November 23, 2008

Mindblossom Ordeals Continued

In light of the recent comment to my not-so-positive post about Mindblossom and many personal emails regarding this rant, I am utterly appalled over the same problems that people complain about to me, even after a management turnover that was apparently supposed to turn the company around. New management, same problems.

There was quite some controversy over the posting a year later when the president emailed me accusing me of slander and threatening to take legal action and to contact my web host to remove my site. Of course, they were only mean threats as no serious actions were actually taken. The emails themselves seemed quite desperate and petty, but I stood up to the bullying and held firm on keeping my post up (although I decided to change the title to something less subjective) and responded to them with the following:

D----, I had only just received your emails as I have not had the opportunity to check them in the last while. I find it very presumptuous of you to assume that I had simply tossed the matter aside when it had only been 3 days since your first email. I'm sure you now have an idea of how I felt when I was given the runaround for over a month. With that said, please do not suppose yourself to be the epitome of respect and politeness with your accusations of my "rudeness."

As for the issue at hand: my blog is my journal and I have every right to express my personal opinions and experiences of my every day life. This particular post to which you refer simply documented a chain of frustrating events that I had wanted to share. There was no malicious intent in the post to defame the company, yourself or P---; in fact, the post is in no way, shape or form defamatory since the events I had outlined were completely factual (you yourself had even acknowledged that in your last email). To accuse me of "slander", especially from a blog post written well over a year ago, is utterly ridiculous. I am completely over that experience and expressing myself in writing was a good way for me to do so. As you can see, I have never wasted my time or effort to ever write about or "slander" the company after that particular post.

I understand your concern about the title and I will consider changing it to something less subjective. As for the post, I truly believe I have written nothing defamatory as it simply documented events I experienced.

Then last year in December I received an email from Omar Rizvi, the new VP Finance & Operations, whom I had never met, who had actually apologized to me (the first apology I had received from the company). The email went something like this:

"Basically I wanted to apologize for the bad experience you had with us and let you know that we have been purchased by a large media company. We have a whole new leadership team and many of the people you were dealing with have since left the company. The current leadership team is all about conducting business in a professional manner and taking the company to the next level.

So I would appreciate very much if you could take your blog about us off your site since when you Google us it comes up on the first page and hinders us and our efforts to re-launch our company."

However, a month later I received an email from someone contracted by Mindblossom:

Hi Michelle, We've completed a cabling project for MindBlossom and specified they must pay by cheque upon completion. It's been two weeks and we've received similar excuses to what you've pointed out in your blog ("signing authority" is not here now, etc.). We're going down there today to attempt to collect. The "head guy" you referred to, was that Omar Rizvi at the time? Regards, E---

And just yesterday I received this comment to my post:

A photographer friend is having a similar "nightmare" dealing with Minblossom. They owe her over $10,000 and refuse to pay.

I've taken it upon myself to try and help her out by by getting the word out about Mindblossom = BAD NEWS!!!

dead beats!!!!

Any help you can provide could be useful.

You can read the about the entire situation on their own site. Unbelievable eh? I'm glad I stood my ground; now others will now that they aren't the only ones being shafted by this company.

Posted by mich at 12:44 AM | rant | dreams [0]

July 8, 2008


I'm back from a fantastic Nordic vacation with my parents who were visiting for two weeks. We covered Norway, Finland and Estonia and experienced Stockholm's amazing archipelago. I must say, Norway is definitely one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited — I'd love to visit again if it wasn't so freakin' expensive!!

The wonderful thing about living in Europe is that you can travel such a short distance and be immersed in another world of a different culture, language and people. Oh, and who can forget the 5-6 weeks of vacation per year? :)

Here are some recaps of a few more of my past trips...

Swedish Lappland (mid-April)

Christian came to Sweden for a week to visit me and we took a 3-day trip up to Kiruna in the arctic circle. We took an overnight train up north and right when we arrived in Kiruna at 10am we were taken straight into the wilderness for a serene dogsled ride with Alaskan huskies. For lunch we stopped in a forest camp and had a delicious Sami meal of reindeer meat and potatoes with lingonberry sauce while sitting around a campfire on warm reindeer fur. Our musher, Stefan, recalled a story of when he was hiking in the area and just encountered Mats Sundin in the middle of the arctic woods!

In the afternoon we suited up for a snowmobile tour to the town of Jukkasjärvi, home of the original Ice Hotel. We were joined by 4 others, who just happened to be from Toronto as well (small world!) I only rode in the back on the way there, but it was an exhilarating experience. The Ice Hotel is built along the Torne River, from which all the ice for its construction was farmed. There's a huge ice factory right next to it that farms all the ice for next year's ice hotel as well as for exporting to the Absolut Ice Bars in Stockholm, Copenhagen, London and Tokyo. Inside the hotel we saw the Ice Church, where many couples get married, the original Absolut Ice Bar, and of course, the artist-designed rooms and suites, which were really amazing.

I had the chance to drive the snowmobile back, but we hit a lake with really deep snow so when I tried turning, we started leaning over too much and toppled into the snow. And it happened again. And again :P Whoops. After making Christian faceplant into the snow 3 times I decided it was time for him to drive again. We arrived back to our base camp at Lake Alta and had a dinner of more reindeer, potatoes and lingonberry sauce (yum!) Because we were so far north, the sun didn't set until 10pm and even after sunset there were a few hours of twilight. That meant we had to wait until midnight to even have a chance to see any glimpse of the Nothern Lights. So after dinner we just hung out in the sauna and socialized with two other guys visiting from Germany until our tour guide came by at midnight to pick us up to take us to some mountain for a better view.

Our guide was pretty skeptical of our chances of seeing it that night though so he just brought us back into town to our hostel. I had been pretty much resigned to the fact that we probably wouldn't be seeing because 1) peak season was only November - March, 2) we were only staying one night and nighttime only lasted 2 hours 3) the last occurrence was 2 weeks prior. Once we got to the hostel, I got out of the van and made a beeline to the door — that's when our guide told us to look up. Lo and behold, it was the northern lights dancing above our heads!! At first when I looked up I didn't think it was anything since it just looked like a streak of milky clouds, but then it turned into green curtain streaking the sky. It was sImply amazing!

The next day we just explored the town of Kiruna, which didn't have much to see except a nice Sami-styled church that was named the most beautiful building in Sweden in 2002. We had an overnight train to catch back to Stockholm but when we arrived at the train station, we encountered Slovak signs all over the place and even the train station sign said Bratislava. It was really quite confusing until we noticed a film crew further down the tracks!

Russia (early May)

During Valborg Sweden had another super long weekend so I took advantage of the extra days off and headed off to Russia with Melissa. We spent 2.5 days in St. Petersburg and visited Peter and Paul Fortress, Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, and the Hermitage, and explored the Nevsky Prospekt and Mariinsky Theatre areas. We took an overnight train to Moscow and I must say I was highly impressed by the comfort level of our couchettes. I was actually really apprehensive about the overnight trains because I read that they were pretty dirty and ghetto, but this train was actually the fanciest one I've ever been on: plush carpet, 4 beds (instead of 6) ready-made with nice linen and real pillows, free toiletries kit with slippers, breakfast box in the morning, and a car attendant serving free tea and coffee.

Moscow was beautiful and unbelievably clean, despite everyone from St. Petersburg telling us that it was dirty and there was nothing to see. On the contrary, I enjoyed it more than St. Petersburg, and it seemed more Russian to me, whereas St. Petersburg felt too European. Our Moscow sightseeing included the must-sees like the Kremlin and Red Square, touring around the metro system and visiting the ornately-decorated stations, window shopping at GUM, and exploring most of the central districts on foot. I ventured on my own to the New Tretyakov Gallery, the modern art museum, to see the the famous works of Russian avant-garde artists Malevich, Tatlin, and Kandinsky.

Since the entire country was preparing for Victory Day on May 9, Lenin's tomb was closed off so we couldn't visit it. We also tried getting ballet tickets in both cities but they were all sold out :(

Copenhagen (mid-May)

I absolutely LOVED Copenhagen — it is by far one of my favourite cities: lively atmosphere, vibrant art and design scene, amazing contemporary architecture, and super friendly people (they don't even seem Scandinavian!) Whenever my friend or I were looking at a map on the street there was always someone stopping to ask whether we needed help. One couple even directed us to a huge outdoor flea market nearby, where I snatched up some cheap finds: a scarf, tank top, and bag all for $9! The vendor that I shopped at suggested us to lunch at a popular patio restaurant on the canal so we rode our bikes over for an amazing meal out in the sun. The rest of the weekend in Copenhagen involved the obvious tourist sites like walking along Europe's longest pedestrian street, Strøget, visiting the colourful Nyhavn harbour, exploring the community of Christiana, riding bumper cars in Tivoli Gardens, visiting the The Danish Design Centre, checking out all the contemporary architecture dotted throughout the city, and of course, making the trekk to see the Little Mermaid sculpture.

Posted by mich at 12:44 PM | travel | dreams [0]

June 13, 2008

Scootering in Spain

I just came back from a 5-day trip to Barcelona, where I met up with Monzi visiting from Toronto. The weather there was actually much cooler than in Sweden, but it was nice and refreshing.

One of my favourite things about Barcelona is the wonderful architecture of Antoni Gaudí dotted throughout the city. Gaudí-designed buildings and public spaces such as the Sagrada Família, Padrera, Casa Batlló, and Parc Güell, and public street furniture like whimsical lamps and benches give the city such a unique and fantastical character.

The highlight of the trip was renting a scooter for a day and riding from Barceloneta beach across the entire city northwards and all the way up to Mount Tibidabo, where we had a breathtaking view of the city. From Tibidabo we scootered over to the western hill, Montjuïc, site of the Olympic stadium and Mies van der Rohe's beautifully simplistic Barcelona Pavilion.

I absolutely loved Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and El Born areas for their labyrinths of narrow alleyways filled with boutiques, cute cafés and restaurants, public squares, medieval architecture and random street performances. Everywhere you walk there's a surprise at each turn, whether it be a beautiful massive cathedral, bullet holes left intact from the Spanish Civil War, a cloister courtyard that was home to 13 geese (each goose represents one year in the life of the martyr Santa Eulalia), or a performer twirling sticks of fire.

I also checked out the Picasso Museum, which had been set up by Picasso himself and to which he personally donated a huge collection of his early works. I was completely blown away with his Las Meninas series, in which he painted 44 stylized interpretations of Velázquez's famous painting. Another great museum I visited was the MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona). Since I came here the morning of my last day I only had enough time to check out an exhibit on Barcelona's Francesc Torres, a multimedia and conceptual artist focused on themes of memory, culture and politics.

I was really looking forward to amazing food on this trip but was slightly disappointed. I guess we weren't going to the right places, but we encountered undercooked chicken or almost raw minced meat at several restaurants we chose x_X Thankfully Paul, who had lived in Barcelona for 2.5 years, met up with us a few days later and took us to a great place by Port Olympic and we enjoyed seafood paella on the beach. We did it Spanish style too, starting our lunch at 3:30pm and eating until 5pm — it was a fantastic meal with good food, nice scenery, beautiful weather, and great company ^_^

May 30, 2008

Alive and Kicking

Peek-a-boo. I know it's been a long hiatus since I've last blogged... I had some database problems that took me a while to fix, and after that most my free time was occupied by exploring Stockholm or travelling (the vacation kind) every other week :P I just came back from a weekend trip to Copenhagen and I am completely in love with that city: amazing modern architecture, stylish interior designs, vibrant energy on the streets even in the wee hours of the night, random public art/sound installations throughout the city, extremely bicycle-friendly, and super friendly people. But more on my trip later. Here's some updates from the past few months I've been M.I.A.

Grad School

The biggest update is that I'll be moving to Hong Kong in the fall for grad school starting in September. I got accepted into their one-year MDes program in Interaction Design (with a scholarship to boot!)

I basically had no life in January and February as I was applying for my schools. On top of preparing my portfolio and motivation letters, the killer was applying for the Swedish schools that asked for a ridiculous amount of work: Malmö University had a hard-core design assignment (imagine doing a full CSC 318 project by yourself!), while Konstfack in Stockholm required a thesis proposal and then some. I was asked in to an interview with Konstfack in front of a panel of 5 faculty members. It was probably the most intense interview I've ever experienced, during which they grilled me on my thesis on emotionally expressive communication devices and the current/future ethical issues within the design field. The program at Konstfack is Experience Design, which encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, so they were planning to accept only one student each from a different specialization (architecture, sound/light design, interaction design, etc.) to create a small "dream team," I guess you can say.

In the end I was actually accepted into all my schools, including Parsons School of Design in NYC (however, with prestige comes ridiculously hefty debts, even after taking into consideration my scholarship offer.) The Swedish schools seemed really attractive, especially with the free tuition, but I'm not sure if I'd be happy living here in Sweden for another 2 years (especially in the winter.) Hong Kong seemed like the best choice for me since it's specialized in Interaction Design (Parsons and Konstfack are not), it's a short, yet intense, 1-year program, the expenses won't entirely break my bank account, and it'd be another interesting change of environment (perhaps I'll even improve my Cantonese too!)

Continue reading "Alive and Kicking"
Posted by mich at 7:36 PM | school, travel | dreams [0]

February 19, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!

Back in Canada I had never felt so sun-deprived as I did here in Sweden this winter. During the darkest of days the sun would rise at 9am and set at 2:30pm but that wasn't even the worst part. You can go on for days or weeks without seeing the sun because it's always cloudy or rainy during the daytime, and when the sun finally peeps through for a glorious moment one day, it's the most miraculous feeling. I didn't realize how much the lack of sunlight would affect me but it took a big toll on me, so much so that I really don't know if I can endure another winter this far up north.

It was quite a drab winter since this was the mildest winter they've had here in 250 years. Snow would have definitely helped to brighten up the sky, but all I saw was rain. Incidentally, the only days where the temperature dipped below -5C was last weekend, during which I found myself lining up for 1 hour to attend Lykke Li's concert, only to be rejected so close to the entrance because the venue had filled up. Frost-bitten toes did nothing to ease my disappointment :(

However, I'm in high spirits now that the worst is behind me. I've been so obsessed with daylight that I've been counting the amount of extra sunlight we're gaining every week (almost 30 min!), and apparently most people here do so as well. In the city centre there's an area with rows upon rows of benches installed all facing one direction but I was quite confused when I couldn't find a stage. I just learned last week that these benches are facing the direction of the sun - in the spring and summer people just sit on the benches, close their eyes and just let the sun shine on their faces.

I'm just absolutely ecstatic for 20 hour daylight in the summer... but by then I'll probably be complaining about how much I miss dark nights!

Posted by mich at 9:29 AM | musings | dreams [0]

February 9, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat!

Gong hei fat choi! ^__^ For New Year's Eve my Chinese friend and I prepared a small dinner for a few friends and it turned out quite well! On the menu we had cucumber salad, borscht soup, Peking duck, homemade dumplings, tea leaf eggs, and soy sauce chicken - I was quite impressed by what we pulled off! I took a bunch of pictures so I can show my parents... they won't believe it otherwise, haha.

This evening I was invited out to a new year dinner at a Chinese restaurant with a Chinese group I had just met. It was a bit weird for me though because they were mostly speaking Mandarin and Swedish so I couldn't understand anything unless they spoke to me in English o_O I was so fascinated though by how they just switched back and forth between Chinese and fluent Swedish, it was pretty cool. The dinner was my first taste of European Chinese food (something I had been really reluctant to try) but it wasn't too bad. The cuisine was more northern-China style so it was quite heavy and saucy, which I'm not used to.

So it's finally February, thank goodness. It felt like January would never end with all my endless nights slaving away in front of my computer. It was such a brutal month for me and I swear I almost turned into a zombie with the little sleep I had. But I did manage to squeeze in a few fun activities to keep my spirits up.

Dinner at Koh Phangan
For a friend's birthday we went to to a really great Thai restaurant called Koh Phangan. Right when you walk inside it feels like you entered a tropical paradise of beach huts, bridged walkways, waterfalls and caves. It even had a "rainstorm" in the middle of dinner. The food actually wasn't too bad. I just ordered a simple vegetarian plate of pad thai, but at $25 that was the most expensive pad thai I've ever had!

Colombian Night
My Colombian roommate gathered her Colombian posse over to our place one evening and cooked us a dinner of arepas, chorizos, and beans. Very yummy indeed. They continued the festivities into our living room by cranking up some Latin music and taught the non-Colombians some salsa dancing. That was great fun, but I was stepping all over people's toes :P

I attended my first symphony concert here watching the Stockholm Philharmonic one afternoon. It was so nice and I got all nostalgic for my symphony-going days with Christina back in Toronto. The repertoire they played that day was a modern set - very punchy, playful and oddly rhythmed, which is something I wasn't used to hearing but I thought it was so fantastic.

Hawaiian Pub Night
Every last Friday of the month my office holds a pub night. This time it was a Hawaiian theme to bring some sunshine to our dark and dreary Scandinavian winter. Some people acted as bartenders all decked out in Hawaiian shirts and mixed colourful fruity drinks complete with umbrellas and pineapples. The Hawaiian island music and leis were the perfect finishing touches... totally made me want to go to Hawaii!

Riga Cruise
Last weekend a group of us took a cruise to Riga, the capital of Latvia. It was an overnight boat trip and everyone was prepared to party and take advantage of the duty free alcohol prices, but our tiny boat was hit by a storm by 9pm. With the extreme rocking and shaking, most of us ended up with pretty bad motion sickness, including yours truly. We finally made it through the night though and spent the next day exploring the city. Riga is pretty small so we were able to see most of the main sites within the day. It still seemed pretty European though... I was expecting more of a Soviet feel. We boarded the ship again that evening and for the ride back we armed ourselves with motion sickness pills. The storm on the second night was actually even worse than the previous but luckily we were already lying down in bed by that time. What an experience... I'll stick with bigger boats next time to Finland and Estonia thank you very much!

January 11, 2008

Holiday in Göteborg

For the holidays I had 11 days off so I spent most of the time hanging out with Paul over on the other side of Sweden. Even though Göteborg (pronounced yur-teh-boor-ay) is the Sweden's second largest city, it's really quite small and compact. I was really starting to miss Stockholm's metro system after the entire week of waiting for trams and buses in the miserable rain.

I did the typical tourist run of the city exploring the Old Town, city centre, and various museums. I was quite disappointed with the two art museums: the fine art museum only had one exhibit of mish-mashed works by a local art collective and its Hasselblad Centre featured a photographer whose works weren't enthralling to me, and the Röhsska Museum was a design and decorative arts museum but the temporary exhibit featuring a video and sound installation was the only thing that stood out for me. The Museum of World Culture was a surprisingly fantastic however, and the building itself was a gorgeous work of architecture. I spent over an hour in one of the feature exhibits called Trafficking, about the human trafficking of women and children mainly for prostitution. It was so appalling reading and watching videos of horrible stories that have taken place in all parts of the world.

Göteborg is the birthplace of Volvo so of course I had to visit the Volvo museum. Unfortunately Paul and I didn't realize how far it was from the city centre so our trip took about an hour. Since we also slept in super late that day we arrived to the museum at 3:30... and the museum was closing at 4. Amazingly there was another pair of visitors that arrived at the same time as us and the museum employees told us to take our time to explore. We didn't realize how big the museum actually was and ended up taking 2 hours to watch an intro film and to walk through all the exhibits. Although I'm not a big car person, I love looking at old-fashioned cars and I'm such a big sucker for the whimsical designs and colours from the 50's. They also had a section for experimental prototypes that was really neat. It featured environmentally friendly concept models including one that actually cleaned the air when being driven!

On my second last day in Gothenburg, the rain finally stopped and we saw sunlight for the very first time! We took advantage of the weather and took a nice ferry ride out to the archipelago to visit one of the islands. We took a quick walk around and admired the quaint traditional Swedish houses, which are mostly wooden and colourfully painted. I love them... I couldn't stop snapping away!

Since Paul's a dancer at the Opera Company I had the pleasure of watching him perform in Askungen, a fun and colourful adaptation of Cinderella. The performance was great... I think that was my first time watching a modern dance performance rather than a ballet so it was quite different and interesting for me.

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