Saturday, May 23, 2009

Copy Cat

Someone copied my last post about my Manchester experience without any reference links. I randomly ran Copyscape and it pointed me to the link. I was furious, and then had a close look at the webpage. And very soon I was rolling with laughter. It was the most hillarious thing ever. Whoever this person was had used a random software for word substitution and had ended up creating a masterpiece. Heres an example:

ORIGINAL TEXT "My google status reads "Parents, relatives, home cooked food, summer in Stockholm and a planned trip to Switzerland.. the best combination :)". Nothing cheers me up as much as family."
COPIED TEXT: "My google importance reads “Parents, relatives, exclusive cooked nourishment, summer in Stockholm and a planned disconcert to Switzerland.. the most seemly aggregation large-hearted:)”. Nothing cheers me up as much as kids."

For more amusement please read the copied stuff HERE. Please join me in congratulating this most creative person, who has mastered the process of screwing up the art of copying :). Although I admit that the purpose of the blog and the copying activity eludes me.

I have taken a lot of people around Stockholm when they have come to visit, and been the committed tour guide quite a few times. To the extent that I have started shying away from such trips. But I absolutely enjoyed showing the city to my parents, it was more a treat for me than them. There are some days we cherish, todays time spent with my parents was one of those. I only wish they had more time in Sweden for me to take them around :).

I leave for Zurich on Monday, will be back on Friday. So more from me then!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Manchester United: I am a fan!

It was a game. More than that, it was an experience. Worth a lifetime. I came back and called all my friends and said, you gotta book a trip, it doesnt matter if you like football or not. Because its something everyone should experience at least once. I did not go to London to see the London Eye or the Big Ben because I believe this experience was better than those structures.

Earlier when I used to meet the loony football fanatics (my cousin in Bangalore included) rattling off crazy irrelevant football statistics, I would really think its ridiculous. But that has changed. I now have a Manchester T-Shirt which says the following (note the years written on the side):

It was amazing how nearly everyone came out of the stadium, bought one of those and wore it on top of whatever they were already wearing. It was almost as if this was a religion and the Almighty had asked everyone to wear this T-Shirt. My clients, my vice-president and me followed the trend.

And if anyone told you that football fever in Europe is equivalent to cricket fever in India, they are SO wrong. I have watched live cricket matches in India, it is nowhere close to the obsessive spirit which the football stadium had. As the ball got closer to the opponents goal, people rose from their seats in unison, almost like in an orchestrated dance. As Ronaldo missed the shot they all emitted the same disappointed..."Owww" sound and sat down with a thud. Or when Tevez was given an offside everyone stood up angrily together, though with a different combination of expletives aimed towards the lineman.

The organizers at Manchester do not pretend to be unbiased. It is actually hillarious. As the teams came running into the stadium the commentator announced the names. When announcing the Arsenal names, he was almost mumbling to himself, he just rattled out the names in a low monotone, hardly audible... "The Arsenal line up is Diaby, Nasri, Fabrigas.....mumble mumble mumble". And then, almost as if he had been exhumed and rejuvenated, he shouted out in an almost deafening voice "And now, ladies and gentlemen, walking into the stadium are the champions of England, champions of Europe and Champions of the World, Mannnchesterrrr Unnnitteeddd.. please welcome, Wayne Rooney (and the crowd went mad), Cristiano Ronaldo (and the crowd went mad again) " and so the madness continued 11 times. I was like, whoa... the organizers arent exactly hiding whom they support :).

The game wasnt the best. I felt that with Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo playing forward, MU could have played a much more aggressive game. However, they needed to draw to be able to be champions of the Premier League for the third time in a row, and they were not risking that. So they were playing a bit on the defensive side. But all said and done, it didnt matter, the euphoria was still there. The match got over with the team lifting the trophy with some spectacular fireworks and then walking the field waving at everyone with their kids and wives/girlfriends. Ronaldo typically was cornered for an interview immediately after the game and we didnt get to see much of him.

Other than the football, I liked Manchester as well. It is a small sleepy town, a stark contrast to the hustle bustle of Stockholm. I managed to go to Piccadilly and do some shopping. Overall it was a nice trip.

The week has been busy, and it will be this way for some time. My parents are in town along with my Mausa and Mausi, and I am as thrilled as I can be. My google status reads "Parents, relatives, home cooked food, summer in Stockholm and a planned trip to Switzerland.. the best combination :)". I am really happy. Nothing cheers me up as much as family. I am a true crab, very attached to my roots. I am also trying to wrap up my work and trying to organize a football match between us and the client at the next regular team event next to next week. It is not easy and I hope I can get the 11 players on both sides. Yes, football is somehow on my charts.

And here are some quick pics:

The prize distribution

Friday, May 15, 2009

Some stuff I had been searching for...

Do you have stuff which you see or hear, which makes a big impact on you, but which you do not realize till much later? I have a lot of such stuff.
Had been searching for some Peter Parker quotes, just found them:

"(Opening Narration) Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you it was a happy tale, if somebody said I was just your average guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied. But let me assure you, this, like any other story worth telling, is all about a girl. [Cut to first shot of Mary Jane] That girl, The girl next door. Mary Jane Watson. The woman I loved since before I even liked girls. [Camera pans to Mary Jane's boyfriend, Flash Thompson]I'd like to tell you that's me next to her.[Camera goes to a fat guy in the seat in front of MJ, eating a jelly donut]Heck, I'd even take him.
No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try... the ones I love will always be the ones who pay.
(End narration) Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: 'With great power, comes great responsibility.' This is my gift... my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man.
(When asked abt MJ) The great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she looks back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel strong—and weak at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time terrified. The truth is you don't know the way you feel, except you know the kind of man you want to be. It's as if you've reached the unreachable, and you weren't ready for it."

And a song whose lyrics I didnt remember and the tune was haunting me, realized google wouldnt help me with tunes, so racked my brains for 20 hours before I came up with the song. One of those senti ones you hear on your Graduation Day, makes me feel nice and warm even today. It is a good break from rock music :).
The song is HERE.

I fly to Manchester tomorrow for the Manchester United vs Arsenal match with my client. I am happy and sad about it. I know you dont understand the sad part. But thats ok. Everything cannot be explained. :)


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And Life Goes On...

I need to get in touch with Valorie ASAP. I need help.

The days have been busy and hectic. And I have had lesser and lesser opportunities to blog. I hate the feeling when life has complete control over me and I have no control on life and I just seem to be swept away with the current. But times like these happen and it is about how quickly you can get back in control.

Its one of those times when too many things are happening at the same time. There is a senior delegation which has come from India and I need to take care of them, in addition to my current work. It is an absolutely enriching experience to be in the company of consultants of the kind of seniority these guys have, but it is still additional full time work. I am enamoured, impressed and floored, almost in awe. Consulting as a profession is under-rated and the likes of Dilbert have undermined the profession no end. Yes, a cartoon does have a huge impact on public opinion about anything, especially if it is as popular as Dilbert. Tacky as it may sound, some of these senior level consultants who charge a bomb per hour do have the capability of looking at any given corporate problem and come up with solutions which make you say "Damn, why didnt I think of that before"! If you think thats a myth, take it from me, it is not. It is amazing how they do it, and I am in awe. For me it is aspiration value. What IS a myth though is that these guys are balding old men with no social lives who have sold their souls to work. Not true, some of these guys are young, funny and good company.

I have met a few of them before. What is different this time on is that the guy I am interacting with now is Indian. And it dispels my impression that Business Consulting is the forte of nations much more advanced than India. I will have to admit that the guy in question has spent 7 years in the US, but still, this is a guy who is now based out of India working for an Indian firm. Makes me feel that India has come of age. It now has the capability of attracting talent from across the globe. Someday I dream of that kind of life. I call it the "In-India-In-Demand" kind of life. I have a long way to go before I reach there, but someday I will be there :).

I am organizing a fun event for the Sweden team. It is tough in a multi cultural environment, the Indians dont want to go to an expensive Swedish place, the europeans wouldnt want to come to a more reasonably priced Indian joint. But I am managing, 20 out of the 24 people invited have accepted. The execs have sent tentative acceptance (dont they always?). I am juggling organizing this event (which is Bowling + Dinner) in addition to taking care of the Indian senior delegation and preparing for my parents trip and also trying to plan out the itenary of my own trip to Manchester. All this in addition to my regular hectic work schedule of client meetings, presentations, financial reports and more blah. Whew! Oh, did I tell you that I have planned a Europe tour for my parents and my Uncle and Aunt. It has not been quite the quick task I had thought it to be. It turned out to be quite a herculean task, especially as I insisted on using the travel agent ONLY for Switzerland. Now I feel I could have done that as well, considering I took care of Paris, Rome, Stockholm and the cruise. I admit it would have not have been possible without all the help from my best friend, she is so much better at all this than I am. Damn, with her help I could become a travel agent, I have planned too many trips around Europe. :)

I always ask the people I trust for their opinion of my actions and deeds and about me in general. I welcome criticism. I always ponder and chew on it, sometimes I spit it out and dismiss it, but not without appreciating the concern associated with the person who bothered to give it. Sometimes I digest and process it for better purposes. Heres two pieces criticism that has come my way in recent times, related to blogging:

1. "Blogging is about the thoughts, the flow of ideas, not about the way of writing." I think thats a nice perspective. But I do not agree. I cannot read a blog where the person cannot express him/herself in an interesting way. Or a blog where the language sucks to an extent where it is irritating. Even if the thoughts are very nice and he/she has amazing ideas and opinions. On the other hand I can... to an extent... tolerate bullshit if the person writes it in an interesting way. Its like stand up comedy. You can talk bull shit as long as the laugh track keeps up the impression that it is funny and you have the attention of the audience. Packaging, and the way of expression IS important.

2. "How can you avoid writing about people? There is only so much you can write about yourself, forget what people think, write about people". Again a very interesting people. Just to be cheeky, I am tempted to use Olive Oyls blog description "I write here only about myself. I know I am a narcissist." Umm.. but to be honest, I have been on a narcissistic trip and I have gotten some pretty testy reactions. It amuses me. But yes, I will write about people, just that they will always be related to me and just like in life, I will always be the centre of my universe. Isnt that true for everyone?

Yes I think a lot about what people tell me. SIGH! More about the people I interact with in the next blog. :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dinner Today..

Home Made Masala Dosa, with coconout chutney.
Why is the size small?
Well thats the size of the biggest non-stick pan you get in Sweden :)

A Good Piece

Here is something for My-cousin-with-a-new-car and the Cute-girl-who-nearly-got-married-to-the-wrong-guy and for all other youngsters facing Quarter Life Crisis. Secondary reference is from a blog I bumped across.

Short Attention Span?

Pic reference: Check it out, its got some really funny ones :)

Someone told me I had a very short attention span. It was not a very flattering thing, my job requires me to be a very good listener, at meetings, at conferences, at presentations or just for my clients. No, short attention spans wont do in a client facing role in Europe. Meetings can be boring, professional lectures can seem like they are aimed to cure insomnia. But one needs to be attentive and sharp. And so I denied my "Short Attention Span Syndrome" for a long time. Recently I was talking to momma about something and my attention wandered and she sighed and said in a giving-up tone "Of course, you have always had a short attention span". So I guess I have to give in. Moms and wives (after they have known you for a long enough period) are usually never wrong about such observations. I realize I have trained myself to be alert and attentive professionally because its a part of my job, and for me it is a cultivated skill. But it is only limited to my professional life. In real life I do have a short attention span.

The SASS (Short Attention Span Syndrome, discovered by a wise man who runs a blog called Merlins world) usually affects people who have symptoms of the Restlessness H20N20 virus. No vaccinations are known and treatment is usually not known to work for severe cases. It spills over to nearly all facets of life and affects behavior severly.

I have phases for everything. And then I move on. It might seem a slight contradiction to my crabby zodiac, but not actually. I will cling on to people, relationships, jobs, cities, cars, bikes and apartments. But for other entities like hobbies, interests, internet behavior and other trivialities of life, I will move on. And it makes me wonder if blogging was also a phase. I am already losing interest. I find it more interesting to read blogs. Maybe I am just lazy. Maybe I dont find the creative independence because I cannot write about people, and I think most about them. I write and I cannot put it on the blog for fear of offending people. Not right. I dont want to offend people, but I also want to write.. solution stop blogging and start writing on more personal space. Shall think about it.

Remembered something really funny. Back during B School days, I was once in the middle of an assignment listening to Geri Halliwell, a long time favorite. One of the guys (the types who "claim" to be a good friend) passing by peeped in and said "I cant believe you are listening to girlie songs like that! Next you will be listening to the girl bands. Dude, be a man". I was too shocked to respond. I didnt know you could be chauvanistic about music. Some men I have come across will do anything to assert their masculinity, maybe because they feel insecure about it (?). Wonder if this dude knows that Timbaland and Timberlake were making music with Nelly, Madonna and Kerry Hilson? And if he ever saw Madonna perform live, I am sure it will shut him up forever. Cmmon, which kinda guy will not like Geri Haliwell in those cute shorts driving an air mobile (or whatever she drives in that Scream video)? Ok ok... I know thats like a century back, but which kinda guy will not find Britneys Circus catchy? I heard even the gay men think Britney is looking hot in Womanizer :). Why did I think of this today? Because the gentleman in question got married and I was going through his pics. I hope he lets his wife play Beyonce at home!
Songs of the day:
Nickelback: I wanna be a Rockstar (Get a front door key to the Playboy Mansion!)
Kid Rock: Sweet Home Alabama (She was anything but in between!)
Geri Halliwell: Scream if you wanna.. (Gimme some, gimme some gasoline)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Kids and Travel

Lately I have been interacting a lot with people in the age group 21 to 23 years. Trying to understand their problems, trying to give them advice about their post adolescence issues. I realize it is a very delicate age.. and at that age people are very vulnerable. Everyone assumes that you are an adult and that you can take your own decisions. You are pushed into the adult world and are expected to fend for yourself. But you are new to the whole game. New job, job politics, nasty boss, tax filings, girlfriend wanting to get promoted to wife or boyfriend not wanting to commit long term. Marriage might be looming big on the cards, and a sudden realization that there is a world which is much bigger and larger and nastier than the college you studied in. It isn’t a very long time back I was there, so I know :). And I also know how close I came to making mistakes. Decisions you take at that age determine how you live the rest of your life.

The elderly tend to underestimate the post adolescence issues. I think that’s wrong. I try to be as much of a help as my job and schedule allow me to. My cousin, who is more of a dear brother to me than a cousin, is buying a car. He has decided to buy an Alto. I tried to persuade him to buy a Santro but it is out of his budget, he got his first job about a year back. He is determined not to take help from anyone and buy the car with his own money. I asked him to at least go for a higher model, you just cannot drive without power steering on Bangalore roads. I said I will be more than happy to pay the balance for the upgrade. My dear cousin declined, he settled to increase his loan amount and upgrade. I remember the time when he was in school, and I had tried to explain to him why he should study in a college where he got through by merit rather than go to a fancy college on a management paid seat. I think he has got the message. I am proud of him. And I hope that the youth of the country becomes more responsible and honest like him.

Also had some long interesting conversations with a young lady who was on the verge of deciding on a life partner within the system of arranged marriage. She declined the offer, and I think she did the right thing. I think she deserves much much better. The only problem is that she doesn’t realize it. SIGH.

Follow up from my last post. Ms. Anonymous commented that she has been to 14 countries. I was very interested in knowing which ones, so here they are: usa, serbia, slovenia, croatia, spain, france, italy, portugal, austria, holland, greece, turkey, hungary, Macedonia. (usa - 2 times, italy - 4 times, greece - many times)

As she rightly put it, it is not a big deal to visit numerous countries in Europe. You don’t need a visa and its all accessible via cheap airlines and low budget hotels. Most are safe for tourists. Ummm… but then how many people in India have visited more than 3-4 states, not for business or education, but for vacations? So, it still counts to have visited so many countries. I think I have visited and/or stayed in 10 states in India. But considering there are 35 states, I have covered just a quarter. But I was a student most of the time I was in India, I have promised myself that I will travel around when I am back.
When I came to Europe, I had a wishlist of the countries/cities I wished to visit. Here is the list, merged with the countries I have already visited:
1. France - Done, but want to explore the smaller cities once again
2. Italy - Done, but want to do one more trip to Venice
3. Czech Republic - Done
4. Holland - Done
5. Finland - Done
6. Estonia - Done
7. Sweden - I live here, but theres lots to explore, and its on the cards
8. Denmark - Done
9. Latvia - Done

1. UK: Planned for next week
2. Switzerland: Planned this month
3. Greece: Certainly the next destination to be planned
4. Norway: Its SO near and I still havent gone there, shame on me
5. Egypt: They say its over rated, but I so want to see the pyramids!
6. USA: Not very keen, but have sooo many friends there, so maybe one day would like to see the famous US of A
7. Iran: Have been hearing a lot about it, would want to go there

In India:
1. Jaipur: I have always regretted not having the time/money/energy to go here. I now have a friend who lives there, hence its the next destination
2. Ooty: I know its a touristy place, but still, I would like to go to one of the isolated resorts away from the touristy hustle bustle
3. Kerala: I have been there, but want a prolonged trip to the backwaters
4. Darjelling: Once again, have been there, but its BEAUTIFUL, so a revisit HAS to be planned

Did I talk about the Travelling Crab who doesn’t want to travel. Cmmon, don’t tell me you believed it, did you? Of course I was kidding! :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Back from Fairytale Land

I am back from my first trip (of the series of 3 planned this month), tired, exhausted but refreshed and happy. There are trips that are good, and then there are trips that are perfect. This is my third cruise, the first was to Helsinki, Finland, and the other was to Talinn, Estonia. Each has been defined by different factors, mainly by:
1) The Journey: How is the weather when at sea (it can be rough sometimes)? How are the cruise programmes and cuisine? How are the ship facilities, the pubs, the duty free shopping arcade, the dance programmes, the casinos, the dancing floors and the crowd?
2) The Destination: How beautiful is the place the cruise goes to? Is it boring, is it similar to places I have already been to? Does it have interesting places to visit?
3) The Company: Last and most important, who am I travelling with? Are they fun people? Are they good company? Are they overenthusiastic or boring people who just want to sleep?

When I say this trip was perfect, it was perfect in all three aspects defined above. The journey was near to perfect, amazing weather, good sailing, no signs of a rocking boat. This wasnt the best ship I have been in, because it was smaller (the others had 13 decks, this had 9). It had only 3 pubs and 2 dancing floors and one shopping arcade, compared to the others which had more variety. But it doesnt really matter, at least to me. If I can stand at the front deck and feel the waves take me out to a perfect blue ocean in perfect sunny weather, thats all that matters. The destination, Riga, was right out of a Fairytale, the type I used to read when I was a kid. And this wasnt artificially created like Disneyland. This was real. A beautiful scenic, fairytalish city to take your breath away. And the company... just right. In short, a perfect trip!

I took 198 pictures, everyone of them a masterpiece I would like to share with you. No, I do not have one of the fancy cameras that some of my friends boast of, because I believe the most important aspect of a camera is that it should be handy, and should fit into my jeans pocket. I do not travel to exotic places to take photographs, I have seen too many people spoil their vacations (and sometimes the vacations of people they travel with) because of their obsession with their camera and photography. I have seen people not enjoying their honeymoons because they are too busy taking snaps. My vacations and trips to far away places are more beautiful than the photos show them to be and not vica versa. Because for me the pics are secondary. But the Riga pics just came out well, even with my dumb automatic camera.

I decided I would share 2-3 pics with my blog, and started selecting some pics from the 198 pics I had taken, but ended up selecting 33.
I strongly urge you to have a look at these 33 pics HERE
Why? Because it is a VERY affordable holiday. It cost me 750 SEK (thats 4,500 INR... Yes.. I am talking Indian Rupees) for the complete trip, which included the cruise tickets, really exotic meals, coffee and desert (excludes shopping). Yes it is actually THAT cheap :). It takes an Indian to figure out the cheapest way to have the perfect holiday with the cheapest price tag. Proud to be an Indian :).

And now the 7 best pics... but I still insist you see all the 33 other pics HERE

House of the Blackheads. Reminded me of the Astronomical Clock at Prague

One of the beautiful gardens in the city, the lush green took my breath away.

Another lush green garden, near the Riga Freedom Monument

The Riga Castle, reminds me of the castles in Prague. Yes Prague remains one of my best trips ever and I kept remembering Prague when I saw the Riga churches and castles

A canal with a Fairytale bridge near the Riga Freedom Monument

I am a foodie, and no tale is complete without telling you what I ate. So here is the desert of the day. Cost me some good money, but worth every penny :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

I blog, therefore I am..

The line is borrowed. So I will not take credit for it. Someone asked me what my interests are. I said blogging. So he said, ah, so you write on a blog? I said yes I do, but even if I didnt I could still say that. That my interest was blogging. My audience was confused. So I explained. Blogging is not only about writing blogs. It is also about reading blogs. There are people who only read blogs. They like it and for them it is an interest. My audience was still confused. So I said, you dont have to be an author to enjoy a good book. Similarly, you can be a blog reader, but might not write on one. The frown on my audience's face remained. I realized that this is a case of multiple intellectual sclerosis. And I gave up. The guy in question thinks I am a random guy with crazy definitions. Everyone is someone else's wierdo. I have my own set of 'someone else's'. I can learn to live with that.
Resolution: I will promote the overlooked aspect of blogging. That of reading blogs. Sometimes I come across an interesting one. I will include it in my post. For the benefit of those who read blogs. The first one to be included is at the bottom of this post. Every blog does not have to be fancy. Some can be simple. There is a mother in Canada who blogs. She only writes about her two kids. The variety is amazing. Are you someone who only writes blogs and does not read any? Then you are a... umm... Lets not talk about it.
It has been a leisure weekend. I want to catch up on my lazing around. It is very important for me. And knowing of the hectic times coming up ahead (Read HERE about my travel plans in the coming month), I want to relax. Sounds funny. Catching up on lazing around. But to me its important. Participated in a volleyball tournament today. Lost. Did not play well. I am not exactly proud of my game right now. Have to improve. Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions. And while we are at it, one more. I shall join a rigorous gym regime. My office is being shifted to a new part of Stockholm. There is a fancy company gym 100 metres from my work place. Hence the new resolution. I shall also endeavor to restart playing table tennis. I am just looking for a partner.

And heres the first blog referral. Read the blog HERE .
Why this? For one I like the description:
"I write here only about myself. I know I am a narcissist.(There shall be a lot of grammatical errors. Don't point them out to me. I am not keen n losing my self confidence at present. )"
Also like the profile About Me section.
The name of the profile is Olive Oyl. About Me says simply "Popeyed. I wear specs."

I learn. Therefore I am. I try to learn from everyone around. My seniors, in age, profession and intellect. My peers. Also my juniors, they have a hell lot to teach. We always underestimate our juniors. Someone told me that my style of writing is very complex. I write long sentences. I derive sub sentences and go on and on. I use complicated conclusions. I wander in my thoughts. I agree. There is a beauty in simplicity, I have not been able to imbibe it in writing. And that is the reason why I liked the blog above. This girl writes short sentences. And makes a big impact. Compare her About Me with mine. There is a stark difference. I am proud to be me. I wouldnt change for a million dollars. But it doesnt stop me from appreciating others. And learning from others. So here is a 18 year old student (school? college?) who has taught this 27 year old "veteran" management postgraduate something about writing. I have tried to be different in this post. And have tried to write in a different way. No, I do not want to change. I am what I am. (So damn.. Thats a quote from the Lou Bega song Tricly Tricky :) ) Just want to experiment. It is fun to experiment. Else it gets boring. And me does not like boring. Hence the short sentences in this post :).

Interesting follow on from my last post: How does a cancerian travel? By hating the journey and enjoying the destination. And trying to recreate his "home" everwhere. How does a Gemini blog? By changing her blog template every 2 days, her blog every 4 days and her content every week. No exaggerations. I am a Cancerian.

Photo Reference: Taken by a friend on my camera. This is todays volleyball tournament, a small victorious moment and some action.