My "Lecture" at the Sorbonne

Early in 1999, I visited Paris with the two Czech owners of ANF DATA in Prague, Stepan Kotva and Jiri Svanda, for whom I was working as a consultant. My task was to convince the historic French company SAGEM to outsource the ongoing development and maintenance of one of their products to us, which I did, successfully. We had some spare time afterward for sightseeing in Paris and one of our stops was the Sorbonne. We decided to take a peek at one of the main lecture halls. Since it was lunchtime, the lectern was vacant and many students were sitting around in the large auditorium eating bag lunches. On a whim, I walked up to the whiteboard and to a list of dates and names I added "1999 - Bob" at the end. This activity attracted the attention of some of the students in the hall, so I flourished my hand at the list as one of my travelling companions took this photograph of me "lecturing" at the Sorbonne. I'll leave it as a homework assignment for you, dear readers, to determine from the other dates and names on the list, what the original lecture was all about.

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In Memory of My Mother

It's Mother's Day and my mom passed away in the summer of 2005, so I can't be with her today, but if you'll bear with me I've written a word or two here in grateful remembrance. The photograph is the last taken of her, at age 79, on the Charles Bridge in Prague, with her hand over a spot where there's an embedded plaque in the shape of a hand that people touch to make a wish. At the time I took that photo she and I were the only two surviving members of our immediate family, and knowing her, I suppose her wish was for me and not for herself. I'm glad that I was able to arrange for her to visit me in Prague a couple of times in the last years of her life, because she was never able to travel and to see as much of the world as she would have liked. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and left the university to elope with my father near the end of WWII. Following the steel industry south, my parents settled in Birmingham, where I was born in the mid-fifties. My dad prospered in the early years of my life, so my mom was a housewife who spent her time split between caring for my older sister and me, and her volunteer work helping victims of cerebral palsy. Our family's idyllic post-war prosperity was gradually impinged upon by the strife of the civil rights era, then the malaise of the Vietnam era, and finally a string of assorted personal tragedies that all left their devastating marks. Throughout all of the troubled times and until the end of her life, my mom was always there for me, a pillar of support, and although in one of her last conversations with me, she told me how happy she was to have had me as her son, I feel that I have let her down. She deserved better.

...a Czech-speaking American expat living in Prague since 1993.

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