snap-snap-snapping my disc camera, considering the extremely poor quality of the film and the pasturing of the technology by Kodak before decade’s end. Bad habits avoided (mostly), the path taken not long enough to require a painful walk-back, and not too many memories relegated to a grey-and-forever-moving-to-black hole.

My second camera (I probably should state here that I am not — promise! — going to anecdote every camera I have ever owned…really, I’m not) was a Pentax SF-10, a “real” camera (35mm SLR) with a 28mm-80mm zoom lens. My answer to the 1988 iteration of that omnipresent end-of-year question “What do you want for Chanukah?”, this aspirational “finally getting photography serious” device came to me by way of a parents-grandparents-aunt/uncle coalition. The entire kit came to a little under $600, which I could never have swung myself seeing as how at the time I was working just-up-from-entry-level for Grey Advertising for $16,125 annual (not a typo). And, as with my previous camera, my ardor for my new photo friend once again took a shot to the gut when the cost realities applied their wink and slap. Still, I was moving forward, this time brandishing a camera that was immune to the whimsies of trend, a device that once I could actually afford to operate would provide literally decades of picture taking pleasure and thousands of terrific photos…a camera I could use to teach photography to my children1.


Of course, I did eventually reach a point where I could afford to keep my Pentax SF-10 on a regular film diet, though my photography ambitions were never enough to overcome the ever-active cost calculator in my head from going to work every time I pressed her shutter. Snap. $0.20. Snap. Another $0.20. Snap. $0.20…and a third of my roll is gone. I was really only able to clear this lodged-but-good budgetary impediment when traveling, accomplishing this by buying film in bulk and rationalizing the making-memories aspect of it all (a little victory that resulted in roughly 2000 photos taken throughout Europe, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Russia between 1994-19982). As for using that camera, though, to better learn photography principles, science, and technique (let alone experiment with such gleaned knowledge)? No. The CODB defeated me every time…well, that and the distinct lack of quick-if-not-instant gratification (taking multiple shots of the same subject at different aperture and shutter speed and focal length, jotting down notes on each shot at shutter press, waiting until the roll is finished, the rigamarole of processing, analyzing the prints).

Then along came digital photography. Not all in a rush, mind you, the way new end-user tech seems to appear these days, sprouting up from the Boolean muck with a built-in early-adopter audience already poised, prepared, and ready to purchase. No, more of a Rollout for the Rich. The first digital camera I saw was in the hands of friend of mine at Dell sometime in 1996, a man keen to the latest cool thing and with enough bangable bucks to chase down some of the same. I don’t recall the brand or model specifics, but I do remember the device looking enough like a compact camera, but having a distinctly non-camera color (an off-white casing, leaning towards beige). Mostly, though, what I remember was the one-inch screen on the back of the device that displayed the photos taken. I could actually see the photo that was just taken! And I could see other photos too! No film? How are the photos developed? Can you only see them on the computer If so, fat lotta good that will do you! How much did you say that thing set you back? My SLR costs less than that!

Early days. Digital photography soon became a hot topic of discussion, and before too long a few more digital cameras started to find their ways into the hands of people I knew. Prints could be had, and though they usually didn’t look like anything special, the fact that the film cost had been taken out of the snapper equation really was a mind-opener. Battery power was something of an issue, but not really so much so in comparison to film when taken at a shot-to-charge ratio. And though the memory chips at the time were infinitesimally small in comparison to what we know today, so were the photo file sizes, and thus a decent number of exposures could be rendered to a chip. And those chips could be removed from the camera at any time and taken for processing!

Being typically a third-generation adopter — let the Can’t-Waits, Fanboys, and Posers pay off the R&D costs, I always say — I opted to monitor the dawn of digital photography from the cheap seats, waiting for the tech to mature and a reasonable Cost of Entry. I continued to hold my Pentax SF-10 close, stroking its heavy, well-chiseled chassis, but using it only sparingly because — goshdarnit — film was expensive! As always, I was seeing photographs wherever I set my gaze, photos I wanted to take, to own — to STEAL — and to share with whoever could or might be bothered to try to see what I had seen and captured. A new Millenium was beckoning…would I be able to capture the Y2K chaos at just 36 exposures per roll?


Ah, the moment. But no. As much as I’d like to be able to conclude by saying that I made the leap of faith to digital in time to capture the Eiffel Tower’s twinkling in of 2000, the truth is it would be another 11 months before I found my way to my first camera sans film, the Kodak EasyShare DX3600.



1 While I was blue-skying early on over the long, rosy, heirloom future of my Pentax SF-10, the Dycam Model 1 — generally accepted to be the first commercial digital camera — was being prepared for market.

2Roughly the same number of photos I took over the past month with Leyna, my trusty Leica D-Lux 5.

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Good Day Sunshine!

A few years back the following kernel of ridiculousness went in one ear, hung around long enough to make a mark, and went out the other: To capture enough solar energy to run the state of Arizona would require enough solar panels to entirely cover the state of Arizona. I don’t recall where I picked up that too-convenient statistic and I never confirmed it in any meaningful way (or any meaningless way, for that matter), but for years I have been guilty of bringing it into the conversation whenever the subject of solar energy has come up, mostly I must admit because the very idea entertains me no end. With this firmly planted in mind, over the past two weeks the subject of solar roadways (or perhaps I should write Solar Roadways, as it is a patented technology and that is the name of the company that hopes to use it to change the world) has come up in my presence no less than three times. In each case, the person bringing the juicy tidbit up for discussion swore up and down that they had heard that this new solar technology idea was quite revolutionary, making use of a solar energy collection methods and materials that are far better than what has commonly been known up to this point. The conversations were quite disparate, the people involved knowing each other only tangentially at best, and yet I figured the whole solar roadways…er Solar Roadways thing had to be some kind of an Internet meme…something I missed on Facebook and/or Twitter that was just making the rounds. It was only with the third mention, that I started to think I should burn a pixel or two to find out exactly what had the masses in a renewed solar energy rage.

First, I thought I should try to find some kind of pointer to the whole “Covering Arizona” thing (Coen Brothers fans, rejoice!). I googled and googled again. Then a third time. I also binged, and more than once. Nada. Now perhaps I overestimate my Internet search skills — I think I am Top 10 worldwide, and neither you nor your friend nor your friend’s brother can convince me otherwise — but even if I am only marginally adept (and I am far far better than that), I figure something would’ve turned up if there is or ever was any truth in that wonderfully wacky supposition. Alas…

So myth debunked. Next I decided to bring myself up-to-speed on solar energy technology. My inner science geek was born when I was but a wee youngster and it continues to live and breathe within. Unfortunately, though, I cannot say I have kept up with the evolution and progress of the energy sciences beyond the level of layman (computer-based tech is just too much fun, and there are only so many hours in a day/week/month/year/life). So off I went in search of education, and immediately I learned that the raw cost of solar energy year-to-year has been dramatically dropping for some time and continues to do so. In fact, new concentrated solar technology is said to be up to five times most cost effective than those ubiquitous standard flat photovoltaic silicon panels, putting it on par with oil and natural gas. Also, prototypes have achieved a concentration of solar energy that is more than 1,000 times greater than those panels. Go figure!

Solar Roadways

Relieved of preconception and far better informed, it was time to put my proverbial pedal to the metal and find my way to the now-seemingly-everywhere subject of Solar Roadways. Be it the result of a well-executed publicity blitz or a news confluence resulting from the $1 million the company has raised in recently-launched and still-ongoing indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (or both), Solar Roadways is the annoying buzz on the solar energy front that is currently tickling our collective ear (The Verge, CNN, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, The Daily Mail). The tech and company is the brainchild of Scott and Julie Brusaw, an Idaho couple, who since 2006 have been working to develop solar panels that can be installed on roads and in parking lots, capable of collecting massive amounts of clean energy from the sun. Able to keep the streets on which they reside free of snow and ice, Solar Roadways panels — which are made from ruggedized glass and can connect to each other via mesh network (in the event one fails, the system will notify its need for maintenance) — can also illuminate those streets and display warnings via LEDs. They also are said to be capable of cutting greenhouse gasses by up to 75% (this, of course, assuming that the tech hits worldwide critical mass). And perhaps the most appealing aspect of this astonishing-seeming technology, even more so than vast practical applications and inevitable economic benefits Solar Roadways can potentially offer? It LOOKS like the future!

Solar Freakin’ Roadways!

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Saturday Snapshot (24-May-2014)

Another Normandy weekend found La Famille Kessel welcoming a newbie to our oh-so-humble abode in Blangy-le-Château, which of course meant hitting the road. Though perhaps ‘hitting’ is too strong a term, as the rental car we have this time around is a Suzuki Celerio, a strange tiny beast of a vehicle that huffs-and-puffs at the slightest incline. Maybe ‘patting the road’ is more accurate. Also, it offers the strangest version of an automatic transmission I have yet encountered, with a three-stop gearshift that one pushes forward (into ‘R’) to go backwards and backward (into ‘D’) to go forwards. Neutral (‘N’), I am glad to say, is rationally located in the middle, which is just as it should be.

Manual Automatic

Also, if the driver prefers they can manually shift the gears by tapping the gearshift slightly to the left from A, and then tapping it up (into ‘M+’) to move to the next highest gear and down (into ‘M-‘) to downshift.

An automatic Standard? A non-standard Automatic? I have no idea what to call this new breed of auto (though a quick spin around the Internet just now seems to indicate it is “automated manual transmission”), but regardless of drive type moniker it is one awful ride. Setting that aside, the Celerio did perform its function, though with no élan whatsoever.

But enough about the car already.

On Saturday afternoon following lunch and a rainstorm (or two rainstorms…three?…this time of year the weather shifts so fast in Normandy it is a fool’s errand to try to delineate such) our band of four piled into the Celerio and headed for Honfleur, the remarkably picturesque port town that bumps up along where the Seine meets La Manche (that’s “English Channel” to all of you good mother-tongue English speakers out there). A regular visit we make with first-time visitors, I have to say that My Missus and The Boy and I really do enjoy making the 25-minute drive from Blangy to Honfleur a few times each year. Honfleur is beautiful, quaint and extremely charming and as expected this serves to make the place a little too touristy. Still, it is the perfect size for an afternoon walkabout and offers plenty of high-end shopping for the well-heeled, including a good amount of art galleries whose wares (and probably owners) are in some form of constant shift as well as some be-careful-what-you-touch antique shops. There are a number of interesting churches to walk through, a museum dedicated to the life and artwork of Honfleur favorite son Eugène Boudin (who had much to do with Monet becoming…well, Monet), and all manner of historical this-n-that surrounding the oh-so-postcardy harbor. Finally, Honfleur offers some truly marvelous grub to be had…great seafood restaurants, a few very nice creperies, and — of course — Alexandre Bourdas’s matchless Sa.Qa.Na).

I parked the Celerio — pushing the gearshift forward to back into my spot in front of Saint-Leonard — and shoehorned my group out of the car and onto the sidewalk. Recompressed, we began easing into Honfleur, and as always the town didn’t disappoint. Boats in the harbor, crushes of people packed into the cafés and restaurants lining the northern end of the port (all tourist traps that should be avoided at all costs, but which aren’t), and a truly awful rock group playing badly under a tent at the port’s southeastern corner next to the ubiquitous carrousel. All good.
2014-05-24 15.52.462014-05-24 16.00.50

2014-05-24 16.15.442014-05-24 16.30.36

We wandered over the drawbridge at the mouth of the harbor and walked up into the north end of town. Honfleur is one of those places where you just can’t help but repeatedly snap your shutter, even if you have a comprehensive souvenir album and have also already taken every picture there is to take (and many times over, at that).

“The way the clouds layer the blue sky over such-n-such church…wow.” “What a remarkable boat! And the flags!” “Isn’t that cute?”

At one point My Missus headed into the Musée Eugène Boudin with my visiting friend, and The Boy and I shot over to La Belle-Iloise to grab up some quality canned mackerel products. Soon we would all reconnect at the Celerio, and…well, just in case we got stuck inside the darn thing I wanted to be prepared!

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Gone Down to London to be the King

A visiting friend and I were slated for two days in London beginning Tuesday morning, however the night before My Missus came down with a painful malady I won’t describe here, so instead I put my friend on the Eurostar at the literal crack of dawn and returned home. Quite disappointed — I had been looking forward to hanging in London with my friend for over a month, and to catching up with other friends while in town, too (apologies once again, Tref, for not being able to connect for that beer) — I started pondering whether there was some way I could chase my friend up once my honey bunny recovered. Eurostar one-way ticket? Lessee. No. The price of that seat would be nearly double what I had paid for the original return ticket! Short hopper flight? The cost made that option a non-starter as well. Hitchhike? Really…come on. Then I remembered that back in my own personal Paleozoic Era (read: 2000) I had once taken a bus from Paris to London.

Not remembering the name of the bus company that offered service to London from Paris, I went all Bing on the problem and was soon staring nostalgically at the Eurolines website. Riiiiight. That was it. At the station at the end of the M3 train, whatevertheheck, at Galieni. I first came across an ad banner on the site that offered one-way Paris-London service for €18, shook my head in disbelief, and then very quickly came to disbelieve it when I saw the fine print (45 day advance purchase…my own, if it happened, would likely be closer to 45 minutes advance). C’est la vie. Regardless, the price was bound to still be quite good in comparison to the other options, so I punched my Departing From and Going To into the handy-dandy widget on the page and clicked Search.

€43. I was in business.

Eurolines typically runs seven buses from Paris to London, four of which I consider to be reasonable at my creaky 49 years of age (no overnight buses for me, outside of dire circumstance), and seeing as My Missus was seemingly coming around from her epically bad night-before and recovery morning I began focusing on the 15h00 bus (arrival at London Victoria at 21h30). At some point in the mix I thought I saw the word “wifi” in association with the Eurolines bus trips, and while that wasn’t a decision-maker I did find myself lightening to the prospect of a 6+ hour bus ride knowing I would be able to extend myself beyond the confines of the coach.
My Bus

As morning morphed into afternoon My Missus remained asleep, sloughing off the awfulness and catching up on lost winks. Just as I began shifting my bus plans to Wednesday morning, though, she popped up not-quite bright as a penny but somewhat shiny nonetheless. Before long my girl was breakfasted (at 13h30) and talking about going into work for the afternoon. I made a few noises about hopping on the bus to catch up with my friend, quickly received a sincere and truthful “Oh, you should definitely do that!”, and began once again to look forward to two days of London-style this-that-whatever.


To AppleKory I went, fingers a-flyin’. I bought a ticket online for the 15h00 bus, printed the ticket out, threw a few essentials into my computer bag (like I had time to put a proper bag together…yeah, right), confirmed that my camera would be along for the ride (you want to know my camera’s name, inquisitive reader, I just know you do…information not forthcoming today), threw on a jacket I probably wouldn’t need and bolted.


Marcadet Poissonniers station, the M4. Change to the M3 at Réaumur–Sébastopol, direction Galieni. Short delays at many stations along the way, the tick-tocking clock in my head growing louder as said clock’s hands move ever-closer to 15h00. Pulling my ticket out of pocket to ensure Galieni is my target and discovering the small print that says — translated from the French — “Arrive at the station no later than 30 minutes before departure.” (it is 14h41 at this point, 19 minutes before departure and still two stops from the station). Uttering profanities, mental image of pounding the Metro train doors to hurry things along. Galieni. Dashing for the Eurolines station.

14h52. I am stepping on the proverbial skin-of-my-teeth, which has dribbled out of my mouth and under my shoes.

Check-in accomplished, I board the bus and find my seat. Sweat glands working? Check. Respiration at full capacity? Check. Skin temperature at maximum tolerance? Check. And then I start to relax. The on-board wifi can wait. I just want to feel the road moving under the bus wheels and exhale until Morpheus drags me off for a short doze. And soon enough that is exactly what happened.

Roughly an hour later I am awake. I am also hungry, having not eaten a thing since breakfast and not being able to grab any kind of a nibble at the bus station in my haste to make sure I was on the right side of the vehicle’s doors at departure. “Swallow it, Kory.”, I say to myself and I do. All I need is a little distraction, and if the Internet isn’t good for that it isn’t good for anything. I pull AppleKory out of her warm cozy place, fire her new self up (she is a whole other creature since I replaced her 1TB hard drive with a 2TB over the weekend), and start looking for trouble…er, the Eurolines wifi.

No dice. No joy. No wifi. On my bus “wifi” may as well have stood for “wishful fantasizing”, as there was no such service (the Eurolines website does say “free wifi**” with the ** indicating “**Available on most of our lines”…wishful, indeed). Thus I found myself relegated to whatever entertainment media I could find on the aforementioned 2TB hard drive. Another “C’est la vie.”


Compared to the Eurostar at just a little over two hours, even with wifi the six-and-a-half-hour Eurolines trip to London promised to be quite the slog. In truth, though, even without the wifi I would have to dig hard to slag it with anything approaching conviction. Comfortable seats, the consistent steady motion, travel companions without evident psychoses or hygiene challenges, a clean and usable waste management facility; for the price the Eurolines bus service has to be tossed onto the far too small “High Value” heap.

Following a very curious journey through the Eurotunnel — the driver drove the bus INTO a huge enclosed train (parking it right up behind another bus, with a truck then driven in and parked right behind us), which itself soon began to move — we were in the UK, barreling our way to London. Before long, Lewisham…passing by the Kia Oval (lights on, cricket match in progress!)…arriving at Victoria Coach Station.

I alighted with iPhoneKory in hand (still my not-so-smartphone, for now), knowing there had to be a Nando’s somewhere nearby.

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Art Techo

Marcadet-Poissonniers (both the M4 and the M12 make stops at the station, and I am on the former) is my hopping on point today, as it is the vast majority of times I make use of the Paris Metro, seeing as how the entrance is less than 50 meters from the Chez Kessel doorstep. Yet another stunning blue-sky spring day this mid-May Monday (ay-ay-ay), Paris really has been peacocking over the past week, splaying every one of her luminous feathers to maximum extension and effect. Not why we are here, though, to expound on the picturesque, so I’ll put the wanna-be poet back in his box and instead get wet with tech.

As people moving technology goes, RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) is at something of a crossroads. Still so much an analogue experience, the digital has been oozing in around the edges of Paris mass transit for some time, and recently it seems to have somewhat stepped up its game. For instance, whereas for literally decades the best a bus commuter could hope for regarding information on when the next bus might arrive at a particular stop was a posted published schedule, today Paris’s bus stops all offer updated electronic signs that indicate not only when the next bus will be stopping by but the next one after as well. And though this has been the norm in parts of the Metro for some time, the proliferation of such signage down there has markedly increased in recent years to now include every station (Kory Coming Clean: I did not travel to all of Paris’s 303 Metro stations to confirm ‘all’, but I do not recall the last time I stood waiting on a train platform lacking for the needed info). Still better than that, though, are the very new signs seen at Metro exits that indicate not only the bus lines that stop on the surface nearby, but also the number of minutes until the next bus on each of those lines will be arriving!

Train-BusNext Train

It’s all about synergy, baby! Well, that, and computers, databases, sensors, reporting software, and other such technological schrecktose that dates post-1975. That said, in spite of the obvious expenditures RATP HAS made in bringing their equipment up-to-near-date, It is hard not to shake one’s head in astonishment at their inability to configure the Paris transit system to issue individual tickets that can be used for hybrid journeys involving both train and bus. I think these days that ability is even available with the London Underground!*

End User food and drink fun stuff gadgets H/W piracy

(Part of) A Day in the Life

08h14 Woke up (to a sweet small kiss from My Missus…thanks, honey). Got out of bed.
08h19 Open Chrome tab to Locate torrent for and click its Magnet link.
08h19 Confirm torrent download on Transmission.
08h15 Check Notifications on iPhoneKory (within arm’s reach at bedside, of course), to get up-to-speed with what happened during sleep time. Emails, text messages, instant messages, downloads completed, Facebook notifications, Twitter notifications, whether the Cubs beat the Cards.
08h18 Drag self from bed to desk chair and lay hands on keyboard and mouse.

When I took keys in hand this morning I thought I would capture a typical day from wake up to lie down. Not only did I think I could do that, but I thought I could make it compelling reading too, something able to easily transport my legion of readers (crowd? pack? coven?) to that special place where the words flow like wine. Belly-button gazing of the highest order and noblest cause, right?

08h20 Go back to Locate torrent for and click its Magnet link.
08h20 Confirm torrent download on Transmission.
08h21 Leave chair.
08h22 08h22 Get dressed, put on shoes, help make bed.

No. It just cannot be done. If getting a typical day down is already boring me into submission there can be little doubt that anyone who is not me is by this point scrambling madly for their own mouse and keyboard in a desperate attempt to avoid subtle but sure brain death. Or they are reaching for a noose or sharp razor.

Multi-tasking. All of us who these days spend any significant amount of time in front of a computer or tablet speak of it. In fact, nowadays the term rolls off our tongues so easily, one has to wonder just how many of the children born today are working on first-wording it for the delight and/or horror of their parents. I can do this while I am doing that and at the same time I have this going on and that will finish at right about the time this is just getting started and by the end of the day I will have done enough work (and played enough) for three people.

Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab, Alt+Tab (OSX users, substitute ⌘ for Alt)

So later that same morning I found myself working on this post for, checking Facebook, finishing up an article edit and pushing it back across to the client, checking Facebook, writing a bit more into my post, integrating Kat Edmonson’s “Way Down Low” into my music library, direct messaging a friend on Twitter to set plans for meeting up in London next week, using Lightroom to touch up a few photos I took last weekend in my wife’s fantastic Normandy garden, configuring my just-arrived Ricoh Theta (more on that soon enough), slicing-and-dicing my way around in search of a one-night stay in Chartres for a visiting friend, tweaking my post a little more, tagging myself in a Facebook photo, chasing a an alert for a Rolleiflex 2.8F that recently came up for sale on eBay, and googling (via reviews on a new Egyptian restaurant in the neighborhood (a boy’s gotta eat).

Anyone out there want to hear about my afternoon?

Life Day Task

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RER B to CDG Terminal 2

For some time I have been thinking of writing a post while on the move, to see what that might bring to the page. Hardly original, the idea is somewhat out of my wheelhouse, if for no other reason than the fact that I truly loathe typing anything longer than a text message on a virtual keyboard. Not that I have some kind of a hoity-toity “They aren’t true keyboards” attitude (though I do, and they aren’t), but as a touch typist who has been clocked at 120 wpm (words-per-minute, for the acronym challenged) I find it wickedly frustrating to have to look at the keys to form the words that are in my head…not to mention slow down said head to capture the whatnot those words form. Still, being a staunch proponent of digital progress (mostly), for you, friend reader, I will endure. And perhaps even have a little fun, too.

I first thought to try my hand at mobile writing with the no-longer-so-recent (February) announcement that Microsoft was offering an iOS7 version of their Office 365 applications for free. As the Guv’nor of two iOS7-cursed devices (the iPhone 4 I whinge here about replacing on a somewhat regular basis, and an iPad Mini pass-me-down), this news pricked my eyes, and I quickly grabbed up the apps for both Word and Excel. I didn’t fire ’em up for use right away — AppleKory and my keyboard hadn’t left the building, so why bother? — but I was content knowing I had the apps, for…well, whenever.

One day shortly thereafter, it was whenever. I was at Cafè Lomi, just sitting there watching the wheels go ’round and ’round (I really love to watch them roll), when I thought I’d go all mobile-writer-guy on the good visitors of I pulled iPadKory from my bag, coded it, and punched the icon for Word. Nice looking app. Opens straight to a New Document page, serving up all kinds of document templates, such as Brochure, Invoice, ProposalSchool Newsletter. Colorful. Friendly. Microsofty.

I punch New Blank Document. I get a Word-looking page with a orange bar near the top that reads Read-Only. To create and edit, activate with an eligible Office 365 subscription.

2014-05-14 00.41.58

Hmm. That doesn’t sound very free. Or friendly. I do happen to have an account, though, so maybe it wants that (though I was already thinking how lost the casual first-time user without such an account would react on seeing the top-screen note). I punch Activate, which leads immediately to a Subscription dialogue. All of a sudden I am no longer having fun. In for a penny, though, right? I follow the path of dialogue windows, employing my credentials as needed, until I am finally staring at Buy a Subscription. I only need to shell out $99.99 a year to use my sweet new free Office 365 iOS7 application!


Disillusioned, discouraged, and feeling just plain ‘dissed, I slapped iPadKory shut, threw it in my bag, and left for home. “I didn’t really want to write a post on a tablet using a virtual keyboard anyway. Phooey.” And the Word app? Deleted, with prejudice (except, that is, for my reinstalling it today to check my memory for this post and to grab screenshots).

And that is where it all would have stayed — at “Phooey.” — had Google not made their own announcement of a free Google Docs app a couple of weeks back. Of course, I immediately DL’ed the app, and this time I launched it forthwith to make sure it could actually be put to some use.

Voila, enablement. And as for writing on the run and virtual keyboards? Well, I made it this far…

2014-05-14 01.39.06

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Saturday Snapshot (10-May-2014)

Corner anyone in France and ask them what the first thing is that comes to mind when they think of Normandy. Will they answer “The cream/butter/cheese/crepes/Calvados!”? Maybe. Will they answer “D-Day!” or “French liberation!” Uh…probably not. “Le Mont St. Michel”? I’d be shocked. No, the first word that typically comes to the lips of any self-respecting French person in association with Normandy is “rain”.

Of course, for the purpose of this website and its primary intended audience, all French person enunciations are translated into English. Glad to get that out in front here. OK, continuing…

Yes, Normandy is notorious for being one extremely rainy place, and not without good reason. I cannot offer any statistics (and it isn’t as if anyone reading my words here would really want to trudge through them, anyway), but after nearly 8 years of part-time residency in Pays d’Auge — Normandy’s finest area, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — I can say with authority that anyone coming to the region unprepared to deal with the wet stuff has their head in the clouds.

Oh, don’t be afraid to laugh. Sure, that crack was a little on-the-nose, but that doesn’t mean it is undeserving of your smile. Really, is it wrong that so much of why I enjoy writing is the opportunities it presents for entertaining myself?

My Missus and I planned to head over to the regular Saturday farmer’s market in Lisieux, and no grey skies or drizzly misty rain or unseasonal May temps (for non-Normandy France places, anyway) was going to keep us from doing so. There were Orbecs to be had — reason enough to throw on a slicker — and other delectables as well. Fresh-pressed apple juice..cream so magical it should come with its own fairy tale..a tub of those remarkable slow-cooked potatoes with lardon that make me want to do handstands, somersaults, cartwheels, and other gymnastic acts I no longer have any hope of completing. We would not be daunted.

Arriving in Lisieux, My Missus headed to a parking lot in which we usually have success, and slipped our tiny rental car into the last visible spot, skirting just ahead of some noodnik who was just a little too interested in his phone at just the wrong moment. Survival of the fittest, baby. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that our rental was an itty-bitty Fiat Panda on this day, a “car” that wouldn’t survive collision with a good-sized rodent let alone any vehicle on the road.) So soon enough we were walking — singing? — in the rain, the market in our sights.

Overcast skies and dark clouds are lousy conditions under which to take photos (color photos, anyway), so at first I figured I wouldn’t be adding to my collection of market photos. Still, I had our Olympus TG-1 in tow (a “tough” camera, a possession of my father-in-law’s that My Missus came to when he passed on about a year ago) and megapixels are really cheap, so I resolved to snap, just to see where my eye fell on such a day. Tentative at first — no matter how alive and colorful a bunch of radishes seems, there would be better Saturdays for that kind of image — I shortly found myself firing at every marginally interesting umbrella that fell within view.

Only once before can I recall spending more than a minute-and-a-half considering umbrellas, that being back in the first semester of my first year of university (1983, nosy reader) when I wrote a one-page essay for an Introduction to Creative Writing class on the necessity of having one on a rainy night walking around midtown Manhattan (lest one fall victim to those in the hands of others). I have owned umbrellas, of course (though I don’t think I’ve actually ever paid for one), and I have never had a bone to pick with one (though I never think to grab one when leaving my dwelling on a rainy day), but other than that long-ago-lost five-paragraph throw-down I have never paid them much mind. Perhaps, then, this is why all of a sudden on a rainy Saturday Normandy morning I was finding umbrellas to be so devastatingly curious.


At first I just waited for the umbrellas to come my way, content with serendipity’s role. Before much time at all had passed, though, I was on the hunt, leaving My Missus to take care of our market needs.

“That one is boring so I won’t bother.” “That one must’ve come from some trade show or other.” “Wow! that is one big-ass umbrella!” “Strange the high percentage of mostly-broken umbrellas people seem content to continue putting to (hardly good) use.” “I wonder, is the fact that her umbrella matches her purse and shoes intended or a just happy accident of fate?” “Funny how I don’t know what My Missus’s umbrella looks like…I wonder if she is wondering where I am?”

The mind, once focused, can be a powerful, dangerous, slippery place, indeed, and there are puddles everywhere!

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Vastly Objectionable Ignominious Phrase

What the lone acronym in “VoIP Week” does NOT represent.

As a longtime fan of Marvel’s super hero comic books — 40 years and happily counting — I find myself quite satisfied with the persisting Hollywood trend of putting these Fantastic! Incredible! Amazing! Uncanny! Mighty! characters on the Silver Surfer…er, silver screen. And almost as much fun as seeing these wonders brought to life is the narrative means used to tie them all together, that being the oh-so-shadowy government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., which as acronyms go is one heckuva Marvel-ous mouthful (originally “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division”, then changed in 1991 to “Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate”…both way-cool).


So what does all of this have to do with VoIP? Well, as great acronyms go absolutely nothing, as S.H.I.E.L.D. is way-cool while V-o-I-P is decidedly not. In fact, though the meaning behind V-o-I-P — Voice over Internet Protocol — is a cause célèbre, worthy of consideration, contemplation, conjecture, and cockeyed optimism, the “word” verbalized evokes images of a thick liquid dripping onto a badly-tuned piece of tin poised alongside a carnival microphone.

Say it with me. Or better yet, don’t.

As awful an acronym as V-o-I-P is, one has to wonder how it came to stick as the most common reference term for the technology it represents. Could it be that as bad as it is, V-o-I-P is actually the best of a really bad bunch? Let’s see…

IPT (IP Telephony)? Difficult double-consonant at the end, and perhaps too easy to rhyme with “gypped”…
IT (Internet Telephony)? Taken.
VoBB (Voice over Broadband? Again, like IPT, too easy to set a negative rhyme to.
BT (Broadband Telephony)? Taken.
BPS (Broadband Phone Service)? Proves that an ugly-sounding acronym is better than one with absolutely nothing going for it.

OK, so maybe I am no longer wondering how V-o-I-P took hold in the tech-y lexicon. After all, nature abhors a vacuum and all that (Horror vacui!). Also, sadly, nothing better was in the ether (evidenced above), and it isn’t as if the average man-on-the-street is going to say “Voice over Internet Protocol” every time they need to refer to the concept (of course, there is no way said average man-on-the-street is ever going to comfortably use the acronymic word “VoIP” either, but let’s not get bogged down in reality’s messy details). Still, it sure would be nice to be able to lay blame for V-o-I-P at someone’s keyboard, but unlike the massive majority of Internet-based whatever-and-whatsis there is absolutely nobody out there laying claim to originating — starting? envisioning? founding? — the term. Even if we could force somebody to take responsibility for this *four-letter-word* of a four-letter acronym, though, a proper punishment could never be levied as any attempt to do so would likely raise the ire of the Kids from C.A.P.E.R.*

At this point the Marvel-literate among you might be gasping (Gasp!) for me to return to espousing on and praising the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for those of you not in-the-know who have hung on this far). It is “VoIP Week” at, however, and other than their diametrically opposed acronym quality no other useful correlation can be made between S.H.I.E.L.D. and V-o-I-P (other than the fact, that is, that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents likely make extensive and heretofore unknown — and way-cool — use of VoIP technology). Still, you can’t beat a good opening.

*The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless

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Saturday Snapshot (3-May-2014)

Lest regular readership get the mistaken impression that every La Famille Kessel Saturday is filled full-up with memorable diversion, today I will not report on a Normandy beachside kite festival competition or a world-class photo exhibit attended or any such specialness. Instead, dear and generous reader, I will gladly bring you along on a short walk I took around my corner of Paris’s 18th Arrondissement in search of photographs and dinner party nibbles.

First, to set the pin on the map, the part of 18eme in which La Famille Kessel has made home since 2001 is on the arrondissement’s northern edge, and not the storied and well-trodden Montmartre (though it isn’t far removed, and we do have a view of Sacre Coeur, provided someone is holding the back of your pants when you lean out the window and look sharply to the right). It is an immigrant neighborhood in the strongest sense of the word, with over 160 nationalities represented (the most diverse such area in all of Europe, in fact…or so we have so often been told). The heterogeneousness, in fact, seeps into and around everything…streetlife, the shops, the wide disparity in the quality and condition of the vehicles…and for a person with a photography bent and a halfway decent camera, every blue-sky sunny day reeks of opportunity.
Blue Door

American friends living in Holland were in town over the weekend with four kids in tow, and Saturday evening we would welcome them for eats and drinks. I had the main course set and prepared — three tartes a la tomates (recipe some other time), an herb-infested green salad with pistachio and a garlic-tomato-balsamic vinaigrette — but we were were sorely lacking for food-before-the-food, so out the door I went, bang into what from my fourth floor window looked like one of the Top 10 Best days of the year.


Happily, my window didn’t lie, and from the moment my shoes hit the sidewalk I felt a bounce in my step. The day was glorious. A crisp light wind, temperature right around 18ºC (64ºF for the U.S.-bound), white puffy clouds, a screaming blue sky, and a pervasive airy mood that seemed infused into all. I could hear the buzz of easy conversation, comfortable laughter, the sounds of bicycle bells…I wasn’t sure what direction I would go in or what I would pick up along the way, but I was not the least bit concerned. I had an hour, a camera around my neck, and just enough purpose to ensure I wouldn’t wander too far.

End User gadgets H/W Mobile phones

Zee — Double Oh — Em!

Regular readers — at last count there were five of you out there — are no doubt on pins and needles waiting for me to once again pick up the narrative of the search for my next phone, and today is the day I scratch the associated itch. Not that I have made a decision and followed through on it yet, mind you. No, in fact a new contender entered the mix this week, one that could very well draw out the process into early summer (though hopefully not beyond)…the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom!

S4 ZoomIn my previous posts on this subject that has all of you talking, I rhapsodize on the camera being the all-important feature for me in selecting a smartphone, and just from that standpoint the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is an obvious entrant. The fact of that matter, though, is that I was underwhelmed and even disappointed by Samsung’s previous It’s-a-Camera-No-It’s-A-Phone (last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom) and never figured it’s second incarnation would do anything to change my mind. Clunky, boxy, heavy, ugly, and weird (not in a good way), the Galaxy S4 Zoom is a regular Frankenstein device, one that looks like it was cobbled together from leftover state-of-the-art gadget components and made to look synergistic through the careful application of molded white plastic and polished chrome. Of course, it isn’t all about form factor (or in simpler terms, its “looks”), but the device’s technical specs and the photos that flowed from it onto the Internet were far from money enough to make the repugnant attractive.

At best, as phones go the Galaxy S4 Zoom made a marginal camera; and as cameras go, a marginal phone.

Thus, as intriguing as I continue to find the idea of a smartphone-camera hybrid — and as inexplicably pleased as I was to find a ‘K’ in its name — I approached the announcement this past Tuesday of the the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom with strong reservation. Sure, considering technology’s incessant march I figured that the concept’s second iteration would be more pocketworthy than the first (not much effort required). Also, there was little doubt that the GKZ’s extensible lens would supplant the one unfortunate hardware “Huh?” feature of it’s Galaxy S5 older brother, that being the heart rate sensor on the back just under the camera lens. Still, even the most nimble companies typically play Generation Leap-Frog in responding to critical/customer feedback (the secondary reason, I am sure, that Apple changes their iPhone numbering only after running an interim ‘S’ generation*), so though I thought “better” was highly likely I had no expectations that the Galaxy K Zoom would begin to approach “good” prior to Gen-3.

Surprise, surprise.

Until I have had an opportunity to actually see and touch the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, of course, the value of my take on this fingers-tingling-BIG-time gadget is akin to that of the pixels on your computer monitor. That said, the device presents as the first true realization of a smartphone-camera hybrid. It it contoured like a cell phone (and only a cell phone…no mistaking this hot number for a badly-designed compact camera…or a cheap 1970s walkie-talkie), yet has a true glass lens that delivers 10x optical zoom. And unlike its predecessor, which required that the zoom lens be extended manually, the GKZ extends automatically a la a compact camera (and wicked fast, too). Also, this very-cool-and-seeming-even-cooler-the-more-I-read-about-it smartphone offers a 4.8 inch HD display, comprised of a Super AMOLED panel protected with Corning Gorilla Glass. And the primary camera has a 20.7-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, too!

K ZoomSo the Galaxy K Zoom has form and it has function. Though to make a usable value assessment — and perhaps a purchase decision — I still need some idea of the carrier-subsidized price, and at this point the number of rutabagas that will be required in exchange for the new shiny has yet to be revealed. Oh, and then there is whether the GKZ will even be available in France (as of this writing it is only set to launch in Asia). Hence, while the picture presented is quite fine, it is not quite yet in full focus. Still, this new character in the Quest for Kory’s Next Smartphone adventure — drama? thriller? comedy? — has considerably shaken up the narrative and perhaps necessitated a rewrite of the ending (gotta punch those metaphors until they cannot punch back, I always say).

* The primary reason Apple runs an interim ‘S’ iPhone generation? Come on. So they can pluck maximum cash from the pockets of the legions of lemmings who are unable to bear life without the very latest iteration of the device in their possession, of course.

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Two Hours and 55 Minutes

I have 39 versions of the song “April in Paris” in my digital music library. The earliest recording is an Artie Shaw track from 1940 and the most recent is by Wynton Marsalis from his 1987 “Standards, Volume One” release, with many seminal versions threading in-between, delivered by a staggering array of artists that range from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald to Nirvana (OK, that isn’t true…just checking wakefulness out there)…er, Blossom Dearie. Of course, considering “April in Paris”‘s status as a 20th Century classic and the size of my jazz collection, I shouldn’t be surprised that I have 39 versions of the song, and yet seeing them all before me on my monitor (the result of an iTunes search) is really just a couple of steps shy of astonishing.

April in Paris x 39

If 14+ years ago someone had asked me when I first moved to Paris in 1999 (August — not April) “How many versions of “April in Paris” do you have in your music collection?”, I could not have answered the question with any kind of accuracy or authority. Not without taking hours to thumb through my 2000+ CDs with a notepad and pen at hand, anyway.

I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never new my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace
competitions events fun stuff Weekend

Saturday Snapshot (26-April-2014)

“Honey, turn the car around! You have to see that!”

My Missus, who for a few weeks has been doing most of the driving due to some new out-of-the-blue concern over insurance coverage (I drive on a valid Texas driver’s license, not the Permis de Conduire I should have by this point, some 14+ years in-country), shoots me a hard questioning look, to which I respond with “I saw an amazing falcon, perched on a fence post by the side fo the road. You have to see it. Go back.”

No argument. At the roundabout coming up My Missus takes the full turn and heads back the way we just came. Soon enough, all four of us (The Boy has a friend visiting) catch the profile of the remarkable animal, still proudly perched on the same fence post. Maybe two minutes have passed since my initial sighting. Three tops.

A hushed “Wow.” and other such murmurs run through the car, which My Missus has pulled over to the side of the road opposite the bird of prey, but mostly we are all just holding our collective breath in awe. The falcon is truly magnificent, and his regal quality…palpable. We wait, we watch, and just as I am starting to think “Hey, isn’t that a camera on that strap around my neck…?”…he takes wing. A wildlife documentary all our own. And then time starts again, and we continue making our way to Houlgate for an afternoon of watching other things taking to the sky…kites!

Kites and Kites and Kites!Brit Kite In the Running