Saturday, December 23, 2006

Helsinki Complaints Choir

Small country syndrome

Heard from a Finn who had just visited Costa Rica:

"Costa Rica felt somehow similar to Finland. Also a small country, right after asking where are you from they would turn to "How do you like our country?"."

I'm not so sure it is exclusive from small countries, but it is true that at least in Finland everybody asks you that.

Lordi Cola

Lordi Cola, originally uploaded by Chiva Congelado.

Picture the scene: I'm in Finland after a while, go to the supermarket and find Lordi Cola. Then a kid around 8 years old stands in front of it, and starts singing "Hard Rock Hallelujah" with a French accent...


Back in Finland

For the holidays at least. Feels really nice actually to be here. I understand the language and the people much better.

Hair colour scales

One thing that has caught my attention for a while now is how people see hair colour differently. For example: many people in northern Europe would describe my hair colour and my eyes as black, whereas in Mexico or in Africa my hair colour is brown, and so are my eyes. Same thing with blond, many people that I would consider blond really don't think of themselves as blond, and vice-versa.

Being nordic

I was in a class the other day, and the teacher asked "Who here is from the Nordic countries?". All my friends turned around and looked at me. Should I have said yes, or no?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Another post in the Rock en Español series.

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs is a group of Argentina that became very famous in the 90's with their eclectic mix of rock, ska, jazz, tango, samba and big band. They had many members, but their singer and co-leader was Vicentico, who has since gone solo, the other leader being Sr. Flavio. They released many albums, but reached continental notoriety through their single Matador (Vasos Vacíos, 1993), whose video is below.

Other videos available in YouTube are:
Strawberry Fields Forever (Rey Azúcar, 1995) A cover on The Beatles.
Mal Bicho (Rey Azúcar, 1995)
Calaveras y Diablitos (Fabulosos Calavera, 1997)
La Vida (La Marcha del Golazo Solitario, 1999) This is a great video, and a great spoof.

More information, as usual, from Wikipedia.

Carl Sagan

Wandering through Technorati while taking a break from studying International Economics I found the Carl Sagan blog-a-thon. Many in my audience will probably not have the slightest idea about who this man who died 10 years ago today was and why is he important, so check out Wikipedia.

In Mexico, where I grew up, I don't think they ever broadcasted the Cosmos PBS series, but I was fortunate enough that my school had bought the tapes (yes, tapes, after all, I was 8 or so at the time). Also at the same age, I received as a birthday present the book "Comet" from a neighbour. It was a present I devoured, and made me realise that science can be as much fun as science fiction (even though later I discovered I don't have the patience to be a scientist myself). During the following years I bought Cosmos, Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World. I also joined the Planetary Society as a kid, with which my name went to Mars in the Mars Pathfinder (I'm not currently a member, but plan on rejoining). He is one of two persons (the other being Isaac Asimov) that planted firmly in my mind the idea that colonising other planets is what our species needs if it wants to survive (all this before global warming and the terrorist threat became the issues they are now).

He died on December 20th, 1996 after a long battle with mielodysplasia. Even though he didn't believe in God the way I do, my prayers are with him and his family ;-) .

How was your 2006?

I was checking out some forums I post in from time to time, and they had a thread about your personal highlights for 2006. I have to say that it got me thinking.

This year's gone in a blur! Below my highlights of this year that is about to end:

1. Family & friends are all healthy and doing well.
2. Still with the same girl for the last 6 years and loving every minute of it!
3. Got a lot of recognition at my job, but still went on study leave.
4. Travelled quite a bit: Chilangolandia (Mexico City), London, Dubai, Tokyo, Tel-Aviv, Berlin, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Barcelona...
5. Moved to Brussels from Helsinki to start a masters in international business. Enjoying it immensely! This city is great, and I needed a change.
5.5. I've found a different side of myself, and got in touch with my creative side (even started a blog).
6. Started another couple of languages (# 7 & 8). I still speak them like crap, though...
7. Met a lot of interesting people, but still keep in touch with my old friends.
8. Reconnected with some people I hadn't seen in quite a while.
9. Learned to cook sushi! And chicharrón en salsa verde, hehehehe.
10. Discovered new music (Nortec Collective rules).

Don't know what life will bring next year, but that makes it even more exciting. I have no idea about where I'm going to live after I finish my degree next summer, and you know what? No problem!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TIME magazine person of the year: You

With 2006 being the year of Web 2.0, it was bound to happen. Head over to to read the articles.

Mexican hand gestures

I've been asked so many times about certain things I do that I decided to explain.

  1. Extending and contracting your index finger while all others are contracted means yes.
  2. Extending your index finger and then moving it from side to side while all others are contracted means no.
  3. Extending all fingers, then taking the tips of them to your forehead with your palm facing you and doing a movement outward of about twenty centimetres means thank you.
Update: The video is available here.

Use Sunscreen and the Generation Gap

Two questions:

  1. Are you inspired by this video, or just completely bored?
  2. Are you below, or over 30?
There's an answer here somewhere...

El Santo contra los Clones

If you know any Spanish and anything about Mexico City, you'll enjoy this miniseries of 5 "El Santo" cartoons. El Santo is a freestyle wrestler, a sort of third-world superhero. He can't be that bad if these shorts are produced by the Cartoon Network, right?

Found at Mexploitation.

m(_ _)m

You know emoticons, right? Things like =) =D =P .

The one above is also an emoticon, but a Japanese one. Do you have any idea what it is?

It's a guy bowing ;-)

Types of Finnish silences

Talking with a friend and my significant other we came to the conclusion that there are different kinds of silences in Finland:
  • Uncomfortable silences, those where you don't want to say anything so as to not screw up
  • "It's happy to be here" silences
  • "I'm working on something" silences
  • And the most important ones, silences that just are there. No reason, no message.
There are more, but I can't remember them now...

Te, ystävät ja perhe, olette sitä osa Suomesta että minä rakastan

Ja josta syystä kaipaan Suomea. Nähdään pian!

Great week for Mexican football (almost)

It is said in Mexico that when Chivas does well, the National Team does well. We hope this is the case now that we won the Mexican Championship. To make matters even better, Pachuca won the Copa Sudamericana, becoming the first Mexican team to win a CONMEBOL tournament, where we play as guests.

Now if only Club América had actually done something at the World Club Cup, instead of getting trashed by FC Barcelona and then humilliated by Al Ahly. They don't even deserve our hate, only our pity (their slogan after they qualified to the WCC was "Hate me in Japanese"... I guess it backfired).

Mexican view of death

You may have heard about the Day of the Dead, when Mexicans remember their dearly departed. What you may not know is that this view of death as part of life permeates their (our) lives. You may know that we eat sugar skulls with our names on the forehead around those days, but I'll tell you a story that will leave you speechless.

A young Mexican football fan saw the Mexico 1986 World Cup when he was a kid, and idolised Maradona. He cheered for his local team, UANL Tigres, and his dream was to see his team play in his idol's country, Argentina. Fast forward to 2005. UANL Tigres goes through to the group stages of the Copa Libertadores, and is placed in the same group as Banfield from Argentina. This fan (who is now in his twenties) is very happy and buys his ticket to go with the supporters group all the way there. However, he dies in a car accident the week before. No matter, his friends say. They do all the paperwork and bring the urn with his ashes all the way to Buenos Aires. The team goes to the field with a big sign in his honour, and they duly win 3-0. His friends sing and jump with his urn in their hands. Why? Because "that's what he wanted".

No wonder they sell caskets with the seal of your favourite team in Mexico...

Europe in the seventies

People very close to me lived in Europe in the seventies (the crazy seventies). It seems that moral attitudes have changed since then, as some of the conducts (especially relating to sexual promiscuity) are something that don't seem as widespread here as they once were. It is true that the current twenty-somethings are more moralistic than their parents' generation.

Does it have to do with the rise of AIDS (e.g., it was discovered the year I was born)?

Multiculturalism and different identities

I was talking with some friends about multiculturalism and different levels of culture identification (what do you feel part of, basically). I, for example, am Mexicano, Chilango/Sateluco, Espoolainen, Uussuomalainen and Brusselaar. I'm a North American, a Latin American, but also Europeanised and with a light Asian sensitivity. I'm the couple to my significant other, son of my parents, member of my family, friend of my friends and alumnus of the different schools I've studied in. I've taken parts of the places I've been to, so I eat a lot of Japanese food, listen to Brazilian pagode and read American sci-fi. I'm a techie, an engineer, a photographer, a linguist and a business person. But most importantly, I'm myself, and I know I'm all those things. I'll use them when I need to, and depending on where I am.

As a friend of mine said: "It's like a snowball, wherever you've rolled some things stick to you". Just be sure they're the good ones.

Sunny boy or cloudy boy

A Chinese friend of mine said that I'm a sunny boy, but she prefers cloudy boys (referring to my temperament). I know I might be a little bit too annoying sometimes, but I make the conscious choice to smile as much as possible, as it makes me and others feel good.

HIV drug marketing

In London we had a marketing workshop with Beaconbrands, where they showed some examples of advertising campaigns they have done about drugs that are used to treat HIV/AIDS. What really struck me is that they mentioned that HIV patients have to love life, otherwise it would destroy them emotionally as well as physically. I had never thought about it that way. These people must be tough.

Tama-Chan the seal

I was listening to the Tama-Chan song the other day, and it made me smile... =)

While we were away, Belgium ceased to exist... not!

As we came back from London in the Eurostar, I came accross this newspaper article (also reported in the Beeb). If you're not aware of the story, check it first before continuing reading this post.

The good news is that at least now people noticed that this can really happen, and the backlash was, I'd say, healthy. I, for one, would be very sad to see the idea of Belgium be defeated, as this country is very unique, and I quite like the good sides of it (in both Dutch and French). More background about Belgium and Belgian politics in Wikipedia.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mind the Gap (London trip review)

The funniest part of London is that they all speak English (sort of). At least that's the first thing that strikes you when you're there after living in countries with other languages for so long ("oh my, all the ads shout at me directly").

I have to say that the city looks in very good shape. Everything seems clean, fixed and properly maintained, besides being a beautiful place per se.

We visited JPMorgan, Mergermarket and Lloyd's, besides attending a marketing workshop with Beaconbrands at the Anglo-Belgian Club. The visits were very well organised and we had plenty of time to explore the city. Even though I had been to London many times before, there were many places I didn't know and enjoyed immensely.

Having visited many firms in the City, I realised one thing: City life is not for me. These guys have no life outside of the office, and no time for marriage or kids. Maybe if I were another kind of person, but I'm not; money is very important, but it's definitely not everything in life. I'd rather have a chat with my significant other any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

Another thing that really strikes you when you reach London is their different take to multiculturalism form what we're used to in the Continent. In England policement are allowed to wear scarves or turbants, as long as their face is seen. There is many, many foreigners, but they're, if not accepted, at least tolerated. The situation is not perfect, but I believe it fosters less marginalisation in general. The level of society acceptance is reflected in something that is obvious to Brits, but not very well understood anywhere else: the national food of England is not fish and chips, but curry.

The pictures from the trip are in Flickr, of course.

There can be more cultural differences between Belgians than between a Mexican and a Chinese

Which reminded me of bulletpoint #16 in this post. Of maybe it is not that there are more differences, but less awareness of their existence, and therefore less flexibility. All in all, it's always fun.