13 October, 2011

God save america? or the queen?

I saw this piece somewhere, and loved some of the changes that will be made - spoiler - metric!! I claim no intellectual rights from this article. :) ---------- To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: In light of your immediate failure to financially manage yourselves and also in recent years your tendency to elect incompetent Presidents of the USA and therefore not able to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.) Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas , which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated sometime next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect: 1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.'Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary'). (I love that one) Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.' ' (I love that one too) 3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. 4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse. 5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public. 6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour. 7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.) 8.You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar. 9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. New Zealand beer is also acceptable, as New Zealand is pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion. 10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater. 11. You will cease playing American football. There are only two kinds of proper football; one you call soccer, and rugby (dominated by the New Zealanders). Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). 12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America . Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the Australians (World dominators) first to take the sting out of their deliveries. 13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad. 14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776). 15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season. God Save the Queen!

29 September, 2011

Monopoly fears threaten all-out war in peaceful community

It has recently come to your newspaper’s attention that there is a war of attrition raging within the hallowed halls of MILF’s (Men In Leadership Forum) subcommittee on single males. Our intrepid reporter, Addy ‘Mr. T’ Ramachandran reports, with interviews and SME input from Capt. Azelton, Archie B, Luis ‘Ghana’ Lopez and Jose Wadcan.

Market fears about the monopoly that is Mark ‘Sunshine’ Stolze have reached a crescendo pitch with numerous reports confirmed that several key players have proceeded to exit the market. Upon investigation, we discovered that the reason for this sudden exodus has to do with Mark purchasing a dog. Understandably, the editorial staff was a bit confused about Mark’s dog causing so much unrest in what was a vibrant community of single males.

“The market has become impossible to operate in. I feel totally persecuted. I’m now exploring the San Francisco salsa scene because even with my awesome salsa skills, Berkeley’s women (single and otherwise) are being sucked up by this monopoly machine. And now I hear he’s getting a dog? I’ll have to go brush up on Bhangra and Salsa. Need to reposition my value proposition” bemoans Archie B. “Me and Benny Hops are in the process of working out a new go-to-market strategy, but if this pervasive influence spreads even further, I’ll have to join Bachelors Anonymous and declare moral bankruptcy. “

“Aye sensed the winds of change in this market earlier than most, and decided that aye needed to abandon ship and fish in new waters. Thankfully I was able to enter into a long term agreement down in SoCal market. I’m sure you know all of this. I’ve posted a notification on the Facebook Social Exchange Commission (F-SEC) about my intent to cease doing business. Hopefully once Mark starts playing in the big leagues, I can take my trawler out and start fishing again” – Capt. Azelton

“Um. No comment. I’m playing the persecuted races card here…” (unfortunately, Haasweek cannot publish the rest of Jose Wadcan’s comments, for fear of retribution)

“Cabron, ese went to Ghana and played with a lot of ivory because I wanted to make sure that I was growing my market. I stayed on an African diet all summer, and I come back here and find that there is no more market. As if it wasn’t enough that he had classical good looks, owned a totally groovy motorcycle, is a bassist in JCVB, and arranged bubble baths with Bono and the girls all summer, he totally gained first mover advantage this year as O-week chair, and has a leg up on all the Lawyer babes. And now you’re telling me that he’s getting a puppy??!!! M**ica, I can totally imagine all the girls saying ‘ohh that’s choo chweet’” an understandably concerned Luis Lopez exclaims.

Well, now your reporter was also getting concerned. Was the market really as barren as all of these playas were making it out to be? Is there any future at all for me? Is Sunshine really out to suck the sunshine out of all single males lives? With these questions, Haasweek spoke to the source of all the trouble, Bella – Allan Riska reports. I also spoke to Mark – Excerpts from the interview below:

MSS: “Dude, I’m Mark – you know that though. Life is good for me, buddy. I’m just chilling, spending some quality time with Bella”
ATR: “I hear rumours about you being expelled from MILF”
MSS: “Yeah dude, that’s really unfortunate. I think people are making too much of an issue about Bella”
ATR: “Do you deny that your building a monopoly in the Berkeley market?”
MSS: “Totally dude, there’s a lot of potential left in the market, I’m just consolidating my opportunities”
ATR: “How so?”
MSS: “Well, I’m banking on my first mover advantage to give me a competitive head start in the market. Also, my time spent with Bono over the summer. But you already know that. What I’m planning to do in the future? Right now I’m finalizing my go-to market strategy with Bella, I’m in the process of creating Bella’s facebook page, and a social media program that revolves around how her addition to my portfolio and value proposition means exciting times in this vibrant market.”

(Note from the Editor: Addy was found dead drunk with this manuscript in a coat pocket…if you find him, do let him know that there is still hope)

03 June, 2011

The ‘travails’ (pronounced trae-vels) of Harmless Brown Man - Ghanaian Thoughts

I’m not somebody who’s very easily given to too much thinking. There are these times though, when the cynical engineer in me gives way to an idealist. A dreamer. And folks, let me tell you this: the dreamer is not a man to be trifled with. The dreamer believes all things are possible, and possesses an innate capability to go above and beyond. Or as all of us Haasies are wont to say, Beyond Yourself! In my humble opinion, that probably explains why I keep that beast locked up most of the time.

So, when I looked at the haas programme more than 18 months ago, there was this one course that caught my eye. International Business development. A glint in the eyes. And a promise.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. I’m in Ghana, working on the Ghana School feeding programme. Day one in accra, and I’m suddenly confused: wasn’t Ghana part of the british empire? And since the answer is yes, why in the good queen’s name do they drive on the wrong side of the road? (note: the author is subject to significant bias, as you can tell, and wishes to profusely apologise. Or as the indomitable sardarji on the popular sitcom ‘mind your language’ would say “A thousand apologies, sir!”

A significant part of the project involves all of us going out into different teams and interviewing caterers and farmers in the supply chain to understand drivers of costs and what can be done with the programme to improve it. Me and Luis (also known as the harmless brown men – for more read this) are going up to the north of the region. Luis is excited that he’ll get to see the actual landscape of the country, and also get to see elephants in the wild. I’m going to get a little rural flavor, and for the intensive travel that we’re going to see. Only thing is, I didn’t realize how much we would be travelling. Over the course of 6 days we travelled 1300 kms on some of the most challenging roads I’ve ever seen. What was even more surprising to me was the fact that at the end of the journey, I was in a state of perfect bliss and extremely happy that I had taken this trip. I was asked by my amazing client, Daniel Mumuni, whether given a choice, would I do the trip again. My response (which surprised the cynic out of my skin): Yes. I’d do it all over again. After all, how many times do you get to ride 300 kms in the back of a pickup truck, the wind blowing across your face, and get to see at once in cinemascope color a kaleidoscope of poverty and happiness existing in the same individual?

View Sissala East in a larger map

I realized quite a few things in my journeys up in the north of Ghana. One, that luis was probably the whitest person that most of these people had seen. Two, that I wasn’t so much of a novelty. In fact, there was this farmer in a quaint little village called Zabzugu-Tatale (By the way, the story of this farmer could be a blog post by itself. When we asked him to introduce himself, his response in endearingly broken English was “My name is Best Farmer. I am the Best Farmer here, and I am the chief of my community”) who, on being told that I was Indian, actually started talking to me about Bollywood movies!!

In the course of my journeys, I actually happened to go to the borders of Togo (in the east), Cote d’ivoire (in the west) and Burkina Faso (in the north).See the map i've attached. If there is a competition for most borders touched while on IBD, I guess Luis and myself qualify for the award!! (George: can we institute this award for next year?)

While the prospect of seeing elephants wasn’t too exciting for me (I’m from Kerala, India. See Ana faba’s post and pics to understand what I mean about me not being excited by elephants. I’ve literally grown up around them. Relative to people from other parts of the world, I mean. ), I did have an awesome experience up at the Burkina border. I actually sat on a live, free crocodile!!! Needless to say, I was just as scared as the chicken I bought to keep the crocodile docile. My first reaction honestly was, wait, you want me to do what??? Contrary to what I thought, these guys are really fast. Case in point: I was clicking a similar picture of luis, and in a flash, one of them had sidled up and was a couple of feet from me. Cue hasty retreat. Considering the awesome state of physical fitness that I’m in, you can imagine the sight. The locals enjoyed that a lot.

Overall, one of the best road trips I’ve been on, made even more enjoyable by the thoroughly amazing company of Vasco (best driver evah!), little john (I’m serious. He introduced himself as little john) and Michael. By the time the road-trip was done, I’m infinitely more knowledgeable about Africa and its tumultuous history. (I’ve also had assistance from a certain Martin Meredith).

Back in Accra, we’re instantly condemned to The Asylum (code name for office). More revelations. Apparently, some of us from the tropics need the air-conditioning to be at a lower temperature than most others can handle. In a spate of hard-a**ed negotiations, we started from 17 degrees (Fran’Chico’ and me) and 24 degrees (Yosuke and christine) to a suitable middle ground of 20. (I’m sorry greenpeace. Please don’t take away my membership card.). We had several other negotiations as well. Some great. No further details will be released.

I’ve been picking up a few tips from Luis: about his diplomatic talents (he was last seen negotiating a settlement with Cote d’Ivoire. Don’t ask me what about.), and his awesome ability to power through the most adverse circumstances.

On a related note, we ended up buying traditional smocks when we were up north. In the dialect that’s spoken up there, the word for it is ‘bungma’ (pronounced bnng-mma. Is that right, Daniel?) We wore the smocks to our final presentation. I must say, I do look pretty dapper in it (even if I say so myself)

Anyway, I have a million stories to tell about Ghana. Can’t hog all the real estate on this blog. If you’re an admitted student or a fresh first year looking to understand whether you should be doing IBD, go for it. If you just want to hear a good story to get convinced, come find me.

I’m going to board a flight back to San Francisco tomorrow. Have a packed schedule ahead of me. Flight to Fort Lauderdale, then back to SF and then on a flight again to Chicago. I can already feel the dreamer leaving me. This time however, the dreamer is going back into his shell without a fight. He’s had a good time in Ghana. Thank you. Mr. Cynic – the stage is all yours. I’ll let you know when I need to come out again.

The ‘travails’ (pronounced trae-vels) of Harmless Brown Man - Part Deux

(This is a continuation of the much anticipated travails of Harmless brown man. For the first part of the story, click here)

Aaahh, the joys of flying international!! In my numerous travels internationally (my sum total of experience totals 2 flights. This is my second) good, clean, wide-bodied aircraft, good food, space to stretch your legs, free alcohol, and amazingly pretty air-hostesses. Actually, you know what? Make that air-hosts. Two of the grumpiest Dutchmen you’ll ever meet. Never knew they were made that way. Sigh. Story of my life.

Apart from the fact that I never seemed to get food (because I happened to doze off at exactly the moment that they were coming around with the food trays), I think the flight was pretty good. I also had a mid-air birthday party, which comprised of 6 of us toasting tiny wine bottles, some 32000 meters in the air (In case you’re wondering, I’m not on US soil anymore. I can be normal again and use meters and Celsius.) Awesome birthday, I must say.

Some four video games and 2 movies later, we’re landing at Amsterdam. This should be interesting. Amsterdam, the city of the famous canals, the coffee shops, and, of course, the red light district!! Boy, am I looking forward to this! I’m like a five year old on a caffeine freeze as we get off the plane, literally hopping on one knee. And then, as I feared, I find that I’m not allowed to leave the airport. Why? Well, because I carry an Indian passport. Sigh. Everybody else gets to leave the airport except for the Indian and the Columbian. Both harmless brown men. More importantly, both from countries of disrepute (india – immigration, Columbia – well.. you know what)

When I was growing up, alastair maclean and then robert ludlum were my bibles of inconsequential information. A big part of all their stories featured Amsterdam and Schipol airport (with good reason, don’t you think?). I must confess however, my 6 hours at Schipol were singularly devoid of all the cloak and dagger stuff that I had come to associate Schipol with.

Time passes quickly though. Pretty soon it’s time to board the next flight. The other guys (I really want to rant about the fact that Brazilians are allowed out the airport, but an Indian is not. But I guess I can’t do anything about it, except defend India’s equally incomprehensible policy of reciprocity with visas.)

The flight to Accra is a much more pleasant flight, made even more so by the presence of two extremely beautiful and charming stewardesses who were attendant to my every small whim. In fact, I actually held an impromptu self-help lesson for one of the KLM male attendants (I believe the right phrase is on-the-job training)

This flight passes pretty quickly too, and pretty soon we’re at Accra. I walk out of the airport, and breathe in the fresh air of Africa for the first time. I choke. Wrong air. Aircraft fumes can be nauseating, you see. Walk a little further away. Repeat dramatic deep breath. Africaaaahh!!! I want to burst into song right there (humming some lyrics by Toto. Reeeaaallly cheesy. I know. Ugh.)

The tour through the airport is pretty uneventful. Kinda reminds me of Ahmedabad airport before the new one was built. For those of you who have never been to Ahmedabad, the ceiling of the airport had these rafters that were home to omnipresent and omnipotent pigeons. I’ve had goo on my head more than once.

We’re staying at GIMPA (short for Ghana institute for management and public administration). The rooms are pretty okay. No problems. I’m dead tired. I’ve been on GMT for a couple of days now to avoid jetlag, and I’m feeling the effects now. Yawn. Goodnight!!

27 May, 2011

The ‘travails’ (pronounced trae-vels) of Harmless Brown Man

In recent times I have been wont to take inspiration from other artistes, an honorable and time-tested ideal that acclaimed creative geniuses Anu Malik and Bappi Lahiri have oft leveraged, to super-hit results. (My non-indian friends: I’m sorry about the distinctly cultural reference. Goes with the job description, unfortunately. ) It is with due deference and courtesy to these great men that I start typing this script; in the process, I hope to attract both the fame and infamy that can only be associated with plagiarized art.

Anyway, my first source of inspiration is the venerated George Lucas; this article appears to you as the first part. These blog posts are intended to be the middle trilogy of an epic saga involving, not surprisingly, a harmless brown man. There will be a preview trilogy that will come out 10 years after this trilogy, which will be called (in no order of importance. All rights reserved)

Harmless Brown Man: The Beginning

Harmless Brown Man: Manhattanized Revolution

Harmless Brown Man: An Enterprise of all good things

And this chapter, which I grandiosely seek to call: (cue trumpets and inspirational soundtrack)

Harmless Brown Man (Rebirth): Cradle of Mankind

Once this script is produced, I’ll be starting on the sequel, which is tentatively titled “Black and White”

Anyway, that’s a lot of explanation about something that’s of no interest to you, the casual reader. You’re here to read my story. If you’re running out of patience, skip to the next paragraph. If you think you can put up with this a little while longer, follow me. The other plagiarized bit is the harmless brown man thingy. There’s this page on MySpace of the same name; they sell brown tees that say ”harmless brown man”. Highly recommended for all those that Michael Jackson omitted in his song. ICE at airports across the USA, you know what I mean. Peace out.

So, to the story then:

I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time now. There have been nights where I wake up, sweating, because I think that I’ve missed the flight. Not nice at all. Anyway, I’ve done all the right things. Taken my shots. Been tested for diseases that, weirdly enough, I seem to be immune to. After 5 months of interminable sessions on Monday evenings, we’re finally going to Africa.

5/14/2011 11:30 AM – Ever since I’ve taken an operations class, I’ve been extremely critical of Queues. Today I’m waiting in one. Tapping my foot. Every minute I’m standing here, I’m risking missing my flight. The thing is, I might not have been so impatient if I didn’t know about queue-ing philosophy…

My turn. Finally. I feel like the conquistadors of old, buying colored trinkets. (bad parallel, I know.)

Rush to the Mini, where Sam’s waiting for me. Next up, we do an impressive rendition of ‘the Italian job’ in downtown Berkeley.

Next scene: Berkeley BART station. Tapping my foot again. A mere 13 minutes later, a train arrives. But this one doesn’t take me to the airport. Have to change trains somewhere in south SF. And then, with classic timing, I get a phone call. Its Chico. All hell is about to break loose.

Our original flight was to be SFO - Atlanta – lagos, Nigeria – Accra, Ghana. However, I’m now being told by an amazingly calm voice on the phone that I won’t be allowed to set foot in Nigeria without a visa. Now all of you are going to say, well genius, isn’t that obvious? Actually no, it isn’t. I didn’t know that I needed a Nigerian visa to stand in Lagos international airport. Arrghh!

Anyway, long story short. Fran’Chico’ has now booked us all onto a flight through Amsterdam. Super nice!. There’s just the small problem of this new flight being half an hour earlier. Mierde.

5/14/2011 12:55 PM - @Balboa St. More foot tapping. There’s no way we’re making it in time. Alternate plans include an impromptu party in the mission district. Oh BART, why have you failed me so!!!

5/14/2011 1:08 PM - @SFO international terminal. For those of you who have seen me running, you know it’s not a pretty sight. Coordinated body movements do not come naturally to me. Add a big suitcase, and a ludicrously heavy laptop bag to that mix, and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Sam agrees. We have no choice though. So, we run.

A few bruised toes and grimaces later, we’re at the check-in counter. I’m being told that there’s no place on the flight. Desperation to get on the flight means that both of us go into sweet talk overdrive. Amazingly enough, it works. We have seats on the flight. Phew.

07 February, 2011

May the force be with you..

There are very few ads doing the rounds these days that truly make me sit up and take notice.. just saw this one yesterday during the superbowl.. very well made ad!!!

the kid's reaction is priceless!

19 October, 2010

a quarter past, half of fall, and some other fractions..

----of the passage of the quarter past---

of the right price, and a willingness to pay,
we regress a curve, and figure, what do I say?
bring a toupee, and feet made of clay,
never once did i see, an uninteresting day.

a time of discovery, a time of mirth,
a time for me, to discover my worth,
a time, with memories, there's no dearth
and you start wondering, do i deserve this berth?

a dozen score, and then a few more,
each brings a unique lore,
split into cohorts of four,
the smaller the class, the friends the more!

classes, parties, mixers there are here,
all par for the course, my sister dear,
time's too short, missing out do i fear,
no trivial pursuit, no studying mere.

what pray, does the future for me hold,
a crystal ball, my actions foretold?
alas, this brave new world, is not yet so bold,
why do I shiver, when it yet ain't so cold?