Thursday, October 05, 2006

A? Q? M? ah, they're all the same..

Where Eez Zee @ Booton?

Go Ahead, just try and type 40 wpm on this!!

A major story carrying its weight on paper and screen this week in Europe has been the announcement of yet another delay in the delivery date for the giant Euro plane known as the Airbus 380. This double-deckered advancement in technology and marketing will ferry upwards of 650 back and forth to Mecca, Burbank, or even Toulouse. To my thinking (I’m writing this in 16B – a bulkhead thank goodness – of a Delta flight from Rome to Kennedy) an addition of another 350 international travelers to the mess already surrounding me wouldn’t necessarily count as a move in the right direction. Tech problems seem to be slowing the delivery of the plane down (for one thing, they have to remember that, as in New York apartments, one persons foot fall is another persons rattle in the attic) threatening the sales program already in place. Emirates Air is thinking about dumping half their order of 45 planes in favor of the new version of the 747, Boeing being only too happy to try and slide a banana peel under the feet of the Airbus folks. If that happens, well, there could be a rush to the door. For most of us, it won’t be much of a big deal. Getting on a plane these days which is mostly full is no picnic under any circumstance. But I wonder if there isn’t something which has been overlooked in all this tumult about the A380.

Last week we were in Langon, a small Southwestern village on the Garonne river – near Bordeaux - which bears the notoriety of being the last place that Airbus parts arrive by water. Since it IS a Euro project, everyone gets a piece of the pie. Wings built in one place, fuselage another, tailplanes in yet a third. Wales, France, Germany and who knows who else all get into the act. Then, in what must be quite a sight, the separate bits are put on barges and floated up the Garonne, en route to the final assembly plant in Toulouse. (Toulouse was conveniently chosen because it has no port, nor inland waterway access. But the Cassoulet is fantastic.) In Langon, they are taken off the barges, mounted on giant trucks, and driven late at night on roads closed to the public for the occasion. Doling out the work isn’t a bad idea, but you sure have to hope the parts fit when they get to Toulouse. I suspect there has been at least once when an overly tight landing gear fitting had to be greased with the bottom of a confit de canard jar. A little cassoulet schmear, and those parts will glide together better than a shot glass of WD-40. But I suspect there may be another culprit in this episode of technological challenge.

Unless you have spent an unfortunate few minutes at a French “Internet Point”, you probably have no idea what a disadvantage awaits the Gallic engineer. The keyboard, drawn from the design of French typewriters, is an absolute mystery. Yes, each time I sit at a French set of keys, I can see Geoffrey Rush’s character from Shakespeare in Love, skulking around in a feathered hat a la 3 Musketeers, whispering…. “it’s a mystery…it’s a mystery.” For indeed it is. Most of us live in an QWERTY or ASDF world, those being the first keys on the left side of the keyboard. Those of us old enough to have learned typing on a typewriter, made a pretty snappy transition to the computer, where you never have to hit unless it’s a new paragraph. And for the most part, the places where your fingers rest prepare them for the work at hand. Most of the popular keys are easily found, and easily struck. But on a French keyboard, you take your sanity into your hands. Literally. Just a couple of examples. Our “A” key is a “Q” on the French keys. I don’t know about you, but I use A much more than Q. Of course we aren’t always asking Quand, Quelle, or Qu’est ce Que, I agree. But still, I vote for “A”. And don’t ASK about the simple Period. It requires Shifting to hit a simple DOT, as in DotCom. And should you be left wondering how to address an email, the @ -- well that one I never did figure out. It shares the ‘ and “ key – nestled in the lower right hand corner of that key, but with no obvious way of making actually appear on screen. I think there is probably some combination of ALT , Control, and Option, but I found it easier to get into an email, and just copy the @ symbol from the address. Now really. It’s no wonder they can’t figure out where the cassoulet grease goes, they’re so busy trying to figure out how to describe it on their keyboard, waiting for another of the Euro barges to float a proper keyboard on a barge up the Garonne, transfer it to a 40 ton Iveco truck, and drive the damn thing to Toulouse. If they want to keep the Emirates order, they ought to do just that. We’re just sayin. David


Walt said...

I'm French - fly me.


After the announcement of the final design of the A-380, it was discovered that the plane was too heavy. So a committee was convened to lighten the plane. I don't want a plane modified by committee.

Remember the Mars mission that didn't know its metric from its English messurements. It rests somewhere on the Martian south pole.

Anonymous said...

Probably the only thing worst would be the arrival of parts at deGalle with "Some Assembly Required" attached...

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. When I was in Peru the SHIFT key was in a different place. I gave up capitalization for a week.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, Try working on a keyboard that is both Arabic and French! I just spent a month in Mauritania where I had to work on a dual Arabic/French keyboard. Shift something or other changed the board to an English keyboard (minus all the @ sign and other punctuations marks). Thankfully that 8th grade typing class came in handy as I know the English keyboard by memory. Otherwise...well...