Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

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March 10, 2008

I lost myself on a cool damp night
Gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see
and be what I want to be

When I think more than I want to think
Do things I never should do
I drink much more than I ought to drink
Because I brings me back you…

Lilac wine is sweet and heady,
like my love
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady,
like my love
Listen to me…
I cannot see clearly
Isn’t that he coming to me nearly here?

Lilac wine is sweet and heady
where’s my love?
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady,
where’s my love?

Listen to me, why is everything so hazy?
Isn’t that he, or am I just going crazy, dear?
Lilac Wine, I feel unready
for my love…

 

“Lilac Wine” – James Shelton

——

I’ve got a nasty little habit of hanging on to 99% of the receipts that end up in my pocket. It used to make sense when I was working and tracking my expenses, but this year, it has turned into a major nuisance, as the mounds of heat-sensitive paper are really starting to impede my ability to move around the bedroom.

Regardless of how useless these tiny slips of accounting have become due to my profligate INSEAD ways (hey, it’s all borrowed money anyway, right?), they do serve a purpose: to hit myself in the head and heart repeatedly with the sledgehammer of nostalgia. I’ve been accused of living in the past (and the future, but never the present, God forbid), and what better way to take a 8.27 second 100 meter sprint through the caverns of time than examining every little transaction from August 2007?

From the mundane, “Hey, I sure ate a lot of fish in the cafeteria during P1/P2,” to the shocking, “Dear lord, I drank a lot of beer in P3,” to the good times, and the bad, the cascade is relentless, burying me in an avalanche of tidbits, left gasping for breath.

 

Here’s one for the sandwich I bought at that stand in CDG Terminal 3 the day I landed, before picking up my little leased Citroen.

Here’s one from my first trip to Paris, driving around bewildered, dumfounded and awed by the history, like the tourist that I am, forever transiting from one locale to the next.

Here’s one from that weekend awash in champagne and crepes, breathing with effervescent happiness and twinkling eyes.

Ooh, here’s one from a visit to McDonald’s in August. I love that place more than I should.

Here’s one from that amazing dinner, honoring a cleanly lost bet with glasses of out-of-place mojitos, after an afternoon spent wandering back alleys filled with the clanking din of hammers on silver, where foreign skin is nary seen.

Oops, here’s one from Freddy’s Bar for a box of overpriced cigarettes. Off to the other stack to join your brothers and sisters you go.

Here’s the UPS tracking tag for a gift. I love gifts, though only on the giving end, never the receiving. Correction; what I love the fleeting moment of happiness, the toothy smile, the imperceptible jump in the seat of someone opening a present. That’s why I give. Fuck the “stuff.”

Ah, here we go. Pizza Pazza. This one makes me chuckle. I’d bet some serious money that if I had a receipt for every visit to this fine Italian establishment, one of the line items would always be the same.

Here’s one from that day spent racing to Paris, trying to find something to wear for the Winter Ball. I should’ve stayed in bed; I shouldn’t have gone; I should’ve been struck with the flu or dengue fever or cholera or a falling decision tree.

Here’s the stub from a flight home to days spent in grey, awaiting the return to hope, only to find more grey.

 

Another will join it soon, if nothing works out. Even receipts fade, eventually.

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2008

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year to you, wherever you are. May 2008 bring you wealth, health, and happiness.

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn?

CHORUS:
Fir ald lang syn, ma deer,
fir ald lang syn,
Wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

CHORUS

We twa hay rin aboot the braes,
an pood the gowans fyn;
Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,
sin ald lang syn.

CHORUS

We twa hay pedilt in the burn,
fray mornin sun til dyn;
But seas between us bred hay roard
sin ald lang syn.

CHORUS

An thers a han, my trustee feer!
an gees a han o thyn!
An wil tak a recht guid-wullae-wocht,
fir ald lang syn.

CHORUS

 

Fløjte Hero

December 19, 2007

So you’ve probably heard of Guitar Hero, the runaway hit cult video game that dares you to unleash your inner Joan Jett, or, uh, Eddie van Halen.

But I bet you haven’t heard of, Fløjte Hero!

That’s right, ladies and gentleman, Flute Hero, brought to you by some crazy Danish Flash programmers.

I’d advise you to not play this in airport waiting lounges using your laptop’s speakers, or to play this at all if you’ve got a penchant for silly, addictive games.

Culture Shock

November 12, 2007

One of the things that make WordPress so great (shameless plug, woo ha) as a blogging platform is the ability to archive drafts. There’s a small library of scattered notes, false starts, half-finished posts and quarter-eaten bagels sitting in the back end of my blog, and what better time than now to clean them out, seeing that it’s 02:19 and I’m on campus hammering away at my CV which is due to be submitted to the gods at Career Services in 9.75 hours.

Isn’t that the best run-on you’ve ever seen, Mrs. G?

Below are a few notes, in italics, that I made sometime in June.  Though only five months have passed, it seems like eons.  The non-italicized font are my current thoughts.  As always, caveat emptor, especially in light of the time, and my near-depleted mental, emotional and physical batteries.

Culture shock curve

The following was cribbed from UNESCO and written for Peace Corps types going abroad for the first time.  I’m sure that it applies to INSEAD “participants” as well.

The curve of cultural adaptation during a medium or long-term stay abroad

You will not always feel the same way during the time of your stay. This is normal and would happen to you if you stayed in your own country as well. Every person is different and reacts in a different way; nonetheless there are some elements of a stay abroad that are experienced in a similar way by many people.

The following curve will cause stomachaches to scientists and other lovers of academic approaches but it is believed to be a useful indicator of the different phases of a stay abroad.

The hypothetical Curve of cultural adaptation during a six month stay abroad

When you first arrive chances are high that you will find everything very exciting, exotic and fascinating as if you entered a film. Everybody is nice to you and as a foreigner you are allowed to make almost any kind of mistake. This phase of initial euphoria may be more or less long according to how much the reality you find differs from what you expected.

After some time you will find that routine sets in your daily life. You get used to the street scenes around you and you more or less know the people whom you cross at work or in your free time. The touristic aspect of a visit to an exotic place gives way to your first frustrating experiences and incomprehension about people behaving the way they behave. Your counterparts are also not as willing anymore to forgive you all of your mistakes.

You are there long enough to generally know the place, but not long enough to have gained real friends or to feel at home. You see a number of behaviours that are unacceptable or at least strange for you and you cannot see the underlying value system yet. Culture is more than the sum of its visible and tangible elements (music, dance, cuisine, language etc). Many elements of a culture are invisible and it is not easy to identify the social, religious and historical factors that motivate them (use of space and time, taboos, beliefs and values). You feel a need to explain and defend yourself very often which is very tiresome and you feel bewildered by the way people communicate and act around you. You will experience a phase of “culture shock.” The experience of this phase again depends on many factors, such as how different the culture you are experiencing is from your own, your ability to express yourself in the language of the region and how much the people you are dealing with, know about your own culture. You will realise that you are under “Culture Shock” when you start feeling easily frustrated, you overreact and behave in a defensive way. You easily get the impression that all your problems are linked to the fact that you are abroad. The adaptation process to a foreign culture demands a lot of energy from you.

After the phase of cultural shock you enter a phase of acculturation and stability. You will gain more and more inside knowledge and understanding about the underlying mechanisms that influence the behaviour of the people around you; you will start being able to see things through their eyes. It does not necessarily mean that you agree with everything they do or that you change your own way of doing things completely. According to the intensity and duration of your stay and your own convictions, you will take over some of the things that you experience, while maintaining others from your own culture. You will disagree with some ways of living that you experience but you should aim at being able to understand why they developed the way they did.

If you stuck a piece of cultural litmus paper on my tongue, I’m fairly certain that it’d come back bright chartreuse, indicating, with 95% probability, a strong presence of Stage 3 Culture Shock.  Now to all my French friends and readers, this isn’t a slight on your culture, beliefs, heritage, lifestyle, race, creed, color, sexual preference, affinity for baguettes, etc.  so much as a commentary on the INSEAD bubble and all the madness that’s associated with acclimating to it.

I’ve lived through it, and think I can do it again, but can I? I was a lot younger. I’ve lived in other places, but I’ve always known people.

Well, a large part of the INSEAD experience is bonding with folks who’re just like you; thrown into the middle of a forest, be it made of wood in Fontainebleau or concrete in Singapore, and forced to figure it all out.  Exogenous shocks to stable systems  always make for a good time.  If you’re the type who can’t cope with inconsistent sleep, constant socializing, bricks of work in your backpack, implicit competition of a cut-throat variety and general madness, you may want to reconsider your choice of INSEAD as a school.  If, however, you thrive on structured chaos, this is the place for you, though I think it does help to be younger and more malleable.

What happens when you mix attractive, scathingly intelligent, articulate, world-hopping people, with a 3:1 M:F ratio, lots of booze in a strange environment? I think I’ve seen this movie before, and it wasn’t in the Disney section.

Exactly what I thought would happen.  For those with access, just take a look at the pictures on Facebook.  For the less fortunate, do the math; it’s not so hard.  As other bloggers have written so eloquently on this subject, I’ll leave you, dear reader, to peruse their posts on your own.

How important is physical fitness during the year, especially with a diet of nothing but booze and butter?

There’s a gym on campus?

Ahogarse

August 17, 2007

Half-stumbling to bed, I spy the half-empty bottle of wine sitting on a shelf, not yet stale from dinner.  Mind awash in Troublesome thoughts, reason and moderation escape me as my off-hand reflexively grasps for the neck of sweet escape.  It’s a lot easier to swig straight from the bottle when no one is around. 

A new, yet not-so-new friend told me that this blog has been getting a bit depressing lately. 

Lately?  

Huh?  

Those who know me are ROFLTAO at the mo’.  

Yeah; I just coined that.  I’m embracing the IT Geek label which I’ve been tagged with by You-Know-Who.  And his/her name is not Voldemort.

Now I’ll be up for hours, thinking about Trouble, and how I always willingly walk straight in to it, with open arms.  

When will I learn?

And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down
 

-Paul Simon 

— 

Currently Playing: Ferry Corsten’s “Live At Inner City Amsterdam 11-12-99.”  Periods go inside the quotation marks, right, Mrs. G?

Thanks to the God of Groundhogs for anthemic trance.  Else, I wouldn’t know what I’d do at whatever the fuck hour it is, alone with my bottle of red.

Despacio

August 15, 2007

200+ dead from coordinated IED explosions in Iraq, infrastructure collapse in China, catastrophic flooding in North Korea, alleged terrorist attack in Russia, 35 hour workweeks in France: Situational Normal, All Fucked Up.

Smile! : )

Napolean’s home base looms large, and I’m not too keen on dealing with it. I don’t feel up for the requisite inaugural cigarette on the foreign porch. I don’t feel up for the not-so-stellar summer weather in Fontainebleau (thanks, Weather.com). I don’t feel up for the inherent inefficiencies of the French system. I don’t feel up for school and dealing with Alpha-Squared people.

Life is hurtling forward at Warp Five, and I want it to slow the hell down. I reach for the emergency brake, and all I find is a stale baguette in its place.

 

He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.

 

-Tad Williams

 

Trajes

July 3, 2007

So WordPress has this built-in analytics program that shows how people got to my blog, and one of the search terms that drove some traffic my way yesterday was “INSEAD sex 2007.”

I love the internet.

I now also love costumes. Strictly speaking, I don’t really, but from all the years of INSEAD blogs that I’ve sifted through, the one recurring theme that I’ve run across is that INSEAD students have a thing, nay, a fetish for costume parties and will find every excuse to turn a get together into fancy-dress deals, so I decided to not delay the inevitable and immediately embrace dressing up.

Which explains why I spent two hours in my non-air conditioned car on Saturday, driving in sweltering, shirt-stripping heat to a giant costume warehouse. I figured that anything I buy here will be cheaper than the €3.29 billion that the singular costume shop in Fonty charges for a fake silicone ass, and that the difference could be better used for a greater cause, like a real silicone ass, for example.  God knows, I need an ass augmentation.

I walked in with the intention of sticking to a slim budget and buying as many cheap costumes as I could. After spending 15 minutes walking down one out of the 10 aisles,  I realized that resistance was futile, caved in, and bought everything that caught my eye. Four different get ups and €100+ later, I’m ready for the costume party scene.

Bring it on, chateau parties, bring it on.

El Libro Negro

July 1, 2007

My mind is still reeling from the last two-and-a-half hours of Zwartboek (The Black Book).

Talk about a moral mind-fuck.

The movie was beautifully done, outside some obvious sound-stage work and the cinematography was gorgeous. It’s amazing how a little color, or lack thereof, can set the stage for an emotional roller-coaster ride . Tangent: I love seeing mid-century cars puttering around in pristine condition. It titillates that little wannabe grease monkey who’s caged deep down in my soul, and triggers flashbacks of Herr Kunzes shop class in middle school.

Set in World War II Holland, the film follows the story of a Jewish woman who joins the Dutch underground and up going the extra mile for the cause, and then some. Oh, what’s that you say?  You fell in love with the Gestapo captain you were supposed to seduce? Good times lay ahead.

Anyhow, beyond the eye candy, the movie explores the miasma of human morality during wartime.  Unlike in Band of Brothers, or Saving Private Ryan (two of my favorite war movies, though I have yet to see Tae Guk Gi which I hear is pretty good, too), there’s no clear-cut bad guy vs good guy theme.  Black Book reminded me, slightly, of Malena, though with a lot less sunshine, happiness, and uh, Italians.

In a feeble attempt to universalize this post and make it seem worthwhile, I’ll close with the following.

I look forward to all the morally ambiguous situations we’ll face in the upcoming year, and hope to learn, through interaction with my classmates, that there is a distinction between black and white which transcends race, creed, color, orientation, number of appendages and dietary preferences.  With so many lawyers in the J08 intake though, I’m not holding my breath.

Los Otros

June 27, 2007

Anxiety is driving my days. Productivity seems to have left the building, assuming it was ever inside to begin with. I don’t think it’s so much stress, per se, so much as a desire just to jump in to the thick of things and get going. I’m a procrastinator at heart, but when there’s an imminent, colossal life-altering change up ahead, I’d rather take it on sooner than later.

I put together a paper checklist when this whole INSEAD thing started back in March, adding to it every time another issue would pop in to my head, which usually happened after my daily perusing of NetVestibule. The list hadn’t seen the light of day for a while, so I figured I’d dust it off this morning, just to see how far I’ve come in the last month-and-a-half or so since I last looked at it. The big “must do to get in-country” bits are done, for the most part. The “must do so I can feel good about leaving” bits are far from it.

Selective memory + procrastination is an awesome combination that should be granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in order to ensure the opportunity for future generations to experience it in its full, unadulterated glory.

So who wants to rip all my CDs to iTunes and transfer ’em all to my portable hard drive?

Cara

June 22, 2007

So much for a free-market, pro-business president who’s out to shake up the status-quo. I can’t wait to sit through a French transportation strike, preferably while trying to get to CDG to catch a flight.

I like my waffles with blueberries. How do you like yours?

 

 

The EU summit

Jun 22nd 2007 | BRUSSELS
From Economist.com

Taking aim at the free market

HAS Nicolas Sarkozy really dealt a nasty blow to the free-market foundations of Europe? The question has caused much confusion at a European Union summit unfolding in Brussels. It emerged on Thursday June 21st that France’s new president had succeeded in removing “free and undistorted competition” from a list of the EU’s core objectives at the top of a new “reform treaty” being thrashed to replace the defunct constitution.

Mr Sarkozy also managed to have language added to the list of core objectives stating that the union should offer “protection” to its citizens in its dealings with the outside world. Legal officials in Brussels, as well as in various national capitals, spent a sleepless night mulling the implications of the changes. But ask lawyers an intensely political question (and deprive them of sleep) and their answers are usually less than clearcut.

The European Commission is concerned that Mr Sarkozy’s populist move may have real legal implications. Its worst fear is that European judges will read the change as meaning the balance between free trade and the right of the state to protect citizens has shifted, in the direction of meddling. At the very least, officials concluded, a legal patch was needed to ensure the commission still retained oversight of all mergers that affect the EU market. The Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, finally sealed a deal on Friday lunchtime with Mr Sarkozy, to add a binding legal protocol to the new treaty, stating that under the single market the Commission does, indeed, have the power to police free and undistorted competition. Such powers are hefty, as as General Electric and Microsoft, among others, can testify, after bruising encounters with merger and competition officials.

Mr Sarkozy insisted in a private meeting with the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that removing the commitment to undistorted competition is a purely political move, that does not change the legal base of the EU one jot. The French president explained that he was merely heeding the message sent by the 55% of French voters who rejected the EU constitution in a referendum two years ago. Mr Blair needs French support if he is to secure a handful of domestically important opt outs and concessions at the summit. He accepts this is indeed a harmless move.

Officials from some of Europe’s governments with more of a mind for free trade, such as Sweden, say they are not happy with the change but are not intending to fight it. Everyone is choosing to accept Mr Sarkozy’s explanation that for French voters competition is not an “objective” or an end in itself, but merely a means of trying to achieve prosperity and “social cohesion”. Such is EU horsetrading.

And what of Mr Sarkozy himself? In an oddly informal meeting with reporters the French president was asked if securing the change was one of his most important aims at this summit. “It’s not the most important thing to me,” he said, casually. A spokesman for Mr Sarkozy noted, later, that references to competition are “scattered all over the treaty”, so it will still be an EU policy. Why worry, was the message. This is just keeping a promise made to the French people during the recent presidential and parliamentary election campaigns.

Perhaps so, but it raises an awkward question about the French leader. During his campaign to become president he presented rival public faces: the pro-business reformer alongside the populist defender of French national interests. The elections won, it is still not clear which of these is the true Mr Sarkozy.