Monday, May 01, 2006

Friday, April 28 – Plugging in in Paris

Tomorrow I will meet Reza Abbaszadeh and together we will head off to Dubai to keep an appointment with the U.S. Consulate before our final destination -- Tehran. Today I reorganized after two weeks of traveling.

I decided to recharge all of my electronic gadgets and had my Blackberry, iPod and laptop juiced. But what about my digital camera? Where was the cord? Each of these gadgets demands a different way to spoon in the electrons and I didn't have the Kodak spoon the day before heading to Dubai.

I set off to find a camera store and found two large ones not too far away. They looked something like Circuit City and had everything electric from hair dryers and microwaves to home stereos and digital cameras. Many, many cords, but not the right one.

I thought about how many standards and conventions we have in the marketplace, from electric cords and plugs to operating systems for computers. The standards divide and organize the market at first, competing with each other and eventually perhaps co-existing or with one dominating.

Travel always makes one aware of standards and conventions as I bring along transformers and adaptors. In the U.K., I have to remember to look left or get run over because cars drive on the "other" side of the road. I learned about another convention at dinner with Bini and Bettina Segal. Bini, an Israeli citizen, had recently given up his accounting position at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management to assume a post at INSEAD, a good school outside Paris, in order to be closer to his family in Israel.

I asked them about finding an apartment in Paris, buying a car and insurance and the whole process of entering France as a resident. It was bureaucratic as expected, they said, but the biggest surprise was that in France an unfurnished apartment comes without light fixtures -- bare wires hang from the ceilings -- and there may be no cabinet knobs.

Another French convention is apparent watching traffic: probably 80 percent of cars are some shade of grey. Apparently grey is the standard color and anything else costs more!


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