The Different Tales of Two Nations: The Comeback Kid vs. The Whiny Kid

The Different Tales of Two Nations

The Different Tales of Two Nations

This post will most likely stir some controversy among my friends. I am sure that some of them would even accuse me of betraying my own country of birth — Bulgaria.

I typically do not comment on politics on my blog, but the events that have been going on in Bulgaria in the past month and a February 26th New York Times article on a seemingly unrelated topic prompted me to express my opinion. I am going to say some harsh words about Bulgaria, but I believe someone finally needs to call out the inconvenient and cold truth, and since I am a Bulgarian, I might just as well be that person.

In this post, I will compare two nations that are very close to my heart: Bulgaria and Mexico. Bulgaria is the country where I was born and grew up to adulthood. Mexico is the country from where I have a lot of good friends, including my ex-girlfriend and her parents and family whom I respect a lot. Unfortunately, this story is contrasting these two countries and, as in any contrast, one of them has to win, and the other will lose. In my post, Mexico is the winner, or the “comeback kid” as Pulitzer laureate Thomas Friedman calls it in his New York Times commentary on the latest developments in that country. And Bulgaria is, alas, the loser. If you want to find out why I think so, keep reading. Continue reading

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Reliving Two Favorite Moments from the Not-So-Distant Past

2 Albums: By Okamoto's & The Bawdies

2 Albums: By Okamoto’s & The Bawdies

This month I relived two of my most favorite moments from the not-so-distant past. And those experiences made me stop and rethink our present-day obsession with digital stuff.

A week ago, while I was on a business trip to Tokyo, I visited the Tsutaya record store in Shibuya and bought CDs with newly released albums by two promising Japanese rock bands.  Then, today — after I’d finally shaken off the jet-lag and had some time to go through my purchases from Japan — I relived a second momentary hit of nostalgia as I slowly unwrapped the CDs and leafed through the pages with lyrics and photos in the artful booklets. Oh, what a bliss! And also, what a revelation about how quickly we’ve forgotten about habits that until just a few years ago seemed so normal to us.

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Celebrity Food Truck

The Pepe Food Truck

Eight months ago I blogged about celebrity chef José Andrés’s plans to join the Street Food revolution by adding his truck to the vibrant Washington DC food scene. Today, I am happy to report I finally experienced his new offering.

After lining up for 15 minutes and slowly savoring my coveted Pepito de Ternera sandwich, I can finally announce that Street Food has graduated out of its nascent first years where young entrepreneurs were trying to make their mark and benefit from the revived craze about local and hip places to eat. Street Food has officially entered a more mature stage where the “big guys” are starting to realize the attractiveness of that business model.
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Apple Has Become the “Big Brother” (And Nokia Calls That Out in an Ad)

It’s ironic how over time a company may do a complete 180-degree pivot and become the epitome of everything against which it once stood in rebellion. Remember the iconic 1984 Apple Macintosh ad? In that ad, Steve Jobs and company were attacking the “old order” in computing, going against the Orwellian-style hegemony of the powerful IBM that was oppressing the ordinary people with its omnipotence and omnipresence. Well, it seems that Apple has now become that omnipotent and omnipresence “Demigod” of our consumerist society. And Nokia has borrowed from Apple’s own marketing repository to create a “Mockingjay” ad (if I can borrow terminology from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy). The “Mockingjay” ad that calls for rebellion against the “Big Brother” that Apple has become. Continue reading

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Hipsters Trade iPhones for Cupcakes

As with all previous Apple product releases, the general media and the tech blogosphere have been markedly exultant about the official release of the iPhone 5 on September 21st, 2012. Most of you have probably seen at least one video or photo of die-hard Apple fans eagerly waiting over night in front of Apple stores to get a chance to buy the new iteration of the iPhone. Watching the footage, I kept wondering if the media were showing something generally constrained only to big hipster centers, such as San Francisco, New York and London. So I went on a walk on the day after — a sunny and warm Saturday — around the hip parts of Washington DC, to see for myself if the iPhone 5 hysteria had really hit my neighborhood. What I saw was quite different from what the TV and blogs were showing.

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Beware of the Sophisticated Email Scammers!

Email spam is something that I typically ignore. I may occasionally pay attention to something that looks like a scam, just to learn from it so that I don’t fall for any fraudulent email in the future. Yesterday night, however, I came across a very sophisticated example of social engineering that I simply could not pass without studying more carefully. I got an email in my mailbox, stating that my Chase credit card account may have been compromised. The tone of the email was very professional, there were no spelling or grammar mistakes, the formatting looked similar to official communications I have received from Chase in the past.

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Nokia — The Unsung Hero of Modern-Day Technology

Once upon a time, there was a company that dominated the mobile phone industry — it delivered the best user experience, had the snazziest and most coveted devices with the latest bells and whistles, captured the highest market share, and was the biggest and most profitable. It was extremely well regarded in the business community, and MBA students flocked to study its practices and strategies. This company was one of the darlings of the tech industry. And its name was… Nokia!

As surprising as this might sound to readers whose experience with mobile devices is limited to the past 4-5 years, the paragraph above represents very accurately a prior era. An era when Apple was just a computer company, Google was content with dominating search and online services, Microsoft was busy connecting PCs, and the other big players in the mobile world were Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Samsung and LG.

In this post, I’ll focus mostly on Nokia’s innovations from the past few years — since those have been grossly understated by the tech blogs and mainstream media alike. In a future post, I plan to dwell more on the merits of Nokia’s strategy (e.g., the seemingly risky bet it took to partner up with Windows Phone, and the choices it made about features to include and exclude from its new Lumia phones).

To put things in perspective, this is my final, third, post in my September 2012 trilogy on smart phones and innovation. Since you are already here, please keep on reading. However, don’t forget to check later my other two posts:

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