Six Reasons Why Kerala’s Proposal For Prohibition Will Not Work


Kerala wants to be a dry state http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/kerala-to-close-down-700-bars-sundays-to-be-dry-114082101171_1.html 

It is ironic that I have to write this blog post against it – as a guy who has seen the evil effects of alcoholism at close quarters and with every bit of my soul, I wish this menace went away for good. But as I read more about the proposal by the ruling coalition (ironically called United Democratic Front – given there is very rarely any unity or democracy in how they function ), the more I think this is absolutely misguided, and has no real chance of succeeding. 

1. It is not a well thought through decision

The decision was taken over a few days – with no meaningful public debate. And because of its populist nature with women voters, no political party in Kerala can afford to raise a contrarian view.

2, It was not done for the right reasons

The decision was made mostly for the Chief Minister Chandy to convince the world that he is holier than the already “holier than thou” leader of KPCC V.M Sudheeran. They waged a war for political image and took a short term populist decision – with no sufficient thought to consequences. The other alleged reason is the political pressure from Muslim League and Church leaders. This is no better (if true) – as church and state hardly ever mixes well to make good policies. 

3. There is no practical way to enforce this

When prohibition leads to bootlegging and plenty of flow of illicit alcohol from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it will be up on the Excise department to curb that. This is a department that is already at just  20% of the needed headcount . There is no way they can staff quickly enough to enforce prohibition

4. When and where did banning alcohol work ?Never

India – including Kerala – has seen what happens when alcohol gets banned . It does not work. It did not work in USA either and they learned the lesson and changed it, and did not go back to prohibition. Alcohol is freely available in USA and you do not need to stand in line to get a bottle of your favorite spirit like you need to do outside a beverages corp outlet in Kerala. Yet, there is rarely a regular public spectacle of drunken people like we see in Kerala. 

5. If the decision was pure in its intentions, why was  government owned beverages corporation given 10 years to close shop while private bars have to be closed right away?

Clearly the government needs revenue from alcohol sales – but does not mind the private sector losing their business. Alcohol sales is probably the leading revenue earner for the state, along with tourism and NRI inflow. Without a doubt prohibition will decrease tourism. So its a double whammy for government revenue. And remember, this is a government that functions on borrowed money and has no fiscal discipline ( look at the plight of  KSRTC for example).

6. Demand and Supply situation will drive up alcohol prices, and worsen the social menace

The social menace arises from the behavior of several men to use money they can ill afford to buy liquor. Now that competition from private bars will be eliminated, beverages corp and 5 star hotels can increase liquor prices to any extent. What this means is that the men who want to drink will now pay a lot more (travelling farther to drink, paying more for that drink, and most likely higher medical expenses incurred by consuming bad quality liquor ) and hence will put their families through even greater pain to cater to their addiction. 

What would have been a better way to handle this situation?

1. Better and continuous education and awareness generation amongst public to enjoy their drink responsibly, and how to get help for those who are addicted.

2. Increase the standards required to run bars and its enforcement, and aggressively close down any that don’t meet the high standards. 

3. Provide government funded counseling and medical treatment for alcoholism. 

4. Make laws that let abused families to get justice, and help get their abusive family members checked into institutions that offer help.

5. Improve enforcement – by modernizing the police force, excise etc. 

6. Decrease alcohol concentration in domestic liquor – especially in beer.

All of this can and should be funded by beverage corp revenue. Alcoholism is a social menace that needs resolution – and government has an important role to play. But it needs to be done in a well thought through way – not in the hasty and populist way it is attempted now. 

I have a whole new appreciation of Business Intelligence now


As many of you know, I grew up as a BI and Data warehousing guy – I have implemented BI for a lot of users across the world . I have collected requirements from shipping clerks as well as CXOs , and in at least a dozen different languages. I have spent countless hours thinking and rethinking data models, how best to transform data and how best to present data to my users.

Along the way, I became a manager and then an executive, and thus became an active consumer of BI myself. But in the big companies like IBM and SAP that I worked at – I learned to live with someone else’s BI design. As far as I can remember, I never had to create significant new requirements . These were rather stable businesses that could be run with minor tweaks to existing BI capabilities. 

And then few months ago, I joined MongoDB and my whole perspective on BI changed. We are for the most part still a startup. We don’t have a huge IT arm that can cater to endless requirements from me and other leaders of the business. Our IT landscape is almost completely SaaS based. If we can hire one more person – we would rather hire to fill a front line technical role to make the product and customer experience better,  or a sales or channel type role to make the business better. For foreseeable future, I don’t expect that to change either.  

We are a global business – and we are growing incredibly fast. And to keep that pace – we need good data, especially when it comes to customer facing business whether it is direct sales or channels (which I run) . Having grown up as a programmer and then a BI guy after that, I have a great affinity for making decisions by numbers. With the speed at which we grow and our lean policies, I don’t really have a lot of time to wait for information to see how things are going – which essentially means I need good quality operational BI at all times. 

We use Salesforce.com for our CRM. I am a first time user of this solution – which might surprise a lot of people. My past experience with CRM has all been in Seibel and SAP CRM. The best part of salesforce.com was that I did not need any training to use it – none at all. My past experience was almost immediately transferable to use the system as a non-expert. My primary use is not as a transactional user who creates or updates opportunities etc. My main goal is that of gaining quick visibility into the aggregate opportunity to order process for channel business, with the ability to drill down into details as needed.

Once I got settled in my new role, and got to know my team better – my immediate priority was to get a full view of the global business. I mocked up initial requirements into spreadsheets and discussed it on phone with my partner manager Guillaume in Dublin, who is an experienced salesforce user. From my past consultant life – I estimated the effort required as a few months in the technologies I grew up with (assuming I got the most skilled people I could find). Next day morning, I saw Guillaume already had 3 dashboards ready for me which showed most of the information I needed. And then in 2 more daily scrums – I had the 6 dashboards I needed to view the business from every dimension I care about. That is much less than the time it would have taken me to write a proposal for a customer for this work in my past life. 

What did I learn from this experience ?

A lot of good things for sure

1. Business users like Guillaume (and Luca, his boss who runs channels in EMEA for MongoDB) are better BI consultants than anyone I could have ever hired from outside. He not only knew the technology well, he knew my business well and could challenge my assumptions and give me new ideas. It has convinced me that rest of my team including me should step up our skills in salesforce.

2. The technology to build operational reports should be extremely simple so that business teams can iterate quickly. Till I saw it with my own eyes, I did not believe that it could be this easy.

3. From prior life as a programmer and a BI guy, I am well aware of the limitations in reporting – so I can minimize the churn in requirements gathering and make good compromises on what needs to be measured.

4. The simplicity of reports and the report writing technology – and my big time aversion to any transformations (having seen how data loses meaning way too many times) – helps us stay nimble and make changes on the fly. 

There are also some areas of improvement of technology , which I am sure Alex Dayon and team will fix at some point, hopefully soon .

1. Charting and visualization is very limited – so when multiple graphs are put next to each other it is quite a strain to discern information quickly. Granted, the ease of changing things on the fly is more important to me than flashy reports.

2. Only 20 controls possible in a dashboard. I can compromise on it for now, but as business grows – this is a pretty serious limitation for me to get a global view across everything I need to monitor and act on. 

3. Reporting across objects looks limited – but this could just be my lack of experience.

4. Operational reporting does not replace the need for a data warehouse . I still need some other place to combine the lead to order process with information from from Finance, HR etc. For my current purposes, I have work arounds – but if all the SaaS vendors for CRM, Finance, HR co-operated and built a BI solution to seamlessly provide me with integrated data – I will swipe my credit card happily to buy it. 

Dog Shows – Where Rational People Do Irrational Things


Dog shows are a fascinating ecosystem by itself – with a lot of participants like owners, breeders, handlers, judges, trainers, backers, vets, psychics, merchants ….and dogs. Ancient lore has it that people started dog shows as a way to select the best dogs for breeding. If you walk into the world of dog shows today – you probably will hear that line from a mentor, but if you look around and form an independent opinion, you will be forgiven for being a skeptic.

To begin with – I personally don’t know an owner, backer or a breeder who makes any money out of show dogs. At best they get bragging rights. At worst they take a second mortgage on their houses. All the other parties like handlers, merchants etc make money off show dogs, but the percentage of people who make a good living off dogs is an extreme minority. 

On the expense side – it costs a pretty penny to be competitive.

Take dog food for example. Pet food is an industry worth about $18Billion a year. It is virtually a recession proof industry too – people tend to feed animals even when they tighten their belts. In fact people spend more money on pet food than on baby food. Now – all that money doesn’t come from show dog owners – but a good portion does, and that I am guessing is the high margin part of that business. I am a part of some show dog communities online – and it is fascinating to see the discussions on what to feed the dog. 

Or take showing expenses – handling expenses, advertising , health clearances, transportation etc . It takes about $5000 on the “I am lucky” end to about $20000 on the “I am one of the regular suckers” end to finish the championship titles on a dog. And if the dog is a “special” – this is just table stakes. It can cost anywhere up to a half million dollars to campaign a dog at 200 shows a year. That is my rough guess math – I have not done this myself. And those people who spend that kind of money – usually backers, who put their money behind a dog they and their handler feel can go all the way –  are not exactly very visible in dog shows either. I know a few – all good people who come from money, but they can barely explain why they do it. Not one of them seems to be the type who needs to win a Top 20 competition to show off their wealth. But they all do it – year after year. They all love dogs and take excellent care of dogs and spare no expense – but very few keep the dogs after the year or two they are shown. The dogs retire elsewhere – either with handlers, or with original owners or placed with someone else. 

To give you a personal example – the first thing I did after getting a job in USA is to buy a German Shepherd in Germany, send her to a friend in India to show and following along her progress from USA. I met the dog personally less than 10 times. Thankfully my friend took exceptional good care of her and I realized the folly of this exercise readily (but not before a few more such attempts were made – with other friends and other countries involved)  :)

Money is not the only irrational part of this scenario. It is a subjective sport with its own idiosyncrasies. Take one of the smaller breeds like the smooth fox terrier. They are supposed to look like a cleverly made hunter. There are very very few owners or judges who hunt. How exactly are they supposed to know what a cleverly made hunter looks like ? Or take a larger breed like the ever popular Labrador retriever. If you look like a male lab in the specials ring, you will see a heavy dog – probably 120 lbs in weight ( looks like it – never physically lifted one myself to check) . Many of them finish their hunting titles too – except they look a lot leaner when they are in field training. Is it not odd that a lab who is in good shape for hunting cannot win a breed show in most cases without putting on extra weight? Labs are also supposed to be “short coupled” – as are goldens. Yet, it will be really hard to get a few breeders to agree on what exactly that means. Not to worry – generations that went before us argued about this just as fiercely as we do today. 

Then there are the judges. Every time I feel bad about flying 100s of thousands of miles a year on work stuff, I remember there are dog show judges who fly as much or more than I do, and usually in less comfort. These ladies and gents are supposed to be 100% impartial . But if you look at the expenses I mentioned above – a big chunk is about advertising. Why would anyone advertise their show dog? Typically to attract the attention of the judges. So the deal is that the people writing checkbooks will go all out to influence a judge via advertisements in magazines, social media etc – yet the judge should be impartial. In the world of dog shows – this is totally normal stuff. If a judge likes a photo of a dog (or heaven forbid make a comment) on facebook – that is almost reason for a small riot. When I was a young boy, I had wanted to be a judge. You can’t make me one by holding a gun to my head now – no thank you :)

OK so back to the question of finding breeding stock as a reason for shows. Responsible breeders tend to check all kinds of health problems for their dogs and their ancestors before they are bred. Yet, if you check the top specials in the ring – you will find a good number do not have good clearances. It does not worry me at all – because I am not forced to buy a puppy from a dog I don’t like. I personally know of a dog and a bitch with “fair” ratings for their hips (the minimum passable score)  being bred and resulting in many pups in the litter not passing their hip tests. It certainly did not stop the dog or the bitch from being bred again. This is not some super secret story that only I know of – its unfortunately pretty common place. As with everything else in today’s world – buyer beware ! Dog breeding is more art, and less science. You need a lot of luck to get a pup that pans out. 

It is generally a losing battle to breed healthy dogs – simply because most breeds have been around for only a century or so. From that small a gene pool – its hard to not breed closely. However hard you try, you will inadvertently mess up. Yet – good breeders soldier on. This is mostly why I stay away from breeding completely. I would much rather pay a premium to buy a puppy from a good breeder than try my hand at breeding. If the pup turns out ok – I show him. If not – he stays home. And since I don’t handle any more myself – I don’t miss shows all that much. I am totally happy to spend some money on a good handler to show my dog. 

So am I rational ? hell no – I am as irrational as everyone else in the game. I have spent way more on dogs than I should have – and even today if I see an unusually good dog, I get goosebumps and an urge to buy it and walk into a ring. And as long as I can afford it, why not ? there is always that option of taking a second mortgage, right ? Hobbies are irrational I guess – and I have enough rational stuff to worry about that I am kind of happy to let this side of my life be a tad(?) irrational :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flip side of automation and scale


A significant part of my work life is spent on figuring out how to scale everything . And in this case – I am talking about increasing the size and efficiency . I grew up professionally believing that scaling up is a good thing , and automation is the best thing ever .

But along the way I have started having doubts – scaling up or scaling down has some serious side affects and those are not easy to mitigate

When my dad taught me to drive , he also taught me the mechanical aspects of a car . And I had a working knowledge of how to have an intelligent conversation with our local mechanics on what needs to be fixed and how to troubleshoot the car .

It was considered reckless those days to replace a part without attempting to repair it . Later, I moved to the US after college and bought my first car – a second hand white Pontiac Grand Am . When that car stopped working , I realized that the local mechanic wanted to replace the parts and not to tinker with the faulty parts like I was used to . But with my coaxing he was able to repair it to a large extent .

Now I drive a German car, which is more expensive than my first car . I paid the premium assuming higher quality and safety standards . It started giving a weird error message couple of days ago and I took it to the dealership . I promptly got a loaner car and all . In 2 days they replaced the part and gave me back the car . I drove to Las Vegas and about a 100 miles later I found the same weird message again on the dashboard . Plus there was a check engine light that came on . And then it went off . As soon as I got back from that trip – I went to the dealership . I am now told that the part needs better fit and they are trying to do that manually but probably will need to replace it . Plus they are finding it hard to trouble shoot given they are trusting a computer and not any real service experience to see what is wrong .

In theory – it’s not my problem . I have a loaner car and there is no direct cost to me since the car has a full warranty . But certainly in their quest to scale – extreme automation has largely killed craftsmanship of the service team . It doesn’t sound like a good thing for me given a lot of precious time is lost for me on week days when I can least afford it .

The problem with the zero automation of my childhood mechanic friend was that it was totally dependent on one person’s skill whether the car got fixed or not . The trouble with full automation at my current dealership is that they don’t have enough skills to diagnose outside the script the manufacturer have them . Clearly we need a middle ground to make this work well for customers .

Earlier today I read a blog by my pal Chris Paine about the problems of performance management in HR .

http://www.wombling.com/hr/intangibles-appreciating-your-employees-motivates-performance-ratings-processes-dont/

I largely agree with Chris . For the sake of scale , companies institute policies in broad strokes. And then measure employees somewhat arbitrarily and determine their rewards . Most Companies cannot even predict sales for next quarter – how exactly is a company going to set goals for a year for all employees ? It is a limited approach – and yet companies use it all the time . Feedback that comes months or a year late doesn’t help any employee – certainly not me any way . And other than performance management software vendors – I have not really seen anyone getting excited about appraisals . Yet we insist on spending time and money in the name of scale .

How about scaling down ? The immediate example that comes to mind are the amusement parks I took my kiddo to this summer .

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I can’t imagine the killer whales and bears enjoying a scaled down environment ever – yet since scaling down helps the humans make money off them , they do it . And morons like me who pay to go there and watch these miserable animals add to the problem .

Since no blog passes muster without saying “big data”, let me check that box too . Over the last 4 years – across IBM, SAP and MongoDB – I have been asked by customers and partners about scaling . Clearly it is a good thing for customers to be thinking about scale . However when I dig deeper to understand how much of scale they really need – I usually find they need a few tens of GB of data for now and maybe a few more tens of GB growth per annum in next 5 years . That is not exactly BIG in the context of big data and the customers know it too . Just that it is a mandatory conversation before technology purchases irrespective of whether a given use case needs significant scale or not .

Some of you might remember a rant from me from past about my reservations about the concept of “real time” . Essentially my view is that real time is not always the right time for a given use case . My favorite example is that you can use computers to find at real time that moving ice cream from LA to Dallas will make a lot of money for the company . But that information is useful only if you have transportation available in real time – which is seldom the case . And if there is no transportation available – was it really worth investing in a real time system to begin with ?

In similar vein – there should be an effort to “right scale”. I don’t think mindless scaling up (or down ) is going to lead us to glory any time soon .

Depressing thoughts


Every so often, I read about someone taking their life due to severe depression – the latest being Robin Williams ( and every time I think of him, I remember a cheerful “Gooooood morning Vietnam !”)  . And then I typically read multiple articles on depression in twitter and facebook. I feel terrible for a while and then I move on.

Occasionally, right after I read these things – I start worrying that a lot of people around me that I care for are depressed. Once, I even asked a Psychiatrist ( who is related to me and with many fancy degrees ) if someone we knew in common showed signs of depression (based on a series of facebook posts) . Thankfully he set me straight quickly saying it did not look like signs of depression at all. I totally forgot about it till I read about Robin Williams yesterday. It is so easy to mis-diagnose mental illness. 

Even after his tragic death – when I think of Robin Williams, I still smile (albeit with a tinge of pain). My brain associates his name to fun and jokes. It is such a rude awakening that depression does not leave alone a man who cheered up millions of people. If it can happen to him – it can happen to you and me too. 

When it comes to suspected physical illness – I push friends and family hard to seek medical help if I suspect they are not in good health. Usually it is an effort they appreciate, and some might even take me up on it. But I am hesitant to push anyone to a mental health specialist given my lack of knowledge of symptoms and the social stigma they will face. .And there in lies the problem – because I think vast majority of people hesitate like I do and probably for exactly the same reasons.

I honestly don’t know what causes depression – but I am guessing some combination of nature and nurture are at play. Not sure what can be done about nature – but surely there are things about nurture that we can control to some extent if we knew better. The world around us is changing fast, and there are plenty of ways to abuse the multiple stimulants most people have access to – including kids. Restricting access might be hard – but educating everyone on consequences might be a good start.

The more I think about it – the absolute minimum thing to do is to start educating little kids in school about mental illness and to let them know that asking for help is the right thing to do if they or someone they know needs it. There is a reason I think this is the most sustainable way to do it. The first time I saw recycling done was in my 20s. And it took a serous effort for me to do it consistently. My little daughter learned it in play school and she does it by habit and reminds me when I slip. I know all of her friends do it too .

Of course there needs to be an education option for adults too – but there is enough information online etc in case anyone wants it. But for that “pull model” to work – there needs to be an open conversation without the usual social stigma. It can’t be just a conversation that happens for a week when a celebrity takes his life. It needs to happen in offices, schools, government and everywhere else. The more we talk – the more we will need information, and we will go find information and eventually a few more of us will know what to do about depression. It is needed – much needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Schireson, the most unusual CEO I know


My boss, Max Schireson, announced yesterday that he is stepping aside as the CEO of MongoDB and will become the deputy Chairman of our board. And he probably wrote the best piece ever that I have read from an outgoing CEO http://maxschireson.com/2014/08/05/1137/ .

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Last year, when I was considering employment at MongoDB – there were two things that drove me to that decision primarily. First – the promise of the product (which did not exactly need much convincing to be honest). Second – the chance to work with and learn from the most unusual CEO I have ever met . I had a few other options at great companies – and they had great CEOs too. But those were people who fit the “normal” definition of CEO – 100% extroverted, totally sales focused, impeccably dressed , driving a car as expensive as my home , bashing competitors in every sentence and selling me hard on why working for them was the best choice ever.

Max was a 180 degrees different from that ! If he claimed to be the CTO to me – I would not have suspected otherwise (well, at least till I met Eliot, the real CTO). He could switch from discussing business strategy to discussing query parallelization and database locking without missing a beat. 

My first meeting with Max was at the old MongoDB office in University Drive in Palo Alto. We had a good conversation – but I left that meeting with a feeling that he probably did not see a role for me. He barely looked me in my eye ( something I have been accused of in the past too when meeting people for the first time, and a “problem” that I have had to work really hard to minimize) – but he asked me a lot of questions on what I liked and not liked and so on . As you can imagine – I was confused on whether he was totally uninterested or REALLY interested in what I brought to the table.

So like what anyone else would do these days – I googled him, and found his blog. It was a fascinating read. Once I figured out he was a math geek – it all made sense to me quickly :)

Max invited me to meet other executives and founders and investors over the next few weeks . And he and I met a few times over breakfast and lunch in various Palo Alto restaurants. And in each successive meeting – the quality of conversation kept getting better (and yes, we looked each other in the eye a whole lot more) . Throughout the whole process – he never once pushed me to expedite my decision, or tried to sell me hard. He explained everything logically and made it clear that it was my decision to be made in as much (reasonable) time as I needed. I am usually pretty good in replying to emails on time – Max was about as close to real time as someone can get when I had a question for him. 

Max’s youngest daughter is the same age as my daughter – and I could clearly see how much he cared for his three kids and his wife. and how much he missed being with them given his busy schedule. That is something I could readily empathize – I struggle with that all the time too. I would not have had a good career if my wife did not make huge sacrifices. One day not too far from now, I hope I can do for my family what Max just did for his. 

It is not an exaggeration to say – when I accepted the job, it was as much about MongoDB (the product and the team Max had assembled) as it was about having a chance to work with Max. And after I joined and started to know other colleagues at MongoDB better – it was clear that this was a common theme. 

Max is sharp as the sharpest CEOs I know in technology. He can assimilate a lot of information quickly and run what-if scenarios . He is as passionate as anyone else at MongoDB today – but I have always admired how he put his head before his heart when he made decisions. When he felt he made bad decisions, he had no difficulty in acknowledging it and taking corrective actions. I have worked for him for only 4 months and I have broken a fair bit of glass in that time – and not once did I had to pause and think whether I had his support. If he wanted me to course correct – he just told me so. I can’t express in words how much it means to have a boss that gives me operational freedom, and still be available to help any time I needed his counsel. It definitely has helped me adjust my own leadership style.

Max says this in his blog

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe.

My response is – you are absolutely wrong, Max ! Whenever you decide the timing is right for you – I think there will be plenty of great CEO opportunities for you to choose from. Thanks for everything you did and continue to do at MongoDB, Max . You have set the bar high for all leaders in making tough decisions for themselves and their companies . Rock on !

 

 

 

 

Work or Pleasure ? Both, of course


I am typing this from the beautiful city of Brussels . This is the last stop of a very busy business trip meeting key partners in Europe . I fly home early in the morning tomorrow

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The weather was perfect . I very rarely get to visit Europe in summer – so this was an especially enjoyable visit . And while jet lag made me tired towards end of the day for couple of days , the intense schedule made sure that I got adjusted to the time zone quickly.

Thanks to Luca , Tug, Koby and Guillaume – I had a full schedule this week , and now can barely stand up straight :) . It was totally worth it – a full schedule every day in a different country and magically it all happened in as good a way as I could expect . I am blessed to lead such an incredible team and even more blessed to have partners who are “all in” on MongoDB.

I have some work related thoughts to post – but today, I am going to focus on the amazing personal experience this trip gave me as a traveller and as a foodie .

The transport system in Europe has always impressed me . When I landed in Zurich , I walked across to the railway station and caught a train to HB , and walked to the Marriott . The tall hotel building ruined for me the beauty of a great old town .

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Air travel is not always the most convenient or economic across countries , but trains and taxis compensate for that difficulty adequately . Since I don’t have elite status on European airlines – I got some pretty awful seats , and my knees are still pretty sore . Ouch !

I have more change in my pocket today than in any other previous trip to Europe that I can think of – thanks to the innumerable cab rides

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The food was pretty amazing . At Zurich – I had probably the best sol I ever had in my life , and the restaurant was amazing too – right on the lake . Thanks to my pal Phil Loewen for chauffeuring me around and giving great company

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In Barcelona , the tapas made me wonder how much Asian cuisine has influenced a classic Spanish thing

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In Madrid – I had the best Spanish omelette I have ever tasted ( the potatoes apparently are brought from a special region) , and some most amazing red wine . And the partner who took me there also was kind enough to explain the dishes and their origins and cultural impact very well . This restaurant is worth checking out if you are a meat lover – especially the “melt in your mouth” iberico Jamon

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And then there was the beautiful city of Paris . Crazy busy as always – but plenty of culture to soak in . Too bad I didn’t get time to walk around the city this time . But my local sales leader Yann took me to a nice lunch – also by a Water front – and I could sample some excellent French cuisine . It’s more art than food as always .

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Since I was on 5 flights back to back till reaching France, my colleague Tug and I took a train to Brussels . Such a nice experience – I think I will stick to trains a lot more on future trips

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Brussels is known for good beer, chocolates and waffles . I didn’t have any of that yet . When we reached Brussels yesterday – Tug mentioned an Indian dinner he had the last time he was here . Of course that meant we had to go find an Indian place for dinner and we did . It’s kind of ironic to come to Belgium and eat Desi Khana – but there is no denying I love indian cuisine the best . The restaurant was good – not great . The other shock was that they didn’t take credit cards !
That said – I did have a terrific lamb shank today at the restyrant at the Sheraton today where we met a large Belgian SI partner – and loved it . It was the first dish in this visit that made me remember how over sized American restaurant portions look like :)

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I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the coffee . I must have had 6 cups a day on average to get through the meetings and remain focused . The quality of coffee in all the countries this week has been high – and exceptionally so in France and Spain

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Hopefully I can find some chocolates tonight to take home for my wife and daughter . I need to get them both here on a vacation soon .

I will be back in few months – couldn’t cover UK, Germany , Italy and Netherlands this time . Not that I am really complaining – I don’t think I could have done meetings in 5 cities/countries a week two weeks in a row .