Friday, August 30, 2013

Hello Baltics

House of the Balckheads

This was not planned. Oh, Baltics was, Riga was not. My initial understanding of my itinerary was that I have to go to Vilnius at some point. A lot of time was spent reading up about Vilnius and Lithuania and learning from my colleague who lives there. But, Riga came up before that and there was an exciting meeting to attend and an interesting forum to speak at. The flight, mind you could be a little terrifying at the start. The planes which ply on these regional European routes are the smallest commercial planes could ever be. It was a small Bombardier this time, Air Baltic. Pretty stripped down budget airline with a rare direct connection between Warsaw and Riga. The airplane is so small that smoothness of the flight is totally a factor of wind and weather and plane's actual weight is a non entity. Anyways, I reached Riga, the small capital of Latvia in about 1 hour of flying. A beautiful tiny capital on the baltic sea, Riga is a delight for lovers of art-nouveau buildings and quaint cobblestone alleys.
Riga is only a small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and colour. You can travel everywhere by foot, and within minutes you’ll start to notice it’s a city that takes pride on skirting away from the norm. I didn't find the same generic shops, restaurants and bars that most major cities have bought into; instead every corner invites you to learn more about Latvian / Baltic culture, whether it’s one of the many restaurants offering potato rich Latvian cuisine, or one of the many shops stacked head-to-toe with books and vinyl records. In fact, this is the first capital city I’ve been to in which I just saw 1 (yes, just ONE) McDonalds sign.
I was staying in the Old town area, so the first thing I did after reaching Riga in the evening was to stumble on the rough cobblestone streets, not once and not twice, but at least five times in a span of about a minute, simply because I was looking up at the buildings and not watching where I put my feet.
Once that bout of clumsiness was over and I figured out how to walk again, I proceeded to spend a couple of hours, just walking, turning left and turning right, choosing random streets and lanes and just seeing where it would all lead me. Riga old town is a colorful collection of restored historical buildings, which happens to contain the largest collection of German Art Nouveau architecture on the planet, a fact that, when read carefully, is quite an astonishing fact indeed. Riga and other baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia) had a big German population until the Nazis arrived and sent them back to Germany. Riga also has a nice Indian restaurant, with a very corny name - ‘India Raja’. The food was delish and hosts nice (British, not Indian). British have become the biggest beacons for Indian food anywhere, if you go to an Indian restaurant and hear british people there, its bound to be good. They have a good palate for curry.
Lovely boats in the canal
Medieval street and very authentic medieval restaurant
Cool colorful buildings where everywhere
Bird's eye view of Riga and the daugava river
Freedom memorial
Old town 

Next day was supposed to be all business and I attended a workshop which was almost all in Latvian. So, I basically checked email and wrote a blog post while smiling and nodding to the crowd. Such huge is the difference between Baltic languages that my colleague from Lithuania, which is just 400 km away couldn't understand a word either. The binding language for the Baltics is guess what? Russian. Yes, Russians pretty much ruled these lands till the 1990s until the USSR broke down. And, they are hated here. The baltic nations have one and only one foreign policy - ‘Do anything that pinches the russians’. I also learned that in order to get sovereignty and get the russian army to leave after USSR fell, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians created a massive human chain of millions of people holding hands and walked to the russian border. Very interesting.
Another great thing about the Baltics is the almost ubiquitous internet. Internet penetration is in the north of 80% and its incredible. When you walk into a restaurant, you are offered the menu and the password. I came to know of an interesting fact regarding this. When the Russians finally left in early 90s, Estonia thought of being a ultra modern state right away. They became the internet hub of Europe, leap-froged bureaucracy and became a totally e-governed state, almost completely paperless. Initially they even branded themselves as “e-Stonia”. High speed internet is almost a fundamental right here. Our 12% internet penetration suddenly looked a little low.
That evening was spent dining with colleagues and partners at the ‘Biggest open rooftop restaurants in the region’, quite a place to spend an evening overlooking almost all of the city in every direction. Also, helpful was the fact that the days are really really long there, sun was yet to set at 10 PM. In the conversation, I discovered that Riga was a very important Hansa port on the Baltic sea.And, that explains the very ornate ‘House of the Blackheads’ (pic at the top). I had never before heard of the ‘Hanseatic League’. It was powerful commercial and defensive confederation of merchants all along the land and sea supply lines in Europe. Hansa cities and ports also had a very unique architecture, Hamburg used to be one of the most prominent ones. Luft’hansa’ - rings a bell?
Spent the next day in more meetings (thankfully in english) and then was invited to speak at the only startup accelerator in Latvia about Enterprise Technologies. A very enthusiastic, young bunch of entrepreneurs working on the next gen mobile apps and web based services. Roamed around the city again and it was wonderful. Riga is only around half a million people and although it has recently become famous as a party destination for piss drunk teenagers from western Europe (thanks to Ryanair), the city was very pleasantly not full of people. Very walkable and full of great architecture and beautiful little sights on every turn and corner. I particularly liked the two big churches in the small town, both in brick gothic and with very high watchtowers.  One of the must dos in Riga according to tripadvisor was climbing the high watchtower of St Peter’s Basilica, I did that. I love vantage points, they give you a unique perspective of a place, they broaden your horizon, quite literally. The after a long ride on the elevator, which seemed to take ages I reached the top most part of the tower and the view was really breathtaking.  That was infact the last thing I did in the city before heading back to Warsaw and I would consider it to be the highpoint of my visit (again, quite literally). 
Impressed with how much of a unique culture, architecture and history this little country has packed in itself.Four months ago, I had not even dreamt of visiting Riga or Latvia and had a very very bleak idea of what the Baltic states are. But, having spent 3 days in this lovely city, I definitely understand more and what I had not even dreamt about is suddenly one of the coolest places I have seen. So much for four months.

More later


Friday, August 9, 2013

The golden city of a hundred spires - Prague

It might have been not more than 10-15 years since I first heard of Prague. It was a pretty unknown capital in the nineties, at least for people not from Europe. Capital of Czechoslovakia till 1990, no one would have dreamt of traveling to Prague because it was eastern bloc. The only reason we would ever quote Czechoslovakia during school was to check the other person's knowledge of its twisted spellings.
But something happened after the iron curtain came down in the nineties and much like other cities of far more repute like Berlin, Prague reinvented itself as a destination of the alternative arts movement. All kinds of grunge artists, musicians, painters and writers started flocking to the city, which even the great (though a little eccentric) Franz Kafka called home. The whole metamorphosis of the city in this manner has been a tourism boon and Prague is suddenly on many travel buckets lists for people from all over the world.
So, what were we expecting to find in the ancient capital of 'Bohemia'? Well, honestly a lot of heritage buildings, cobbled stone streets and hmmm,,,thats about it. We were a little skeptical because the over hyping of Krakow which everyone seemed to have done for us. Krakow was good, though a little dilapidated and crumbling. I guess maybe we missed the whole point of being in Krakow. But, to be honest it was just okay. The only highlight in Krakow was the Oscar Schindler factory and museum.
Hence Prague was being planned with a high level of probability for a 'meh' kind of a reaction.
We reached late in the evening and it was surprisingly warm. People with kids would attest and understand that if your kid behaves well during a flight and does not create embarrassing moments for you, your trip is half successful anyways. So, reaching Prague was good and we were looking forward to the next day of exploring the city.
Susan Miller was correct, next day was a mini disaster. Sort of a day when you just want to go home and not even look outside the window. Prague was in the middle of a massive heatwave. It was 40 degrees there that day, totally not my idea of a place in Europe, absolutely not my idea of a day walking around the streets in hot, scorching sun. This reaction comes as a shocker to many, being Indians and also being exposed to the nastiness of the Australian sun people assume that 40 degrees might be a piece of cake for us. But, let me correct you, in India no one willingly ventures out in open sun say in June to 'enjoy' themselves. These kind of leisurely activities are parked till autumn or early spring. And, Australia thankfully has a wonderful cartel between sun and rain, so the day it touches a certain temperature in summer, rest assured you'll get some welcome showers in the night. So, being out in Prague that day trying to squint (to basically cut the amount of light entering and hence hurting your retinas) and look at all the gothic architectural marvels was excruciating. Oh, all this while we were taking turns in pushing a stroller with a kid and the poor guy looked tired and red like a slightly wilted tomato in all that heat. We had simply picked the wrong weekend to be here.
So, after a quick stroll around the old town square (totally not enjoying it) we decided to just go back to the hotel and chill. Who remembers that sinking feeling one gets after spending the money and then realizing it just went down the toilet? I do, I do.
But things have a way of working out, just when you decide to just screw it. We went for a boat ride on the Vltava river in the evening and although still hot, that was a good experience. We got another chance to see and thus appreciate the wealth of beauty that this city has. Prague has been a capital for most of the last 1200 or so years. At least a couple of Roman Emperors were based here and hence it was once a capital of the holy roman empire, followed by the Habsburg monarchy and their Austro-Hungarian empire. After the world war it became the capital of Czechoslovakia and we know the rest. But, since the city was around during the Romanesque period through to the Gothic and then the Renaissance, it has an imprint of all those periods on it. A good 70% of the building would still confirm to a more Gothic style of architecture though. A lot of famous landmarks, like the very well known Charles Bridge are named after, well Charles or Emperor Charles IV, whose reign was probably the golden era in Prague's history.
The most amazing thing that strikes you while in Prague is the fact that there are streets and corners and building in the city which haven't changed fot the last 700 years. This city basically escaped WW2 untouched. Every corner of the city, believe me every corner has something to prove it. There are statues of Gods, sometimes just the busts and sometimes in full glory (read naked glory), which were amazing examples of workmanship. Possibly in every form of medieval architectural design style you know of, from gothic to baroque to renaissance. We saw the astronomical clock which has various urban legends around it, people still trying to figure out the hidden cryptic meanings of all the marking on it. The strange yet enormously beautiful chimes and trumpet sequence that the clock plays at top of every hour is a must watch. With elves and various figures coming out of small windows signifying a life and death philosophy. Tyn church is just across the big town center courtyard. The most original example of a gothic building you'll find anywhere, just beautiful.

Next day was reserved for the beautiful Prague castle or 'prazsky hrad'. This is one landmark which stands out in the whole city. Visible from everywhere, the castle is build on a hill. We took a tram which travelled uphill to one of the side entrances of the castle. You walk-in leisurely and as you take the first turn your eyes are greeted by something out of this world - Rising, as if from the pointed canopy of the trees, in front of the Prague castle is the cathedral of St Vitus, designed and commissioned in the 14th century by Charles IV, the then king of Bohemia and soon to be the Holy Roman Emperor. It is hands down the most beautiful building I have ever seen in my life. It is something that dwarfs everything around it. Superb Gothic architecture and design and big scale beautiful construction. We went in and were amazed equally by the interior, the ornate stained glass windows and the unbelievably high ceiling. Breathtaking. Couldn't get enough of it. Strolled the various courtyards of the castle and also various side streets and alleys around it. This castle is also home to the President of Czech republic so had a wing which was pretty modern compared to majority of the structure.

Then we did, the opposite of what we had planned to do day before. We walked down the narrow yet very very beautiful street that leads to the rest of Prague through Charles bridge. It was an experience in itself. Almost pristinely medieval, this street is a must walk while in town. Small boutiques selling handicrafts and souvenirs, Kafka-esque art with existential theme and beautiful paintings of various parts if the town.
Also feeling hungry since it was past lunch time, we were essentially looking for an Italian place to eat (the fact that you can always find some pizza and a couple of different pastas, this cuisine is godsend for vegetarians). But, surprise surprise, we saw 'Gopal vegetariansky restaurace'. This place was unique and superb, run by a Czech guy along with his wife. This guy is a ISKON follower, down to the last detail with a 'choti' and a 'hare krishna' kurta. Soft spoken almost to a fault, he welcomed us with folded hands, which even people in India have stopped doing. When asked for a menu he said, he has a set menu, a thali in a typical ISKON style with sabzi, daal, chawal and sweet. There comes a time while traveling when you are so sick and tired of eating out and that you just want something simple like daal chawal to eat. We were going through that time and Gopal was the perfect antidote. Simple comfort food is one of the most underrated great things in the world. We thanked him profusely for the amazing lunch (with folded hands, of course). Walked further down to the Charles bridge through the busy street with cafes and little boutiques selling all sorts of things. Facades which haven't changed in centuries and restaurant which have been around for decades if not more. Charles Bridge or 'karluv most' is one of the most recognized landmarks of the city, studded with 30 statues in baroque style. A walk across it ranked pretty high in my travel to-do list not long ago.

So, that was a superb end to our Prague trip after not-so-ideal start. Me and my wife both agree that Prague by far is the most beautiful city we have ever seen, there is a strange charm about this city which is different and unique. I have an inkling that Ljubljana or Paris might change our ranking of the most beautiful city a bit. A lot of travel coming up and I have some very interesting places in my itinerary.
This blog is going to be a busy place.

More later.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amazing quote

                                                      Just wanted to post this,,,,thats it!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

European Summer

I think it was an year or two ago when I stopped making concrete plans, from smaller like travel to slightly more important like career. I am yet to regret it.
A little less than a month before I was supposed to go, it became clear that I am going to skip the entire Australian winters and swap them out for nice European summer. I would have happily spent 3 month planning this trip but only had about 3 weeks till departure. Well, everything fell into its place and now I am in Warsaw with family for a 3 month gig on a totally different team and setup.  This is one of those hidden wonderful things about Google, as soon as someone starts to plateau in their current role and needs motivation and a chance to re-activate some dormant parts of the brain, he/she could go on a rotation and learn completely new things and come back refreshed and recharged (throw a summer in Europe in this mix and things become more interesting).

Warsaw is not the kind of town which comes to ones mind when they think about Europe, honestly. London, Paris and Rome are more like it. But, Warsaw is amazing. It is this unique melting pot of east and west. This city was almost completely leveled in WW2. And, then came the Russians. Sometimes I have this pet research project I want to do, to find out if Stalin was in any way influenced by Alexander the great. He had an almost maniacal obsession with building a Soviet legacy in lands as far away as Cuba. Poland and other Eastern European countries were anyways his backyard. So, yes Warsaw, after the Russians were ousted in 1989 started to reinvent itself like the rest of Europe. One can still see the some parts of the city at this inflection point, where old Soviet style housing is giving way to glitzy glass corporate towers.

Since, its the first time we are in Europe and would spend at least a fourth of an year here, we were surprised by how different it is to what was in our mind. To start with, its damn beautiful, the street cafe scene is like none other and people really seem to love summers. We are put up in a nice apartment in the center of Warsaw and we are loving it.
Here are my initial observation about Poland in general and Warsaw in particular:

1) Language :( For 3 days after we landed here, we had a hard time figuring out, what was going on. While asking for direction I had to stop and annoy 10 people on the street before running into someone who could say 'yes' or 'no'. Not many people speak English. It obviously is not the case in offices or other business but if you want to navigate around the city, you could only rely on your instinct (and/or google translate). All street signs, shop signs, labels, wrappers and advertisements are in Polish. The only english street sign I found was the one which said 'Road closed for Metro Construction'. Thanks, very helpful. At least 3 people at the supermarket took me to the toothpaste section when I asked for 'pasta' (only to find out later that pasta is 'makaron' in Polish).

2) I have seen many cities but none so homogeneously caucasian. Even in Delhi, one can find many different ethnicities. Sydney is superbly multicultural. Warsaw is the most ethnically and racially (even linguistically) homogeneous capital city I have seen. Three of us often stand out in a crowd very obviously.

3) 'Stare Miastos' or Old towns are beautiful. Almost all cities in central Europe have them, small or big. They are quite unlike the image of an 'old town' that forms in the mind of most Indians. These stare miastos are actually the heart of the city and something people are very proud of.  Cobbled streets, old colorful houses, old trams and vintage charm is everywhere to be seen.

4) Summers. The only time (i have been told) one should even think of visiting Europe. And, rightly so. Though, I am not going to comment on winters and just how horrible they might be in these temperate lands, I'll definitely comment on summers and how beautiful they are here. The whole vibe of the city is of a big carnival, People seem to enjoy being out and in the warm sun. Streets are full of people till late and it helps and it only starts to look like evening by about 9:30 in the night and is pretty sunny till 8PM. Its beautiful flowers everywhere, which I think a lot of other cities in the world should learn from Europe. People bike, skate and just tend to linger on the street side cafes and restaurants.

So there, loving it here now. A lot of travel is scheduled for the coming 3 months. Some official, to places like Ljubljana (who would have thought) and some to more touristy, like Paris and Prague.
Will keep updating here as and when I find time. Looking forward to the summer.

More late!!!


Friday, May 31, 2013

42 Days later..

It has been 42 days since I last saw what facebook looks like. And, it has been fantastic. For all of you who are worried about the enormous withdrawal symptoms, there isn't such a thing. I did not miss it even for a day.
Then again, I did not even stick to the plan of writing blogs instead. I am actually writing after 41 days. So, what happend when I deactivated facebook? Let me fill you in.
I deactivated on the 17th April and also deleted the app from my mobile and my tablet. I was worried that the weight of sheer boredom and muscle memory would be too heavy to resist checking the app on mobile for a 'just a little while'. Next morning started a little differently, instead of wasting time looking at other people's updates (or rather finding updates from the haystack of junk and spam), I actually read news. By the time evening came and into the next day I had completely forgotten my 634 'friends'.
The real ones actually called to check on my sudden decision and genuinely agreed to all my rant.

42 days later I realized that in fact my will to be away from a useless activity which was clearly becoming a nagging addiction was greater than the pull that activity had on me. Its funny because the only reason I did not deactivate my profile earlier was because I never thought I would be able to do it. But, believe me when I say this YOU DONT MISS FACEBOOK. After a day or so, you just dont.
I would encourage everyone to try it, its liberating and requires no rehab.
I am actually planning to rejoin the service, which is as easy as signing back in. But, I wont do it without a big spring cleaning of my friend list. No one can have 634 friends, its impossible. So, how do I plan to go about cleaning it? I have come up with a method, it goes like this...
...if I have ever in my life till now spent more than 5 mins talking to someone face to face in my timeline, they will stay in my timeline. For the rest, lets be honest, If we havent spoken in all these years for even 5 mins, what are the chances we are going to do so in the near future? Let me break this to you, 'close to none'. End of the day the only updates and photos we actually care about on facebook are from the people we secretly hate ;)

-everyone who has ever called me 'dear' is going too.

-you like your own pics? bye bye

-oh, you like ending all comments with 'god bless'? Adios

-football fanatic living in India and cursing everyone after a loss as if you are from the home counties? Take a hike

There would still be people who I would delete from the list, even if we have spoken for hours. The only reason for this would be: that you are a chronic spammer, and have been sending me 'bubble safari' and 'cityville' invitation everyday. Or, have been asking all your friends to like photos of dead soldiers or unwell kids. I am going to create an excel sheet (yes, I am that old) and keep track of how many spammy posts you make. If you hit the threshold of 3 posts in 2 days (I will be watching) you are out. So, DO NOT CLICK THAT LIKE BUTTON.

See you all there soon.

[most of this post has been written in jest. Please do not change your FB behavior and spam as much as you can (i hope someone falls into this trap)]

-more later

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Facebook fatigue

I joined on the 29th July 2007. It was still Orkut's territory in India and only a handful of known people were on facebook. I spent the better part of 2007 with just a bunch of friends active on the network. But, it felt good, it was way better than the social mess that Orkut had become. Only a few 'like-minded' people here and no open public scrapbooks and no more orkut's much hated 'who visited your profile' tool. This term wasn't coined back then but may be it was a case of Orkut fatigue.

Facebook hence started to flourish. Friends started joining, after initial throws of change management from scraps to likes and comments facebook started becoming a good place to spend time. I was sort of a power user myself, always signing up to receive the first changes like timeline or sponsored stories or more recently graph search. I was the early adopter, I also surprisingly never cribbed about changed designs or mobile versions. I was all in. Shared tonnes of photographs, became friends with absolutely anyone I remotely recognized, status updates by the dozens per week and always being 'on' whether it was the website or the apps on mobile.
And, then I became sick of it all. There is a very popular saying in north india, whenever your day is panning out badly people say "Pata nahi uth kar kiski shakal dekhi thi?", which means "Dont know who I saw first thing in the morning today?".  I usually wake up at 5:30 in the morning and the first thing I do after checking email on my phone is open facebook and then look at thousands of faces some known some not so much and other completely unknown and hence I cant put a precise blame on "who I saw first thing in the morning" if my day turns out bad.
But, jokes apart facebook for me has outgrown the intended use periphery. I have 650 friends. Really?? Yes, last time I checked, it was 654 with 21 friend requests pending and about 55 followers. The intended use case for me was being in touch with friends, see there pictures when they share and generally being in the know of what my connections are doing. But, now those updates are just 10% of my timeline at any point of time.

Hey people at facebook, why would I ever be interested in knowing if one of my friend's friend like Calvin Klein underwear or 50 shades of grey? Thats just creepy. I also never understood why I am being shown pictures of dont know who if one of my friends like them.  Any rant about the amount of useless spam would be like repeating myself after gazillions of people.

So, I deactivated facebook today morning and also deleted the app from my phone and tablet. Bliss. I am sure, just like with every other addiction there are going to be withdrawal symptoms like 'sudden uncontrollable urge to see random photos and like them' or 'ask random people how fabulous their life is and where they had their last vacation' etc etc. But you know what, I am determined to kick this habit. I am going to use up that time to update here. Or, if nothing else play with my toddler son while at home. So much more fulfilling.
Recently I asked myself - what I think would be the earliest images Yuri would have of me when he grows up? Scarily enough I saw myself lounging on the sofa browsing facebook on my phone. Screw you facebook, not any more.

More later.

Monday, January 14, 2013

If running was easy... :(

Seriously, I hate people who seem to be born with lean genes. I mean come on, stop acting like you worked hard for it. All of us know atleast one person who falls into this 'elite' category. Someone who is loved and appreciated on face but is the target of all those cuss words we say while running on a steep incline.

To be honest, I used to be one till age 25 or so, eat what you like, as much as you like,  take your motobike even if you want to travel 135 meters and..... still no flab, no extra chins, no jiggly-jaggly embarrassing upper body while walking etc etc. Just lean muscle, 12-14% body fat percentage, 21-22 BMI with some visible muscle definition.

And, suddenly one fine day something changes and you dont notice it, so you keep eating the way you do and taking your motorbike everywhere. But, suddenly your body has decided to shift gears from 'who gives a crap' to 'WTF have I been eating' and in 2-5 months (depending upon your daily food intake and average torso girth of your immediate family) you cant just run down the stairs without people noticing a 'bounce' in your shirt. DAMN EMBARRASSING.
I still did not realize the gravity of this situation then and let it happen. It took almost 6 months and embarrassing name calling from friends and my girlfriend that I decided to join a gym and start running. Initial reaction: "Hah, I'll just start running from tomorrow morning, maybe run 4-5 kms each day at a good pace and in a week or two, I'll be  back to my old self, easy".  That weekend was spent in buying some high end running equipment and apparel, best running shoes from Nike, matching apparel, arm/head bands, separate earphones (who carries the sweaty ones to office? do you? gross). I looked like a runner, a pretty serious one at that, tomorrow we will see if I actually was one.

1) It took me mere 5-6 seconds to do the first 15 meters and 5-6 minutes to regain my breath.
2) None of the usual morning walkers there had seen someone so professionally dressed for the task but totally miserable at it. (I could have been sponsored by Nike)
3) The headband was probably a overkill.
3) Thankfully the Canadian lady who used to run usually, did not come that day.

(I did not venture out to run for another week)

You see the point, right. Running is hard. To the uninitiated it looks like a slightly faster dumb activity of putting one feet ahead after the other,  its not. Well it took me almost 8 months to justify the expensive running gear purchase, just about. By the end of one full year running I could manage 5 Kms without a couple of cardiac arrests. Achievement. This could have become a lifelong passion and lead to Marathons and Olympic golds but then you know how it is outside the daydream world. Too happy with myself and my new found old physique, I stepped off the running bandwagon and onto the pizza/garlic bread/paranthas one. I was sure, now that I've figured out running I will just start again, when ever I want and then viola lean again. Wrong, idiot, moron.
It had taken me almost 6 months to first gain weight, it took me 2 now.  Once the body discovers its elasticity of expansion, its hard to restrict it to normal, sexy, Brad Pitt-ish parameters. And, then began my on sometimes, off often love affair with running. In the meantime I've discovered some smart ways of masquerading the michelins at my waist and 2.1 chins with strategic clothing patterns, color combinations and tactful use of facial hair.
I usually wake up at 5:30 AM, run 5 Kms four times a week clocking 27-30 mins per run and currently weigh the lightest I've been in the last 3 years. Not that I love to, I HAVE to. What with all these tailored shirts and size M t-shirts I've bought recently, I actually cant afford a size jump now, or for atleast 6 more months. I am screwed.

Only if running was easy... :(