duminică, 13 iunie 2010

Hard brake broke a heart

It is too hot to do anything, even to go to a concert. So, I missed the chances to watch a bored Eric Clapton and Sir Elton John, during one weekend. It was like the promotions offered by Carrefour, in an attempt to sell out stocks before they expire; buy one-get one free…I heard that Eric Clapton didn't offer what he used to be, but Sir John impressed everyone.

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The crisis talks are all over us, from TV news to pub-chats, a normal phenomenon as the financial difficulties hit all of us profoundly. But the good part of each crisis is that they pass as fast as they hit, without giving any lesson to any of us, leaving only memories.

1998 Asian crisis turned into a Russia-led Eastern Europe crisis (There were the same talks about the future of Europe, Japan, banks and financial systems etc etc…And I was happily living in Moscow then)

One year after the crisis, we were supposed to have our first Board meeting, trying to persuade our superiors that we should start the engines for growth and we should increase our risk appetite. We wanted to ask an increased budget for expenses, that we deemed highly necessary for the infrastructure of our company.

Especially on the information technologies side, we were stuck with an old core application, which was impossible to improve, so we needed to purchase and implement a new one, meaning a six zeros investment. Several departments prepared their reports, to justify the need for the new application and we were supposed to sing our song in harmony as a chorus in front of our bosses.

When the business doesn’t move in the desired direction, these meetings resemble excerpts from a Hitchcock movie, everything moving rapidly slow in a loud silence… Everybody suspects the horror waiting on the next page and nobody wants to be the first one looking at it…

One after another we have presented our case, defended it successfully and finally it was up to our Internal Audit Manager to touch the ball to score the goal.

Although a good professional and experienced auditor, she lacked the necessary level of English. Adding the tiredness and the degree of tension, once she recognized the importance of her presentation, she forgot all the rehearsed text of speech and started mumbling a verbal puzzle.

She needed to indicate that the complexity and the slow speed of the system led to manual interventions and inputs for financial reporting, which undermined the reliability of the outcomes (and of the decisions taken based on these outcomes). With continuously increased reporting requests in different formats from upper management, the reliability and historical tracking of the data was crucial for the institution and any human intervention should have been limited to avoid errors.

After 5 minutes of unintended humiliation of English as a foreign language, she paused and said,
 “Our colleagues are forced to provide a lot of hand-jobs to satisfy the managements' needs. At the current level of activity, they have time to do it, but still, we should avoid doing it often, not several times each day.” ... ... ... ... ... ...

A silence of 5 seconds offered sufficient time to everyone for imaginary thinking, cut by a burst of laughter. We obtained the approval…

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This one is a global one, it involves several economies and sectors but at the end it will become a textbook reference and in few years we will restart doing the same mistakes.  

joi, 10 iunie 2010

Warrior Princess Xena

I am trying to avoid glossy magazines. Page by page they try to convince me how ugly, poor and unfashionable I am as compared to the ones presented throughout the pages. However, few days ago I have received a digital copy of The One magazine by e-mail (thumbs-up for the lay-out) and clicked on a link, revealing an ugly truth; what men don’t like women to wear?
The 5-item list included my 2 all time favorites; gladiator sandals and baggy trousers.
This summer arrived with a stronger heat wave and humidity, so everyone has right to dress light and comfortable to resist. But why the Xena feet with Shrek pants? Especially when you don’t have the sex appeal of comic book Amazonian warrior princesses, who in the middle of the jungle could manage to get breast implants and Farah Fawcett hairdos, while having regular wax jobs and nail treatment during the fights with wild animals and men clans, all happening in the family jungle. Or at least when you don’t have Shrek’s sense of humor…
Most men don’t like to see a little toe fighting for independence. Also most men don’t like to see you carrying environmental friendly discharge bags between your legs (ever had a ride with a horse buggy? Remember the bags hang down under the horsetails to keep the dirt from falling?)
I am still old-fashioned, also thinking “if you’re not Jesus, don’t wear sandals” for my own gender.

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Having trouble in choosing where to go for a walk and then eating well? Go to Lipscani and try
Mes Amis http://www.gustos.ro/restaurante/mes-amis-bistro.html, successful French cuisine at decent prices or, 
Dinette www.dinette.ro (Amsterdam Café with new owners), or,
The Divan www.thedivan.ro (at the end a Romanian entrepreneur managed to open a decent Turkish Restaurant

joi, 18 februarie 2010

it's complicated

It is almost a week of dating her, already few thresholds have been passed (i.e. Gardens of Eden conquered) and the burst of happiness is burning your brain. You feel like Emperor Caesar, nothing can stand on your way… While driving, you try to overcome the urge of smiling.
She is sitting next to you but didn’t make a sound since entering the car. Her head is up and inclined to the other side, as if making a passport photo, the nose tip indicating the sky at the horizon. You should have done something, forgot to do something, but you can’t recall. Sticking to the “communication is the key to a solid relationship” principle you ask, “Babe, anything wrong?”
“Ii-iih..nope…not really…nothing important…” . The face muscles that you were trying to control not to smile, progress into the mimics of panic.
Not really? Nothing important? Shit. You have done it… You were wrong… but where? How? Any clues? You are ready to punish yourself but need the reason to proceed. “Babe, what happened? What’s wrong?”
“I said, it is not important… at least not for you...”
“C’moooon…” you can be cute and collaborative at the same time…
“You didn’t change your profile at Facebook… you are still listed as “single”, I don’t know why? “
The panic look is swiftly replaced by an expression of constipation…you do not have any answer for that…you cannot provide any reasonable reply… you are just an emperor penguin…

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I have seen some people profiling themselves, as “it’s complicated”… WTF?!? What does this really mean?
Possible meanings;
-       I don’t know how to get rid of him/her. It seems that I am stuck with this relationship
-       I am desperate but he/she doesn’t even like me
-       I am single but I better don’t mention it
-       I have multiple partners and Facebook doesn’t list the option of “In few relationships”
-       My partner is my horse/dog/cushion
-       The rest of the world is too dumb to understand if I would try explaining

You can add more…but most probably it is an implicit message to someone, or a hidden requiem, to come and grab you…
Why there is no listing as “it’s rather simple”? (What is not complicated in one’s life?)

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Bucharest is under the siege of Mother Nature, the crater lakes left after snow bombs eating our cars. Municipality is expecting the city to self-regenerate itself, spending time with talking, rather than repairing few things around. Shall we call for international aid?
To many question marks for a day, I am done here…

joi, 14 ianuarie 2010

Doggy style

As if the 2 members of four-legged species were not enough in our habitat, we have involuntarily adopted (again) a stray dog. Actually he infiltrated consecutively through the bars of garden gate and terrace door one evening, appearing suddenly with an asylum demand in the living room. The shock of meeting an unknown walking creature in one’s own house leads to a mixture of panic and anger. With a confused mind and defensive instincts, we have managed to convince the animal to go back to his planet and blocked the garden gate against further attempts.

However, the small and skinny pal, with a pink tag on his right ear as a courtesy of Municipality, has decided to try his chance at the stairs leading to the main door. Few days he just stayed under the stairs, ignoring our existence, as if we have built the house around him. Then he started emitting friendly gestures with his tail upon our arrival home. Finally, one evening, he was sleeping on the doormat, leaning at the door to absorb any heat leaking out of the house.

We already had 2 of his kind, one male golden retriever that was bought when he was 3 months 6 years ago and a kind of collie, looking like the underdeveloped, psychologically challenged, rape-victim sister of Lassie, which we have adopted from www.cutu-cutu.ro. Both of the resident animals are real life versions of Tasmanian Monster, eating every plant and flower, digging the grass, chewing any wood including their own cottages and producing sizeable amounts of fertilizer in an expired banana format, which they evenly distribute throughout the garden. Since their very first day…I love animals…Dogs are the men’s best friends….

After a few days on the doormat, the 3rd dog was also recruited and promoted with a job description of security guard. He got also improved fringe benefits, having access to dry dog food instead of digging our garbage for daily nutrition. All he had to do was to extend his ass on the doormat, occasionally bark on trespassers (or neighbors) and avoid pissing at a visible distance.

Unfortunately, the rapid increase of his life standards changed him. He is spending all his time by making extension exercises, licking own balls (ref. men’s best friend) and sleeping. He seems not to bother to bark at anyone (including that bastard driving a brand new Jaguar) unless that person steps on him. We have corrupted the small dark bastard…Probably we threw the first seeds of a global crisis in Dogs’ World…

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These days reading “The Darkness” comics series, strongly recommend…

miercuri, 30 decembrie 2009

"The" Country for Old Men

It has been a while…. Few days far from the office charged my thinking parts, so I am kicking again.

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A month ago, one evening at home, watching “In Bruges” on HBO quietly and visiting Bruges has been voted as our Xmas plan, by her (The voting process has been similar to the last presidential vote, lost by a narrow (!!) margin)…
A 2.5 hours flight throws you to Brussels from Bucharest and you may reach Bruges by a 1-hour drive mixing with a flow of French, Belgian, Dutch and German speed maniacs. The city, as also mentioned several times during the film, is the best conserved medieval town in Europe. Here “to conserve” has been utilized excessively, the city itself is a historical pickle.
Hotel Prinsenhof, on Prinsenhof Street, is a boutique hotel owned and managed by a local family. The luxury of reception hall and the stylish architecture of the building is turning into a sour smile, when you enter the room and see that the toilet is separate from the bathroom. It seems that during 1800’s Belgians didn’t need to turn on water to envelop undesirable sounds, or they even didn’t need to wash their hands after.
When the nature calls (and after 5 hours of driving, waiting, flying, waiting and driving, it definitely called), you have to enter a small cabinet, as big as a phone boot and once seated, your nose touches the door (I have a proportional and small nose, for your reference). The place might have been handy for Superman, but not comfortable for OrdinaryMan in need.
After unloading biologically processed Romanian food on Belgian soil and unpacking the luggage of 4 days filled personally with enough clothes to open up a store, we took the narrow roads in search for a restaurant.   
A line of 3-4 floor buildings, each looking like a colored and fresh cake, surrounds “The Markt”, the main square. We have chosen one of the places and entered; the greeting has been “Buna Ziua! Bine ati venit! (Good Morrow! Welcome!)”  by Virgil (from Certeze).. We were back at home…Virgil was kind of a supervisor, monitoring the waiters, talking to the guests and serving the bills; perfect job for the man of Balkans. Staying since 1993 in Belgium changed his accent towards French but he was very talkative.
While he was asking about Romania and current events, one of the waiters, a young, tall, blond, athletic type, left the menu on the table and turned to missus,
“Mademoiselle, I have very good muscles; you wanna try?”, smiling kinky.
I was caught unprepared by the approach of this local Adonis, looking desperately to Virgil for a sign of disapproval but he was also shaking his head in agreement and saying “yes, really good muscles, good muscles. Pleasure...”
OK, we arrived to the land of free minds… The final blow came from the missus herself, “Aaaaa, I really want to try, would you like to give it a shot also?”
I just wanted to cry loud, a romantic trip to Flanders turning into an orgy…
The question marks blinking on my face alerted the waiter, he rushed to the next table showing a full bowl of mussels…”YES! Yes!” I shouted, exhaling strongly, I wanted to eat mussels, we all wanted to eat mussels, no?
A quick charge of food helped with blood sugar, relieved and in peace we have decided to visit some points of interest of the city; Chocolate Museum, Fries Museum (yep, they have a museum for French fries), The Burg, Beer Market, Linen Market… The freaky thing about the city is that except tourists’ kids, you do not see much of children, teens or youngsters around; as if the population under 20 years is used as slave labor to produce beer, chocolate and linens  behind hidden doors… All café’s, restaurants, shops are filled with retirement age senior citizens, happily enjoying beer and fries. Even the cue in front of McDonalds stalls looks like a casting line for Benjamin Buttons (Can I have one Cardio Meal Menu please?)…
Too much fries and chocolate makes one hungry, so we entered another food-hole early evening. The place was fully packed and waiters were obviously tired. One of them threw two menu sheets to the table and passed by. Another one came to ask about the drinks but while we were searching the beverage section on the menu, she decided that beer is a fine choice for everyone. Once she left, a third waiter approached the table,
“We, Monsieur?”
You what? Again the missus saves the moment, the waiter was saying “Oui? (Yes?)”, as an indicative remark for us to order and to order fast… I wasn’t ready for this speed test and asked, “What do you recommend?”
“Maybe some poisons for you, Monsieur?”pushing his French accent on every English word.

Should each encounter with a waiter be a challenge here? I might be slow but not suicidal. But still, we are in a foreign country and I do not want to have anyone filing an aggression complaint against me, so I took it as a joke, polite and jolly “Haha, anything that would keep me alive until tomorrow morning?”
“Our portions are standard, but I can get two poisons at once for you”. The celebrity chef Harry Potter should be working in their kitchen.

In order to hide my anger, I looked down to the menu and saw a section of “Poisson”, catching the word “Tuna” I got the point. He was recommending fish (“Poisson” in French) … I had the fish, two fishes on a plate….
The first day in Bruges, marked by offers of sex and death by waiters, ended silently on the comfortable bed of Prinsenhof mansion…

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More to come about Bruges… watch the movie (In Bruges) and you will understand…

marți, 8 decembrie 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Romania has been the stage of a clash of two evils, where one tricked the other one better and beat to death. The only hope remaining for us is that the lesser of the 2 evils shall give way to a new Devils’ Board, as quickly as possible. Otherwise the ordinary people will feel more heartburn during 2010.

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Recently started hanging out with our champion guys, joining them for Thursday football and beer. The sorrow of current events probably led me to find a shelter among them, feeling back the team spirit and family atmosphere. While being cursed by several former colleagues, the guys still seem to enjoy my companion.

After only two training sessions, I was considered fit for the SuperCup game to be played against French Oysters last Friday. Actually I was only mentally fit to join the team but they were kind enough to show solidarity and insist on my presence.

The day before the big game, on Thursday, we were having another training session. Decided to equip myself as a real player and went to the Nike Store at Plaza Romania (13 installments with CardAvantaj, kidding?). Following a quick analysis of measures and curves, I have moved towards the shop assistant of my choice. She was surprisingly interested in promoting the products, providing minuscule details about each material and model.

Having chosen a black pair of football boots, 2 pairs of socks, black shorts, a T-shirt and a zipper jacket, routed myself to the cashier and realized that I did not have my credit card with me. A big hit on the charisma, after showing off with a dark grey business suit and an air of a club-owner at the store, I had to count coins to pay. The cash in my pocket, RON 120, was only enough to buy a pair of light blue boots, which looked like I have earned them from Kinder Surprise.

When I appeared on the field of Calea Floreasca Hall next evening, wearing my new shiny sugar blue boots, with a revolutionary belly in the black jersey-set of our team, all the kids of my colleagues thought their parents brought Teddy Bear to entertain them during the game and circled me. It was embarrassing…never mind….

First half 3-0 and 2 more goals within the first 5 minutes of second half, the team was ready to bear the Teddy Bear Beckham (Victoria Bear was also watching the game). I was already tired from last night (and from last 36 years); besides, the warning of the referee to take off my glasses hasn’t been encouraging at all…The strong spotlights of the Hall, low battery warning in my brain, the crowd expecting to curse or to chant, with limited optic capacity I possessed, dried the last drops of self-confidence.

I was in the middle of the field, trying to catch a glimpse of the ball by following the tides of moving players. Only my neck was dynamically active, turning my head 180 degrees fast forward; I was looking like a paranoid intruder, looking left and right at 2 seconds intervals, asking “What? Where? Who? Why?”… At such an instance, when I found myself in front of the goal of the counterparts, the ball met my feet. With an inexplicable move that I would never be able to repeat, I passed by their goalkeeper and shoot the ball towards the empty 6 square meters from 1-meter distance… and missed it…asked myself out…

After the game, when the Cup was sitting in the middle of our table between beer bottles, one of the guys mentioned that I have “deviated” excellently bypassing the goalkeeper but hurried at the shot. What? Whatiated? I was just trying to balance myself, not to fall down while running and hoping the ball will pass through the goalkeeper itself. Maybe for some, the visual wave created by the bounces of my belly could be accepted as a deviation… I am not sure if I really wanted to shoot or just aimed at defending my feet from the unidentified flying object but the intercourse between the ball and my feet has been a peaceful event from my point of view.

We won 8-3, as a strong believer of fair play I would rather refrain from mentioning any further comments (especially the ones we made right after the game). Je suis désolée.

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Watch “Waltz with Bashir” or “Dead Fish” , you will not regret.

miercuri, 2 decembrie 2009

Romanian Rhapsody

In case we are not facebookies;


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There is a new bookstore, Anthony Frost, on Calea Victorie nr 45 (former Living Store). The shop is open even on Sunday but the entrepreneurs seem to be either shy to promote or greedy to give up the books. Both options did not suit me, so I have organized a guerilla attack and kidnapped some of the paperbacks (they have a decent comics section also). Drink one less Grande Latte and hydrate your brain with ink at the same expense.

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I am not in the mood to explain the story of the paper ships I destroyed. Really cannot bother myself to tell you in details the day when our newly built head office, state-of-art office space, has been flooded by the first autumn rains of 2002.

When I entered the building, ground floor, Main Branch, was already under siege. The cashiers were brushing water out from their cages with the help of solid aluminum digit-bars of exchange rates' indicator. Branch Manager was explaining to someone the benefits of plasticized banknotes. Few clients, looking like wet ducklings, lost in the ocean, holding invoices, cash, ID's in their hands were staring around confusedly, were trying to choose whether to help the staff or to cry out loud. As an educated economist, I decided to allocate the scarce resources of the bank, thus myself, to more efficient activities and moved on, ignoring the scene. Do I look like the financier descendant of Noah?

A security guard slid one of the wheeled office chairs towards me and offered me a dry lift of 6 meters until the stairs. King Julian..

Climbing to the first floor, I realized that our colleagues did not waste any time; the little lakes throughout the corridor were occupied by a few dozen samples of navigation origami of all sizes. It was too early for me to be able to process in my mind the possibility of a crowd, otherwise dead-meat in the morning, producing so many ships from paper, seating page5 beauty of Libertatea on the board and even coloring flags. All of the ships had names... They were waiting for this, they were ready for this, scary... We have had recruited 300 adults of both genders, from lost childhoods.

The entrance of my office was after two sharp left turns at the corridor. Nervous with the water dropping on my neck through the shirt and with the unnecessary productivity of staff, I took the first turn left fast and slid.. Caution, wet floor!!!! Step-dancing to balance myself, I managed to reach the second turn, with one foot up, the other one almost off the floor. I have seen two colleagues from my department kneeled down, right after the corner, occupying every possible point where I could put one foot, any foot, safely down.

The next second was the one that I regretted not joining the ballet class in the primary school, which could have granted a more artistic landing instead of crashing my bullocks and head simultaneously on the wet floor. I managed to splash big drops of water on the praying devils.

While I was checking my own pulse and ribs, two bastards stood up and left whining, "Bai, If he wouldn't spoil it, mine would have been first", "Huh, yours couldn't even move a bit, kidding?"...

I helped myself up, with a desire to whack them and with a pain to hinder any such aggressiveness. Patting my own back to clean, I have grabbed two flattened sheets of paper; one from my buttock, one from my shoulder. Their ships...Racing Arks... A third colleague, watching the event peacefully until then, stood up and started shouting "Gabi's boat was stuck on his shoulder, so he was ahead, he won!!".. A burst of joy and celebration... I did not exist....

At least they could have treated me with respect, as Godzilla....

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Spank you!

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