Charles Simonyi: My Kind of Guy

I like Charles Simonyi -- when I read his blog entry dated 14 April 2007, I smiled or laughed at three parts of his post.

First, he commented on the applause the three members of the Soyuz crew received on launch day when they left the hotel. Charles said it is "...a weird feeling to be applauded..." To me that means that he is not normally the center of attention and seems to be fine with that. His down to earth approach to life was conveyed in a recent online article where he said, "After we return, after we have rehabilitation I need to go back to work that I interrupted for this very interesting experience."

Second, Charles was amused by problems they had with a DVD player on the bus while driving to the launch site. He said "the difficulty of use of consumer electronics is one of my pet peeves." Even though he has the pedigree of a true geek, he understands and dislikes the problems most people have when using geek-produced products. Maybe he'd be interested in collaborating with the Center For Innovation, Prodea Systems and EAA on some innovation projects, which I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog. After all, one of the founders of Prodea Systems is Anousheh Ansari, another space adventurer, and Prodea Systems is developing consumer electronics. If the opportunity arises when Anousheh is at EAA this summer for Women Soar 2007, we'll have to discuss that possibility!

Third, Charles Simonyi had an experience similar to one I'm familiar with. He gave a prepared speech in Russian because he wanted to show his interest in and respect for the Russian people, their language and their culture. After telling about giving this speech in Russian before the launch he says, "...unfortunately, this stunt creates the impression that I speak Russian well, which I will later regret."

I thoroughly understand and relate to his comment, although I don't think he truly regrets having given the speech in Russian. I enjoy learning words and phrases in foreign languages, and enjoy using the meager foreign vocabulary I have developed over the years. My daughter often quizzed me on the French words for common items in a restaurant when she was in middle school and high school. However, whenever she and I traveled to Québec for the Festival d’été de Québec, she would tell me to let her handle any French speaking opportunities. She didn't want the Québecois to throw us out of the province when they heard my horrendous pronunciation... The lessons from her did pay off, though, because I ran into a few situations in Québec with people who spoke only French, such as the Pizza Hut where I needed my French to get some napkins and paper plates to go with my take-out pizza. And I did enjoy ordering breakfast entirely in French at my favorite St. Hyacinthe, Québec restaurant, although I realize the waitress was humoring me by letting me speak only French. Similarly, I enjoyed learning a smidgen of Italian when traveling to Pescara, Italy, some Spanish when going to Buenos Aires, and learning a bit of Russian, Portugese, and Chinese for email correspondence with native speakers of those languages. Not to mention trying to recall or re-learn some of my high school German. My daughter always warns me not to use my smattering of foreign languages because it often results in the misconception that I can speak the language enough to understand a native speaker which, of course, I can't.

These three minor glimpses of what Charles Simonyi is like convince me he is someone I would enjoy meeting and talking with. Maybe one of these days that will happen. I'll have to be ready to greet him with, "Jó napot Charles!"



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