Things I learned in Sweden

November 4, 2011 3 comments

This is a list, in no particular order… of some things I learned and skills I cultivated during my 14 months living and working in Sweden.

1) Playing acoustic guitar. A winter with 4 hours of daylight means you need to have a good indoor hobby. Glad I picked up the guitar in October last year. Thanks for the tips, Josef and Gunnar. And Raili, thanks for letting my guitar accompany your ukelele at xmas.

2) Cooking without recipes. Having a properly stocked kitchen means you can experiment and not fear mistakes. Also, doing more chemistry at my job somehow led me to think about various cooking techniques in terms of heat and water distribution, for example, and a better understanding of what exactly was happening inside the pot or pan. And, thanks, Farid, for keeping such a lagom kitchen.

3) The Swedish language. My first month in Uppsala, my pronunciation was so bad, I would ask for something in Swedish at the store, to have the clerk reply to me in English. Thanks, Daniel, for all the useful social phrases; Henrik, for all the stuff I’ve asked for help with translating at work and over gchat (cumin, coriander, what?); and, the municipal gov’t, for covering the cost of the Sfi language course. What a difference it makes when a trained teacher explains the nuances of pronunciation to you. I felt I turned a corner in the winter, when I called a restaurant and booked a table, entirely in Swedish. And then again this summer, in Copenhagen, having an extensive conversation with a Swedish-speaking Dane in a noisy bar. So I try to keep up with the language. And thus, thanks go to each one of you who continues to tolerate my suboptimal listening comprehension during our Skype calls. Vad sa du? Igen?

… It’s getting late, so I will write the rest of my list in a second post, sometime soon, while the thoughts are still fresh and interesting!

[Photograph: I took it in Smögen, on the west coast of Sweden, when I was there for a workshop last summer]


A Real-Life Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man” ?

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

If you have seen the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” ads, like the one above, you might have thought at some point, “It would be pretty cool if this guy actually existed.” Well, stay thirsty, my friends: thanks to random Wikipedia-ing, I have found one such man existed in real life.

His biography…

Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza , (January 22, 1909 – July 5, 1965) was a Dominican diplomat, polo player and race car driver who competed in the 1950 and 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans, but was best known as an international playboy for his jet setting lifestyle and legendary prowess with women.

Including a totally outlandish “Chuck Norris”-style fact… Read more…

Categories: Heh, On the web Tags:

Ditch the laser pointer for good.

July 27, 2010 4 comments

Update, March 2013: What I’ve learned about this technique is that it requires meticulous practice. You need to internalize exactly when you will make your transitions and sync your clicker hand to your speech. When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, the alternative is to simplify your slides to the point where there are only 1 to 3 items that need pointing out.

If you’re giving a slide presentation (typically, with PowerPoint), never again use a laser pointer. I will offer a solution/alternative later in this post, but first, let me explain why laser pointers are bad:

– To use the pointer, you have to look at your slide to ensure that it is hitting the correct spot. As you describe the item you’re pointing at, you end up speaking at the wall rather than to the audience.

– If one hand is committed to the laser pointer, you are forced into an awkward posture and can’t gesture naturally with your hands.

– The “transition” between speaking to the audience, turning to point, and then turning back is inherently choppy. And on top of that, someone in the audience likely fails to see the laser pointer (gets distracted, too much glare, etc) and misses the point of the slide entirely.

I was inspired to write this post after I attended a talk where the speaker was turned 90 degrees away from the audience the entire time he spoke, even when there weren’t slides to point at with the laser pointer. He had turned to use the laser pointer, and never turned back to face the audience!

If you feel that you need to use a laser pointer, I am guessing that you have TOO MUCH CONTENT on that slide. So, declutter. Cut through the auxiliary info and figure out what your most important message is, and focus on that one message on that slide. Plenty of people who write about how to make effective presentations have advice on how to declutter your slides (fyi, each of those links is to a different guide).

Two alternative solutions to the laser pointer

Even after you’ve decluttered your slides, you might have some important idea that requires the audience to consider multiple graphics at once. Here are two approaches to use that will allow you to remain engaged with and facing the audience. Read more…

Categories: Speaking Tags: ,

It Will Cost You [VIDEO]

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

This piece is brilliant but evokes sadness for a future that may yet come to pass.

Fabian Brunsing’s public art installation “Pay & Sit: The Private Bench” imagines a dystopian tomorrow in which even the most quotidian of conveniences — resting a moment on a park bench — have become soulless objects of enterprise.  (from The Daily What via Andrew Sullivan)

Here in Sweden, such conveniences have already been monetized: at the Stockholm and Göteborg train stations, access to individual restrooms requires depositing 10 kr into the coin slot.

Categories: On the web

Wrapping up the Jeopardy! experience (with help from Twitter)

July 19, 2010 4 comments

I want to use this post to make some closing remarks on the whole Jeopardy! contestant experience, because the response I’ve received, from a wide spectrum of folks starting with friends and old classmates all the way to Jeopardy! fans on Twitter, has been TREMENDOUS. After my own thoughts, I’ll showcase some of the comments that made me laugh, smile, and/or cringe…

First, I am amazed how many people watch the show and still remember me! Even before it finished airing, I started getting messages from people I hadn’t talked to in years: “Saad, is that you on there?” I know I would be pretty surprised and excited if I saw an old acquaintance on TV, too!

For me, the most meaningful aspect of appearing on the show has been sharing this experience with the people I know. (Yes, this assessment takes into consideration the prize money, too.) Many of you wrote to me that you were watching with your families or other friends, and had those folks cheering for someone who’s a complete stranger to them. First, it’s awesome that you did this. Second, it makes me especially glad that I won, because while it’s cool to have a friend on TV, the excitement from that alone dissipates fairly quickly… you want something to high-five and holler about at the end!

Again, super-thanks to everyone who watched and cheered for me last week. I’ve learned some of you are huge fans of the show, and I appreciate the commentary on my appearance. Now, I leave you with actual posts from Twitter users. (Note: these posts are presented without editing or censoring, and keep in mind, too, that some people truly do say the first thing that comes to mind.) Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Day 2 on Jeopardy!

July 13, 2010 13 comments

This is another in a series of posts about my experiences as a Jeopardy! contestant. Previously, I wrote about how I got there and my thoughts on the first game I played. Here, I write about the second game I played.

**SPOILER ALERT: Details of Tuesday, July 13 game appear below** Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: ,

Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 2 w. In-Game Thoughts]

July 12, 2010 29 comments

Welcome back! In my last post, I described the lead-up to becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! including a section about what you don’t see on tv. Here, I will provide a “director’s cut” with my thoughts during the game.

By the time of my game, I wasn’t concerned about its outcome because just being at the studio as a contestant for a whole day made for an unforgettable experience, one that I knew I would be telling friends about for a long time.

**SPOILER ALERT** Everything after this point will reveal actual details from the game. Read more…

Categories: Life Tags: ,
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