TaleCatcher™ News

July 2003  

Bill Neugent's picture

News and entertainment
for readers, writers, and cybersecurity geeks
from TaleCatcher.com and Bill Neugent

  You've Got To Be Kidding
  Treasure Hunt Clue
  News Headlines
  Whining and Dining


What do men confide about their wives? See Whining and Dining below for an incredible overheard conversation. This is not your traditional restaurant review.

June book promotion highlights include a keynote speech to 600 people followed by a sold-out book signing, as well as and a fortuitous connection that snagged a promised order for 250 books. See News Headlines below for continuing adventures in marketing.

Welcome to new subscribers from the Department of Veterans Affairs! I much enjoyed meeting so many of you. I didn’t mention this newsletter during my talk, so please forward this to any colleagues you think might appreciate it. Note that if you’d prefer not to receive the whole newsletter, you can sign up for only the cybersecurity portion—You’ve Got To Be Kidding, a monthly morsel of cybersecurity humor. With the $1,000 Treasure Hunt so near at hand, though, you’d be crazy not to subscribe to the whole newsletter so you can receive the latest Treasure Hunt clues (see below). I can’t believe $1,000 is about to be rewarded for a contest that’s become so trivial. Visit my web site to peruse back issues of the newsletter.

Sound Bites are coming. My amazing wife Jill has experimented with computer, karaoki, and professional recording mikes, sound cards, and music processing software. We’ve recorded tunes and prototyped streaming audio from the web site. It might sound a bit scratchy at first, but audio Sound Bites will soon be on TaleCatcher.com as one of the most absurd and far-fetched book promotion gimmicks of our time.

Bill Neugent
The Amazon top-500 author of No Outward Sign

You've Got to Be Kiddng icon

You've Got To Be Kidding

The story broke on multiple fronts—Benetton, the Italian retailer, planned to put Radio Frequency ID tags in its clothes. The tags would enable Benetton to track clothes from when they’re produced until they’re sold. However, according to RFID Journal, “The chips will remain active even after the products are sold, so they can be used to track returns.” Not to mention track people wearing Benetton clothes. Some pundits speculated about subpoenas for RFID logs, to prove where someone had been. CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) called for a worldwide boycott of Benetton. Meanwhile, the company that makes the chips Benetton planned to use clarified that their tags “have a [self-destruct] feature that enables the retailer to disable the chip once a product has been purchased.” According to Winston Chai and Richard Shim with CNET News, Benetton has not said whether it will disable the tags when items are sold. Where could this lead? Well, the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags into Euro banknotes by 2005. Seems the new tags, smaller than a grain of sand, can help defend against counterfeiting and money-laundering. One possibility is that the tags would be used only on large bills. No doubt the matter is being closely watched by high-tech pickpockets.

You've Got To Be Kidding Archives

Treasure Hunt Clue icon

Treasure Hunt Clue

Etwas ist nicht in Ordnung. Because of the string of clues doled out every month in this newsletter, the contest has come within the reach of any diligent person, but no one has yet snagged the prize. Furthermore, you now have more competition. I issued a nationwide press release on 3 June announcing the contest and for weeks afterward the Treasure Hunt page was pounded with hits. Most hits were from Japan, which is odd since the press release did not go to international media and since the contest rules limit players to U.S. residents.

Remember, this is a contest that will result in someone winning $1,000. This is also a game of skill and no purchase is necessary.

News Headlines icon

News Headlines

Two speeches with total sales of one book were followed by a thundering success—a huge keynote speech and a sell-out book signing. In other news, a hundred follow-up email notes to attendees of a prior conference generated one follow-up speech booking with an advance buy of twenty books, while a fortuitous connection snagged a lucrative keynote slot with a promised advance order of 250 books. Read about June hits and misses.

Meanwhile, sample another flirtatious few moments with fame. After recording the scene below in Whining and Dining, I was leaving the San Francisco restaurant when I spotted an old friend from Northern Virginia and stopped at his table to chat.

“I saw you were speaking,” he said, “but I couldn’t make it. How did it go?”

A woman at the next table turned around and flashed a smile. “It was a great talk.” Neither of us knew her, but I appreciated the feedback.

Taken aback by this unexpected public recognition, I wandered downstairs into the hotel bar to see if any other conference attendees remained. I spotted a lady who’d given a talk on the Department of Veterans Affairs public key infrastructure. I may be a novelist, but I’m still a techie and had questions for her. Before I could ask them she said, “I’m fifty pages into your book. I couldn’t put it down.”

The only thing that kept me from staying late in the bar to wallow in this acclaim was that I had to awake the next morning at 4:30 AM to catch my return flight. Bummer. On the other hand, the Hilton bar crowd was spared a social novelist.

Whining and Dining icon

Whining and Dining

The problem with professional restaurant reviewers is that they limit themselves to food, wine, and décor. For a novelist, the best morsels can be those you hear. Following are actual quotes in the order I heard them. I did not make this up. Incidentally, I was in full view of the fellow who did most of the talking, but my scribbling presence did not cause him to wonder.

“She lives a pretty good life on my behalf,” he said and took another sip of white wine. “She’s using me. As far as I’m concerned, she’s abusing and losing me.” His attempt at a wry smile fell short.

Cityscape restaurant, on the forty-sixth floor of the Hilton San Francisco, featured spectacular views. I had a bird’s-eye view of the downtown skyline set against the panorama of San Francisco Bay, with the Bay Bridge before me and, if I turned to my left, a misty image of Golden Gate. But my attention had been shifted to a table at which two men sat in conversation.

“I should call her,” the man continued. “No, you call her. Here, use my phone.”

The younger business colleague chose to use his own cell phone and left a recorded message. “I’m sitting here with your husband. He’s driving me crazy. That’s why I had to call you.”

I studied the man. Early sixties, I guessed.

“I don’t entirely buy anything she says,” the elder man said, “but when your father is dying… Well, the guy’s probably dead.” His voice conveyed no feeling. “I brought up this idea of let’s have a positive attitude, but she twists things and uses them against me. Here I am trying to make things happen and she takes them and uses them.”

He wore a white shirt, olive pants, black socks, brown shoes, and a tie that contained none of those colors. “What a sneak. She’ll pull one on you and smile all day.”

He and I both ordered a second glass of wine.

“’I really liked my first husband,’” he quoted the wife, “’we had a lot in common.’”

The colleague listened with few comments and showed patience if not understanding.

“She got really into this Alcoholics Anonymous. Her shrink sent her there. She did a lot of dope.”

After he paid the check, he gazed at the view. In the distance, a huge flag furled atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the Top of the Mark. “You have people starving, suffering, dying. Everything happens for a reason. What’s her reason?”

With that, the man who might have been the answer to his own question left the room.

I’d found him both sympathetic and unsympathetic, likeable and dislikeable in turns. What about you? Send your psychoanalytical comments to the TaleCatcher Guestbook or read what others have to say. Or maybe you’ve heard a conversation you’d like to share. The guestbook is a message board you can use to share observations.

For those who prefer to read about food and wine, during the above conversation I had a baby spinach and shaved fennel salad with a wonderful preserved lemon vinaigrette dressing. Atop the salad were shaved parmesan cheese and goat cheese along with Kalamata olives. Following that came an excellent entrée of halibut entrusted with pine nuts. I turned down the Fingerling potatoes and substituted instead garlic-spiced Swiss Chard, which was bland but satisfied my craving for something green and hearty.

For those who prefer to read about D.C.-area food and wine, check out the work of Andrea Pace, new executive chef at Il Cigno in Reston’s Lake Anne. She’s been on the job six months and has rekindled the spark in what had become a tired kitchen. We found her shrimp to be wonderful as well as her sautéed halibut in an extraordinary celery root puree. She’s well short of earning a Michelin star, but has brought a welcome improvement to one of the few local restaurants where you can dine outdoors in a pleasant lakeside setting.



Give the gift that keeps on giving. No, it’s not SARS, it’s my free talk: Cyberterrorism; We’re Toast. It’s informative and fun and would suit just about any audience. After I gave the talk at the Government CIO Summit in Savannah, the organizers recommended me to another conference planning group, saying I was “just this side of Johnny Carson.” My guess is they meant Johnny Carson now, rather than when he was in his prime. Of course, I need to be able to sell and sign books after the talk, but otherwise this offer comes with no strings attached. Best of all, the talk raises public awareness on a topic of importance to the country, so by recommending my talk you’d be doing a good deed.

Enjoying this newsletter and wish there were more to read? Try the novel. It's "like Robert Ludlum writing about cyberspace,” according to John Lowry of BBN. Incidentally, hardcover copies are now available from Amazon.com.

Buy No Outward Sign


Copyright Information

© 2003 Bill Neugent, All rights reserved. You are free to use material from this TaleCatcher™ News eZine in whole or in part, as long as you include the following attribution:

From Bill Neugent's TaleCatcher™ News eZine. Please visit his web site at http://www.talecatcher.com for more news, tips, and entertainment.


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