“Appropriate Use Of Humor”

In the speakers’ meeting they counsel us foreign speakers to be careful with humor, because it doesn’t always translate, even when everyone is speaking english. In fact, they tell us, we should not use humor at all.

Asking me not to use humor is like asking the democrats not to bash Bush, or Rummy not to put his foot in it, or the Italians not to take pizza quite so seriously. I mean, I suppose I COULD give the humor a wide miss, but that runs so contrary to who I am that I’m not sure who I’d be when I was done.

In my last session of the day I was discussing Linux commands that GroupWise administrators might want to be familiar with. I hammered hard on the “man” command (usage: >man [command]) which allows you to Read The Freakin’ Manual from a command prompt, and do so on almost any Linux command you’re faced with. On every slide, as we discussed a command, I’d remind them that if they wanted more details, they should use “man.”

It occurred to me that this was starting to sound a little sexist. Apology for inherent sexism is often funny… unfortunately, this occurred to me at the wrong time.

We were discussing a command (I’ll get to it in a moment) and I gave them the “man” mantra. I then apologized.

“The feminists in the room are probably unhappy that there’s no “woman” command. Sexist or not, you can’t do a “woman mount” and get anything useful.”

At this point I realized that “mount”‘ was the wrong command for making this particular joke. Or maybe it was the exactly RIGHT command, because the entire room burst into laughter, with the women in the room laughing the loudest.

It was probably funnier for the fact that I didn’t MEAN to tell a dirty joke. Honestly, I didn’t. When I tell dirty jokes intentionally I wink, or rimshot, rather than blushing and looking around the room to see if my boss is watching.

–Howard

p.s. That was my last session. The network comes down in a few minutes, then I’m off to the airport, so that’s the last you’ll hear from me from Africa.

The Giant Penguin

There’s a giant (six meters high) inflatable penguin here at BrainShare Africa. My buddy Ted (after whom the Reverend Theo Fobius was originally modeled) snuck up behind it and with rhythmic up-and-down rocking motions managed to get it to bounce.

From the front, the bouncing of the giant penguin looked pretty cool. And frightening. Kind of like Gozer had chosen a new form and was out to stomp on churches in a new town.

–Howard

(p.s. I edited the post with the actual dimensions of the penguin — he’s six meters high, not three.)

Okay, so it’s not as bad as all that…

I’m still in Johannesburg, and BrainShare Africa is actually going pretty well. Sure, sure, I can’t watch movie trailers over the half-meg pipe (“trickle-feed”) we’ve got, but I can update my LiveJournal, check my email, and basically keep my fingers at least halfway on the pulse of the things they’re supposed to be taking the pulse of.

Tomorrow’s 2-hour technical session still threatens to cave my head in, but I’m feeling relaxed about it right now. I expect there’ll be time enough to stress about it tomorrow, right?

I met a South African Schlocker yesterday afternoon at 3pm. We went out and grabbed a bite to eat, while I sketched a caricature of him. “Draw something every day” is a good rule for a cartoonist to live by, and that particular drawing came out quite nicely.

I haven’t drawn anything today, yet. Maybe I’ll doodle on a scratch-pad during the “Meet The Experts” session. It starts in 90 minutes, and promises to be as grueling as ever. There’s nothing like spending three hours being the personal tech-support bizzatch for 600 increasingly inebriated convention delegates, although I’m told that being attacked by pirahnas comes close.

(Okay, nobody actually TOLD me that. The cow I heard it from was in a movie, and all it really said was “moooooo.” It was a pretty stressed out “mooooo,” though.)

–Howard

Half a WHAT?!?!?

Apparently the convention center only has a half a megabit pipe for internet connectivity. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were just me, but with the crowd of presenters and staff all trying to sync up with their various home offices, that half megabit is like a big juicy porterhouse steak sitting all by itself at the all-you-can-eat buffet. I got a forkful, but I also got someone else’s fork stuck in my hand, and the maitre’d is nowhere to be seen.

I don’t remember it being this bad last year. Same venue, same staff… maybe the construction across the street has forced re-routing of lines or something. Dunno.

Upshot of all this… the presentations I needed to tweak are dependent on data I don’t have access to. Grrr….

–Howard

Writer, Illustrator, Consumer