New York – Part 2 of 2: The business

29 04 2008

The client event I was attending in New York was held at the IBM office in midtown, just a couple of blocks from the Central Park. Nice office, even better location, if you ask me.

New York - IBM 590 MadisonNew York - 590 MadisonNew York - Former IBM Tower

In the afternoon, we spent a few hours visiting several retail locations in Manhattan, courtesy of an IBMer who knows that area inside out, and was very kind to pick the cream of the crop. That was a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what retail will look in the near future by observing what’s being tried in the flagship stores. Here’s the highlight reel.

  • The Cube Apple Store – I’ve been to several of those in Canada and in the U.S., but this one is special. Open 24 by 7, 365 days a year, this place is incredibly crowded during the day, so I highly suggest you go there after hours – I went twice, at 4 pm and 2 am, and had a much more civilized experience in the wee hours. The store is actually underground, and the glass cube is the street level entrance. Taking the stairs down gave me the feel that I was entering the Louvre, as the cube reminds me a lot of the pyramids by IM Pei. Somehow, this store feels like a temple dedicated to the Apple brand and technology. I posted some pictures below, but you can see much better ones, and some movies too, here.

New York - Apple Store
New York - Apple StoreNew York - Apple Store
New York - Apple Store 5th Ave

  • Niketown – Talking about Apple, the Nike store ostensively co-brands Nike+ with Apple. I’m not a runner – in fact I hate running – but this is so cool that I may even try it one day. The whole store is very well thought, from the colour palette to the overall layout and the glass tubes to transfer items from the storage rooms to the PoS (point-of-sale) stations. Other cool feature is the NIKEiD.STUDIO: you can create shoes customized to your taste and have it delivered to you – if you live in the U.S., of course.
New York - Nike StoreNew York - Nike Store
New York - Nike StoreNew York - Nike Store
New York - Nike StoreNew York - Nike Store
New York - Nike Store

  • Nokia Flagship Store – A three-story mecca for cell-phone fans. The huge screens behind the phones are interactive: they can react to actions such as text messaging and handling of the mobile devices. Very cool and blue. You can get more details about it here.

New York - Nokia Store

  • Citibank – As city regulations around the world become more strict towards visual pollution, retail stores are becoming more creative and using colour and shapes as brand identity clues. I just mentioned the blueness of Nokia’s store. Citibank is using the Chevron format in the façade of its branches. This particular branch is very modular, with sliding internal walls to provide ample spaces during business hours and access to ATMs only after hours. Another curiosity there is a terminal for client feedback, which was used to request a water cooler to be brought back after the branch redesign. Who would’ve thunk that clients would miss the good and old drinking fountain?
New York - Citibank Branch

  • Bank of America – This branch has two interesting features: a bookcase with finance-related books & magazines is a comfortable living room setting, and banners at the top with a timeline showing how BoA’s history is deeply ingrained in the U.S. history. I know it sounds trivial, but it was very well executed. Unfortunately no pictures could be taken inside.

New York - Bank of America Branch
  • Commerce Bank – Open extended hours, including Saturdays and Sundays, this branch has some kiosks with free souvenirs (like pens) and also a coin counter game for kids: if you get the total amount right, you’re eligible for a prize.

New York - Commerce Bank

  • ING Direct Café – This is the one that blew my mind away. This is not a bank office or a branch. It’s more like a Starbucks store, including free Internet access, and it was insanely packed when we visited. Why would a bank do that? Many reasons, including probably some that I have not even thought about yet. Having coffee is a very social thing so people just go there for a break, and while in there, there are some cross-selling opportunities. In the second floor, there’s a space for people to meet or learn about financial services. What a great way to associate a pleasant experience with a strong bran. They also sell souvenirs, including toys for kids with Cedric and Amy, ING characters from Planet Orange. If you were wondering why I tagged this entry as “web20forbiz”, there is your link! You can read more about it here and here.

New York - ING Cafe
New York - ING CafeNew York - ING Cafe

This was a really long post, sorry about that. I should give a prize too to anybody getting to the end of it.

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New York – Part 1 of 2: The city

28 04 2008

This blog was not supposed to be a travel blog. I just happen to be traveling a lot in the last 12 months. I hope I can stay home more often soon to be with my wife and son, but at this point that’s more wishful thinking than anything else, as there are a few more trips coming my way in the next month.

Now, once I go on a business trip, I try to make the most out of it. On April 6, I went to New York to participate of a client event, and had a few hours to spare in the city, so I went for a Brazilian churrascaria (man I miss that) and some sightseeing too. As usual, I posted the pics to Flickr and a sample here:

New York - Churrascaria Plataforma

This time around I’ve got a bit disappointed with this Brazilian steakhouse (Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio). I had been there a few times in the late 1990s and early 2000s and it feels like a different place now. Not too bad, but this restaurant used to be REALLY good. I also went to the other extreme and got some of the world-famous street meat:

New York - Street Food

That was very tasty, I loved it. It just occurred to me that maybe my food critic impressions say more about me than about the places I’m assessing :-).

Then I wandered around aimlessly and took some more pics:

New York - BroadwayNew York - St Patrick's Cathedral
New York - Rockefeller CenterNew York - Tiffany

I also took some time to go to the Rockefeller Center’s observation deck, as known as Top of the Rock. From there you can get a good view of the Empire State and Citigroup buildings, but the view to the Chrysler building – my favourite skyscraper – is kind of obstructed. I know, picky, picky, picky.

New York - Rockefeller Center Observation DeckNew York - Empire States
New York - CitibankNew York - Chrysler MetLife

All in all, a short but packed few hours in the city. If I go again, I’ll try to squeeze in a museum visit or a Knicks game.





English or Portuguese?

8 04 2008

For I while I struggled on whether or not I should write this blog in Portuguese, as most of my friends and relatives live in Brazil. On top of that, I feel much more comfortable with my mother tongue: even after 11 years living in Canada, I still can’t claim I speak English well. My writing is not as bad, as I have more time to think it through – and google my way around what I don’t know – but I still find plenty of grammar and spelling errors whenever I read old posts of mine. Writing in English may even be perceived as a snob thing to do: who am I trying to impress, after all?

I may still change my mind, but the main reason I write this blog in English is that I don’t use it as a vehicle to communicate with my friends and relatives. As a matter of fact, I only told 2 people in Brazil so far that I actually have a new blog. The only other people that probably know about it are those who follow my rare twittering and some co-workers who read my internal blog. I decided to keep a low profile until I find my hand on what I should blog about, and also to have some meat here before announcing it to more people. Writing it in English makes it more consummable by the public at large, so for now I’ll stick with the plan.

But don’t get me wrong: I really love writing and talking in Portuguese. Doing that gives me this warm feeling of being at home no matter where I actually am: “Minha pátria é minha língua” summarizes this idea well. Furthermore, Brazilian Portuguese is a beautiful language in my naturally biased view. Rich, full of historical influences, with many peculiar sounds, and deliciously illogical.

English is more of an acquired taste, but I think now I have an admiration for it. There is a minimalist elegance in conveying a lot of ideas using so few words.

I wish I could learn Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and German. You never really think outside the box until the moment you replace the damn box. This may sound silly, but the language you use to express yourself affects your way of thinking.

However, no language can accurately express all the complexity of ideas and sensations that go through our brain. You don’t say what you think or feel, you only say what known words allow you to articulate. This gets worse when speaking a foreign language, as your vocabulary and internalization of expressions tend to limit you even further. So, I’m often left with this perception that none of the people who interact with me in English really know me. What they know is this subset of me that is externalized by my poor command of the English language.

I said this before: In Canada, we always talk about visible minorities, but very rarely we talk about audible minorities. My Asian looks play a much smaller role in my social interactions than my thick Brazilian accent. I recall watching a movie – a bad one, but with a memorable quote – where one of the characters says: “don’t think that because I speak with an accent, I think with an accent”. Recognizing this need is the first step to address it.





Dominican Republic

2 04 2008

I just came back from my vacation after a week of sun, sea and sand. It felt really good to not have a computer around for 7 days to put things in perspective. Buildind sand castles is definitely more fun than blogging or public speaking or business consulting. I could do that for a living if it paid well. Of course, I have ways to go before considering changing careers:

SandCastles

I stayed in a nice resort in Punta Cana. I’ve never been a big fan of the huge resorts in the Caribbean, as they feel pretty much like a Second Life of sorts: everything is fabricated to look like the stereotyped tropical paradise. But I confess that this time I was just looking for a place to relax, and that is their specialty.

I took a day to at least get a glimpse at real Dominican life and went to Santo Domingo. The Dominican Republic has been through a lot since the first Europeans came in the late 15th century, and just walking down the streets of Santo Domingo and seeing the poor countryside tells you that the world is anything but flat.

Back to Toronto, I have a huge backlog of emails and urgent tasks to deal with, so enough of blogging for today. As a filler for content, here are some pics I posted to Flickr:

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Small settlement between Punta Cana and Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Street art

Santo Domingo - Dominican RepublicSanto Domingo - Dominican Republic
Columbus, hopefully not pointing to the Hard Rock Cafe

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic

Sundial

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Diego’s Columbus Alcazar

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
The French Embassy (formerly known as Hernan Cortés’s House)

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Franciscan monastery ruins

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Presidential Palace

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
The oldest cathedral in the Americas

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Cathedral’s main nave

Santo Domingo - Dominican Republic
Ugly modern monument (Columbus lighthouse)





Late April’s fool tale

2 04 2008

Almost 10 years ago, I took the airport express bus at Pearson (Toronto’s main airport) to go back to my place, but I was so tired that I slept really hard minutes after the bus left the terminal. When I woke up after 2 hours or so, I found myself in the airport again!!! My wife always teases me about that story, and jokes about me sleeping very easily, and risking to do it again in my business trips.

Yesterday, April first, I took the 7:10 am flight from Toronto to Ottawa and, as usual, was sleeping (and hopefully not snoring) moments after take-off. When I woke up, I felt like I had slept for hours, and the flight attendant was announcing that in a few minutes we would be landing in… Toronto!!!

For a moment, I thought that I had done that sleeping-through-multiple-trips again. Then I realized that my plane could not land in Ottawa due to heavy fog in the region. The whole process to allocate all passengers to other flights was really messy and full of errors, but thankfully everything worked at the end. I remember that before coming to Canada somebody told me this not-so-funny joke:

Q: What’s is the best way to orderly evacuate a stadium full with 50,000 Canadians in an emergency?

A: You announce: “Please orderly evacuate the stadium because there is an emergency”

That’s a big stereotype, but yesterday I was surprised at the overall reaction to the situation: lots of confusion, mis-communication, duplicate boarding passes, mishandling of baggages and not even one passenger freaked out. Everybody was very calm and went through the whole ordeal in a very civilized manner. A few passengers in other flights even gave up their seats after they were already in the plane to allow others with urgent matters to fly, without even being asked. Some see this as a problem, as being too accommodating, but the reality is that screaming at others would not solve the problem in that situation, so I’m actually proud of the way the passengers acted. Maybe that’s a bit of being Canadian, after all.