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This is a post in the Belgian beer review series.
Chocolate caramel colour. Bouquet of blueberry toffee. Creamy but not mushy head. Intial taste of bitter trappist, later becomes softer, gitst of saaristoleipä initially, then notes of blueberry, cream and honey. Awesome experience, great beer. No wonder it is regarded as the best beer in Belgium and probably the world.
I grew up playing SimCity, as I’m sure some of you did. The appeal of simulating how a city would grow and try to create something that would reflect my own choices was definitely very strong. The last version of the franchise SimCity 4 was released in 2004, and its publisher (EA) has pretty much discontinued support for the game and stopped any sequels.
Imagine my surprise when I found Simtropolis.com, an online community of SimCity players. Not only do they have City blogs and chat, but a huge archive or user-generated content to improve your experience of the game. Over the years, the users have created maps (so that you can build your city in the site of Helsinki, for example), landmarks (like the Angel of Independence from Mexico City or the Atomium from Brussels) that you can use in the city you build and other general improvements to the game that the designers hadn’t originally thought of, an example of which you can find below.
It is amazing how much people can do, when you give them means to do it. A community of devoted fans is all you need.
One situation I encounter time and again is people who have great insight but cannot communicate it forward as they haven’t learned to give a presentation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m an expert nor that it is easy to do. However, the ability to give presentations is an absolutely fundamental skill regardless of your profession, and is something that I feel is not stressed enough in Finnish education (I remember one of my teachers in Belgium used to complain about that after having seen many Finnish exchange students), to the detriment of business here (I am yet to count how many times I’ve heard that “We have great ideas but don’t know how to sell them“).
I haven’t tried them (most of what I know about speaking in public I learned in Models United Nations as a teenager), but I understand a good way to improve in this area is to try Toastmasters. They even have a Helsinki chapter.
Anybody who knows me a little bit (or has seen my profile at Last.fm) has probably realised that my musical taste is quite varied. On any given day I could be listening to raï, ranchera, punk, samba, rock, jazz, metal, classical music, ska, axé, or electronica from Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Algeria, France, Belgium, Israel, India, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, China, etc… which if they’re not your usual Anglo-Saxon pop-rock will usually be clumped together into World Music, with very awkward results.
For example, with the current version of iTunes you have a “Genius” feature that promises to make perfect playlists for you. However, the database they use seems to have been made by the record companies instead of users, so when it does find the music I have (which is less often than I would expect), if I ask to create a Genius playlist out of e.g. one of my favourite Mexican rock bands it will put it together with Mexican & Argentine traditional music too since they’re “Latin”, something akin to lumping James Brown together with Enya because they come from the English-speaking world. It gets even better when I try it with some of my favourite samba artists, as they will be lumped together with salsa, raï, Bollywood and tango acts because they are “World Music”, even if I do have plenty of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) to make a list with.
David Byrne said it best: he hates world music.
You may be aware that Mexico is not one of the most egalitarian societies on this planet, and socioeconomic differences are very much a part of the social fabric. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a middle class family in the capital, with access to good schooling and domestic and international travel.
While growing up I think I tried to make the best possible use of these opportunities, but when I reached my teenage years I realised I truly disliked the pseudo-elitist environment I was brought up in, and got rather fed up with those social standards on what to wear, how to act, what kind of music to listen, what car to drive, when to gossip, etcetera.
Fast-forward 10 years. I had been living in Finland for a few years and moved to Brussels to study my masters degree. The school was not very big, so for extra-curricular activities and a couple of courses they tended to band together the undergraduate exchange students and the foreign graduate students for what one could call "economies of scale".
Two of the exchange students were from Mexico, and one of them embodied pretty much everything I disliked of that environment I had left: the feigned (or real) ignorance and lack of curiosity, the social and religious conservatism, the gossiping and the materialism were all there, and I couldn't avoid this person for half a year.
Needless to say, the beginning was quite hard, but it definitely taught me to face my own prejudices and not only deal with it, but actually get along pretty nicely and (most importantly) sincerely. While we didn't become best friends, I believe we were able to have a good working relationship, which is one of the most valuable lessons learned from my time there.
This is a post in the Belgian beer review series.
A slightly fruity dark ale with a strong flavour and a beautiful chocolate colour. However, I don’t like beers where the taste of alcohol is too obvious, so this was not one of my favourites.
I found it in a bar in Finland while doing a beer tasting.