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Dirk Collins
Father, Inventor, Investor, Teacher
Father, Inventor, Investor, Teacher

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...Is that Quantum Nuka Cola under the Christmas Tree this year? Why yes, ...yes it is!

A Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New year to everyone!
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...and getting started on enjoying the holiday!

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The Sun Ray Technology Group Mail Server

Just setup a new mail server a couple of weeks back, and decided to use my gmail account as the backend for my server in the Cloud. Google required me to set up a specialized app, with special limited permissions to use the Google mail API, in order to correctly forward emails sent from my company website. Basically I'm just using googles smtp mail server to forward autogenerated emails and the emails from the forms that are setup in my website to gather new subscriber and client information from forms and tickets they submit on the website.

This morning I get a notification from Google security stating that this new app should have it's access to removed because the Developer hasn't been verified.

WTF Google? You required me to setup an app to access the mail API in the first place so that I could forward emails from my website. Pretty sure I'm a verified developer, since I used Google Apps to create the entire thing, and I'm pretty sure I trust the owner of the Sun Ray Technology Group Mail Server, since it is my custom built mail server.

+Vb Wyrde Do you think I could get a six figure income from Google as a software engineer dreaming up security measures like this?

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Pluspora Fail

Okay so, email addys at pluspora are not real?
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France Trip - Paris, Part Two
August 16th-18th, 2018

So, what prompted this particular trip was a business offer. Free office space in Paris for my company for a year. France has been looking for new tech companies for quite some time now, and even offers special residence and work Visas for individuals, and companies that start, or run high technology companies, or for companies that setup or run venture capital firms in France.

The company that prompted the trip was Station F, a business incubator located in Paris, so I filled out their application, and thought it would be a good idea to visit them in person, and so went ahead and booked a ten day trip. My plan was to spend three days in Paris, just checking out the general business environment, and seeing if I could find some new business partners for my Tech company. I also wanted a tour of the Station F offices, so booked one during the middle of my second week as that was the only tour available on their schedule during my time there. The second week I was going to Southern France to visit Bordeaux for the annual wine festival. I had no idea what Bordeaux would be like, I just wanted to enjoy a short vacation, enjoy some good French wine, and visit a few castles.

The trip went awry just about from the beginning. The overnight direct Delta flight from Cincinnati to Paris went well. I had booked a rental car from Hertz though, and they had quoted me $650 a week, which is about average for a rental car here in the United States, so I was like, ok. At the Hertz desk though, the rental guy said I needed insurance, and full coverage for my rental time was like an extra $500. So I said ok, and promptly paid with my American Airlines Citicard. Then they brought me my car. Usually I do a safety inspection to ensure that the car is not already damaged and everything is working properly, the blinkers, the lights, the motor, and so on. Sat down in the drivers seat, and immediately noticed the clutch, and went back in to the rental office. Told the rental guy I want an automobile with an automatic transmission.

The guy starts arguing with me. He's like, "Everyone in France drives autos with a manual transmission." I just laughed and told him that for the most part that except for very special circumstances, no one even buys cars with a manual transmission in the United States anymore.

I actually learned how to drive in a car with a manual transmission and used that car to get my drivers license, however the very first car, and every car after that I bought after that, had an automatic transmission. Spending time shifting while driving for me is just like texting and driving, it is a distraction from focusing on the road and other drivers.

He then proceeded to tell me, I had ordered a manual transmission when I originally made my reservations, and I said "No, I had not, I just agreed to reserve a compact sized car." Turns out he was right, as their was a tiny tiny note in a much smaller font down on the Hertz rental page stating that the car was indeed a manual transmission, however I would have never rented the car if I had noticed that when I originally made my reservation, and I found the bait and switch tactic very unamusing at that time.

Dude say, "Okay we'll get you a car with an automatic transmission, however we are going to charge you extra."

I had already paid double what they had originally quoted me, and now they wanted even more money.

I'm like. "Forget about it, I'm canceling my rental reservation."

Hertz Dude was like. "I can't do that."

I'm like "Fine, get me your supervisor."

So he puts e on the phone to Hertz, and I talk with a guy who says, "okay, we'll cancel your reservation."

I'm like, "Okay, charge back my Citicard."

...and the Hertz supervisor on the phone says "I'm sorry, we can't do that. We will issue you a credit on your Mastercard in 7-10 days. I'm sorry, this is our policy."

This turned out to be kind of important, as I had a three credit cards on me with a total credit line of about eight thousand dollars, and this card I had the rental on had a two thousand dollar limit, and Mastercard was the only card that was being accepted in France. My Discover Card with a 5k credit line, while being accepted in a just a few places in France, still does not have significant market penetration with the merchants and businesses, and was useless for me. So my best International credit card had 60% of my available credit line tied up, and I had no transportation to boot, and only an $800 credit line available for a ten day stay in France. Now I was, after a full week, refunded my money, however I had called Citicard as soon as I could (My Sprint Mobile wasn't working either, after my arrival) and disputed the rental charge, and also had put a freeze on that credit card, so that Hertz couldn't do anything else malicious. While the dispute was ongoing I had no credit available to me, except for a thousand dollars I had on a separate Travelex Visa card.

Fortunately, I had planned for stupid stuff like this happening, and also had about two thousand Euro cash that I was carrying for emergencies. Now I try not to carry cash like this on me anymore, however I was unable to avoid doing so. International Banking has changed since the last time I was in Europe in 1987. Used to be one could open an International account with say Citicard or Chase, put money into the account, in say Cincinnati, and then show up in Paris at the Citicard bank, and withdraw your money at a convenient time and place. No more.

There are no true International Banks remaining, and Citi was the last one standing, and closed their last International Commercial Banking office in France back in 2012. This is the new International banking system, serving the people by forcing them to be good targets for criminals, and forcing them to be good targets for corrupt government officials, by having them carry around large amounts of cash on their person, instead of doing you know, ...providing banking services.

A week before my France trip I had even went up to the Chicago to open a checking account with Société Générale, the large French commercial bank, but it turned out that the Chicago office was just for the Banks Investment Traders, and they do no commercial banking internationally anymore either. Really no one does.

So with my rolling luggage I hopped on the Metro, and took the Paris subway to my Hotel which was located near the Gare de Lyon (Lion's Train Station) the main northern train station in Paris. France is still all about trains, and as long as they are not on strike, they have one of the finest train networks in the world. All the trains are on time. You can get to anywhere in France on a train, subway, or tram, and for the remainder of my time there, I did. Back when they first started building railroads in France there was no bridge across the Seine River that was strong enough to carry a locomotive, so they built two train stations in Paris, one on the North bank, or right bank which served all of Northern France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany, and this was the Gare de Lyon. The other really big train station is Montparnasse, and this is located on the South bank, or left Bank of the Seine river in Paris, and serves Southern France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.

Anyway the Gare de Lyon is a famous train station, and after the liberation of Paris in 1944 was known as a red light district, with many street cafes and hotels. The remnants are still there, and the almost continuous traffic from the train station along with the street cafes and shops keeps this a very interesting place.

I stayed at the Elysée Gare de Lyon Hotel, a four star Hotel just two blocks from the train station. The room was about one hundred and forty euro a night, which is modest for Paris. This included a small but very nice room, an excellent continental breakfast, as well as good Wifi. I would happily recommend this Hotel for anyone staying in Paris. It is just a fifteen minute walk from Notre Dame, and a few blocks from the left bank, and everything Paris is just a few minutes away.

After checking in early and leaving my baggage in storage at the Hotel because my room was not ready yet, I walked to the Left bank, and then took a stroll over to Notre Dame. There were a lot of tourists and not very many French people around. It was all beautiful though. I took lots of photos, some of which you have already seen and been posted here. earlier

After officially checking in, I went to the cyber cafe corner from the Hotel and bought a European burner cell phone. I had setup international roaming for my sprint phone while I was still in the United States, but my phone (not a smart phone) was so old, that the international roaming didn't work. So I bought an Orange phone for twenty-five euro, and a sim card which would give me an hour of International talk time, and half an hour of domestic talk time in France along with two hundred text messages. This was another twenty-five euros. I called Citibank and filed a dispute over the Hertz tragedy, and called family back in the States to let them know I made it safe and sound. A hearty thanks to Daniel at the Cyber Lyon Internet Cafe for getting my international communications capabilities back.

Then I found the Promenade Cafe for dinner and a break. Met my first new business partner there, Jevin from Nogent sur Marne, a Paris suburb. He was a security and remodeling specialist, who had stopped by for dinner on his way home. He specializes in setting up surveillance systems and security cameras. There are cameras everywhere in public places, as well as private places, and while Europe is all about data privacy laws, the reality is surveillance is ubiquitous and a part of daily life, both in public and private places. We exchange beers and business cards, and he departed before it got dark.

Prices for dinner were decent ranging from eight to about eighteen dollars, and the food was unbelievably good. I had been drinking some good Belgian beer with dinner which was pricey, but after happy hour began, everything was much more reasonable. I ended up spending about seventy dollars on dinner and drinks however stayed until the cafe closed at midnight.

Met another couple there Mike and Linda (Not sure if that was their real names or not). He was Swedish/French and she was Egyptian. He was a left bank hipster complete with blue jeans, black wingtips, and a press badge. I think they were up for some amorous fun or possibly some good old fashioned robbery or blackmail. However I wasn't really up for any of that, so did my best Ernest Hemingway and proceeded to try and get ridiculously drunk. I stopped counting at about ten beers, and completely amazed them with my unexpected capacity for alcohol consumption. Mike ended up calling one of his other Paris friends to meet them and the three of them wandered off into the night. Linda had wanted to meet the following night though, and left me her phone number, which was sweet, but I never will take a woman away from another man. That would be my gentleman's code of conduct which kicked in, even though I was doing my best to put on a full Ernest Hemingway streets of Paris drinking party. We had fun and traded entertaining stories, however I retired alone to my Hotel room in the early hours of the morning satisfied that Paris was still the place for loving encounters, and potentially dangerous adventures.

The next day, I dropped in at Station F to see about rescheduling my tour as I no longer had a rental car, and wouldn't be able drive back up to Paris the following Thursday from Bordeaux (It's about 415 miles from Paris to Bordeaux,, ...a bit of a road trip.) to make my originally scheduled tour and meeting with the Station F Staff.

The reception was, ...well, ...rude. They could not add me to the tour schedule for the day even though I was already on the tour schedule for next week, and no, I couldn't see anyone from Station F as they were too busy. She also mentioned something about having strict rules for entrepreneurs. I mentioned that one of the major reasons I had traveled from the United States expressly was to meet some of the Station F staff, and didn't that count for something? She briskly informed me that entreprenuers routinely visited them from San Francisco (hint ...silicon valley) all the time, and that they had their rules for good reasons.

I had originally been invited to Station F by Roxanne Varza on Medium. She said she was looking for street fighters, guys and gals that can go deep and bootstrap a new business from nothing. I happen to be pretty good at that, and while I won't be starting up the next Google or Facebook anytime soon, I can and did book enough business to be able to afford a trip half way around the world just to meet them and discuss the possibility of setting up my new International Technology Company Offices with them in Paris.

It is never routine business where you can tell how a company really works, but when unexpected events occurs, or you have to throw out your business plan, and start new due to an unexpected event that is when you see how a company can really shine. Unfortunately for them, Station F failed, and they turned me away. I couldn't make my originally scheduled meeting with them due to unexpected events that were outside of my immediate control in not having the rental car I had though I reserved, and being unexpectedly restricted to using cash so I couldn't rent another car. I did figure out a way around this problem with the help of some other entreprenuers later on when I was down in Bordeaux. I'll revisit that here later though.

My feeling after the visit, is that they were really only interested in getting young Johhny and Jane from Silicon Valley to bring their money and open up an office with them in Paris. The strict rules suggest an environment where Johhny and Jane are having a babysitter until such time as they figure out the self-discipline they need to actually run a real company. Here I thought they wanted some seasoned and experienced veterans on some of the desks with the youngsters to share their knowledge and experience. As they say in France, cie la vie.

I went and toured the Left Bank and tried to open a business checking account in France (and failed again) with Société Générale. To open a commercial business account in France you have to reside there for more than 180 days out of the year, which I'm not quite ready for, ...just yet. I have a work around for this as well, and I will detail what I did to setup my company finances for now in another article. Société Générale has private banking, and they referred me to the private banking offices, however I didn't have time to stop there on this trip, however will visit them, the next time I'm in Paris.

I had dinner at the Promenade Cafe again, Mike and Linda didn't show up (big surprise, ...not), and retired early to my hotel to watch french public television. Mostly they had poorly dubbed american programs and some dubbed african, and arabic programs. I would have liked to have seen more original French television programs.

On Saturday morning I had breakfast and checked out of the Hotel early and made my way on the Metro to Montparnasse station on the South side of the Seine. I discovered the Indiana Cafe a couple blocks from the train station, and took a break from my travels for lunch. From Gare Montparnasse I took the TGV bullet train some 400 miles to Bordeaux, arriving in the early afternoon. Love the bullet trains, the TGV clocked out at about 211 Mph going to Bordeaux, and the 400+ mile trip took just a couple of hours. Cost was about one hundred and twenty euro, one way. Much less expensive to go very early in the morning on the first few trains.

Overall the trip was going really well for me, I was getting much more exercise than normal, walking everywhere, and of course enjoyed the sights, however I'm not really a tourist. I'm much happier spending time with the locals and learning about the culture. Bordeaux turned out to be the perfect vacation spot for this, and I even found more, and much better quality, business partners. Next post will be about Bordeaux.
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France Trip
August 16th-25th, 2018

While some of us were busy buying a beautiful new home and such, +Greg C others of us took it upon ourselves to spin up an International Company, and flew off to France in search of new business partners. Three days in Paris netted only one potential good partner, so I naturally took off for the annual wine festival in Bordeaux. These photos here, are of my first day in Paris, and I'll have some running commentary on both the tremendous changes in International Business, as well as the awesomeness of Bordeaux in the next few days. In the meanwhile, enjoy the photos!

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+Winchell Chung

The Mars Express Spacecraft as viewed from the Mars Global Surveyor of course, both are orbiting Mars at the moment.
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+Winchell Chung

Looks like SyFy blew it as Amazon takes an option to produce Season 4 of the Expanse. With some luck we'll see this available on Amazon Prime. I still plan on buying the DvD's though!
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United States Senate Votes to Reinstate Net Neutrality
Woo Hoo!

...and the Senate voted to uphold Net Neutrality reinstating the Title II regs that were in effect prior to Ajit Pai and his gang of pirate Oligarchs trying to hijack our Internet last year!

Now let's see whether the House of Representatives will vote in accordance with the will of the American People, or if they'll give away net neutrality.

Final Vote was 52-47 by the way...

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Senate Vote to Reinstate Net Neutrality

The speeches are done.... or not... hopefully they will vote today on this... Let's see if the Senate protects the rights for all Americans or prefers to allocate new rights to a small group of privileged oligarchs.
Senate Session
Senate Session
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