Sunday, December 11, 2005

Back in Holland

Well I've been back in Holland for over a week now. I've seen some old friends, had a chance to hang out with my parents and I went to see a client in Belgium at the beginning of the week. Mainly however I've had a chance to relax and sleep in. I really needed to take some time off and recharge. I had to get some work done this week, but it's so much nicer when I can work on my own schedule.

I'll be leaving for the cottage in a few days, and since there is no internet there I will not be posting much for the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to the cottage, I had hoped to have my snowboard along however. The moving company is taking their sweet ass time in delivering my stuff, which translates to me not having my snowboard and other gear ready for this christmas vacation. I'll have to compensate for that by going somewhere in January or February.

Some prices (I'm copying Shawn here):
Case of beer: 8 euro
Pack of smokes: 4.5 euro
1.7g Super Skunk: 10 euro

Monday, November 28, 2005

Frightening moment

Due to the nature of my job and the fact that I have family overseas, I have been on an airplane more times that I can remember. It takes quite a bit to make me nervous on a plane, I consider turbulence an opportunity for a cheap massage (think of the beds that vibrate when you throw a quarter in). Last night as my flight landed at LaGuardia I had a moment of ‘holy crap – what was that?’ however. When we ‘touched down’, there were many frightened passengers and a few perplexed frequent flyers. Those of us who fly a lot knew we were going to be fine, but were not sure what the pilot was smoking up in that cockpit. The plane hit the runway like a brick, sending a really loud bang and a nice shockwave through the cabin. I know sometimes the weather can cause weirdness, but an apology from the cockpit would have been nice. Thanks Air Canada. You never seem to fail me in somehow making my flight a shitty experience.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A week in Canada

Today I am flying back to New York after spending a week up in Canada. I was doing some MCMS training up here last week, so I got a chance to spend some time with friends that I still have here. The weather decided to remind me that I was in the great white north by dumping a whole lot of snow on us over the last few days. Most of my winter clothes are on their way across the Atlantic right now, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time outside. I was happy to see a lot of my friends before I move across the ocean. A few of them have said they'll come visit, but I'll believe that when I see it. Perhaps they'll surprise me.

Five days left before my flight to Amsterdam. I've got a few loose ends to tie up, but overall I think all is in order. As much as I like the idea of moving somewhere else and starting new things, I am growing tired of all the hassle that is involved with it. I am particularly annoyed that I have to close all my bank accounts and open new ones in Europe. I wish there was a truly global bank where I could keep all my finances regardless of where I am living.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Smoke and Die! No?

I did a little reading today about smoking. I smoke about a pack a week, and I wanted to know what that really does to me. We are bombarded with facts about smoking being deadly all the time, but I thought I'd do a little deeper digging. I do have a degree in math after all, and even though I never liked stats, I do understand them.
Well I learned something interesting. I found plenty of articles that were of the type "Smoking = The Devil" (picture Mama from The Waterboy). Those I ignored for obvious reasons. Then I found some articles that had lots of statistics, but none that were very convincing once properly examined. Telling me that x% of the population smokes, and that y people died of lung cancer in the same article does not correlate the two very strongly. Guilty by association doesn't work here. Then I found the data I was looking for. Data that answers the question of "What are my chances of getting lung cancer as a smoker?"
It turns out that a smoker who quits by 30 has a 2% chance of getting lung cancer. That percentage goes up to 16% if they quit by the age of 70. Hold on. With the amount of energy spent on fighting tobacco, I was expecting a lot worse.
Having said this, I know that smoking isn't good for me. I know how much better I feel when I don't smoke for a week. Nevertheless, I think it's time for the governments of the world to re-think all the cash they are putting into anti-smoking campaigns. I think we got the message. We know it's dangerous to smoke. Perhaps it's time to focus on other equally serious dangers of day to day life that the general public doesn't know about. Maybe it's time to leave Phillip Morris alone for a while and go after McDonalds. What's the data on obesity, especially in the US?

Monad

I started playing with Monad the other day, and it's awesome! I'm too lazy to go into detail, plus there are more knowledgeable folks out there who've already done that. All I'll say is that even I, who prefer mouse to keyboard and GUI to command line, am excited about this new command line shell from MS. If you ever have had a need to automate something in Windows, you need to check Monad out. If you ever wish you could run code in a command line, you need to check Monad out. If you ever wished Windows had a shell more like a unix shell, you need to check Monad out.
To my friends up at RIM - you guys will love this (if you haven't discovered it yet).

It's over!

Friday was the last day that I worked on the 'Category 5' or 'Death March' project. As a farewell gift, I got to work to 4am one night and 2am another. I guess that was so I wouldn't forget how much *fun* the project was a few months ago. I'm actually looking forward to going to work again. It's been a while. I'll be doing a small internal project plus some training in the next few weeks, and then off to Holland. The training is in Toronto, so for those of you who are up there - drop me a line!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Workplace Etiquette

My co-workers and I recently experienced a rather disturbing event. The client the four of us are working for has reserved a few cubicles for us in a typical cube farm. This means that there are numerous other people who work in the same area as us. Since our client is actually in a different city, the people who work around us are not involved in the same project as us, and we therefore don’t know any of them. We’ve said hello a few times, but that’s about it.
The other day, a guy who works directly next to us was having some serious health problems. At first he was coughing excessively. He apologized to the people he was on a conference call with, and explained that he was having an asthma attack. At this point I’m thinking to myself “Why doesn’t this guy go home?” I had asthma a few times as a kid, and I remember that it was no fun. I guess he really needed to stay on that conference call. I let it go and continued to try and figure out what was wrong with our web server. The coughing got worse and worse however, and I was starting to be concerned that this guy wasn’t going to be alright. Then the guy proceeds to grab a plastic bag, and vomit into it, while still sitting at his desk. I don’t ever remember vomiting being part of an asthma attack. After he’s done vomiting into this plastic bag, he un-mutes his phone and continues on with his phone call. The guys on my team and I are all quite disgusted by this, but what can you do? I was hoping the guy would now tell the people on the phone that he’s ill, and that he’s leaving. Nope. He continued to puke into his plastic bag for another hour or so. Our team could no longer take it. I had guys going for walks / coffee / anything to get them out of the area. Finally I asked one of the guys to go and scout out a few empty desks in another area of the office so that we could move the team there. Thanks MS for remote desktop.
The purpose of this post is for all of us to remember that there are limits to ‘playing hurt’. No one should have to put up with some guy puking his guts out in the next cubicle.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Back across the pond I go

As promised earlier, I am going to write a blog entry about my plans for the near future and the reasons for these plans. I especially want to clarify which factors had a lot to do with my decisions and which didn’t.

First, what are my plans? Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am leaving Infusion. More specifically, my last day as an Infusion employee will be December 2nd. I am leaving for Holland that evening, and plan on continuing on to Slovakia a few weeks later. Once there, I will set up a sole proprietorship that will allow me to act as an independent consultant. I will search for clients all over Europe, but will likely focus on English, Dutch and German speaking countries since these are languages that I can communicate in. My German needs some work, but I am hoping my brother Miro and my cousin Boris will be kind enough to help out with that one. I’m looking forward to some good times with those two in Vienna.

Initially I can’t afford to be too picky with what projects I take on, since I will be new on the scene and will have to prove myself. Having said that, I will still try to focus on providing a specific type of service that I think will only become more and more valuable in the future.

I want to build a consulting practice that focuses on helping organizations manage their information wealth. The amount of information wealth that any given organization produces is substantial, and I believe that information will steadily make up a larger proportion of overall global wealth. As the production of wealth shifts more and more into the intangible, new methods of asset management will be required. Certain types of intellectual property have management systems associated with them, such as source control systems for computer code. Most information produced however is still very loosely managed if at all. If you don’t believe me, think of all the documents that are located nowhere but your laptop and your email account, and think of the time that went into creating those documents. Do you truly believe that no one else at your place of work could benefit from having access to this material? I want to provide people with the power to easily share and manage such intangible wealth. My generation knows the power of sharing. We started with mp3s and movies, and I think it’s time to bring this paradigm into the business world.

So now that I’ve said a few words about what I plan on doing, I want to explain why I decided to do this. Like with any big decision in life, there are many reasons. A few stand out however. I’ll try to put these in order of importance.

I’ve found that New York City is not for me. It was a fun place to experience, but I’ve had enough. I miss living closer to nature. I don’t mean the rats I see in the courtyard every night, but real nature. I miss having the freedom of owning a car. I miss silence. I find it difficult to recharge. I miss cooking. So it’s time to move somewhere else.

I’ve been away from my parents and my brother for too long. When I was in university I could still see them fairly often, but now that I am working I don’t see them nearly as much as I’d like. The chances of them moving here are null. I doubt I’d be able to find a job that lets me take 2 months a year off. So the only way to spend more time with them is to move to where they are. Unlike many people I know, I actually enjoy being in the company of my parents and brother. Yeah we get on each others nerves at times, but overall it’s a good experience being with them.

I want to work for myself. I enjoyed my time at Infusion, but I want to do things my way. I want to be in the driver’s seat, even if I’m driving the smallest car out there at first. I don’t think I can be truly happy any other way. I don’t expect it to be a smooth ride at all times, but I expect I’ll enjoy all of it.

I was born in a socialist Czechoslovakia that my parents took me out of so that I could have a better life. Times have changed substantially and I see a lot of potential in what is now Slovakia, one of the new member states of the EU. I’m a bit of a dreamer which has me thinking about ways to help grow this country into one of the best places in the world. It’s got a long way to go, but I think I can help. If I can create a few good jobs and expose a few bright young folks from there to business in the west, well I’ll feel like I’m doing my part.

I’m not very politically involved, nor do I pay much attention to politics. I am however also not stupid, and realize that by working in the US I am contributing to paying for a war machine I disagree with completely. While this may not be the main reason I am leaving, it is one of them. In the 1940s, America was on the right side of a war. In the 1970s, America fought a war that was less clear cut and the American public stood up in protest. Now it’s damn well obvious that America is fighting for nothing but better control of the oil in the middle east, and yet the American public is too spoon fed by CNN and too terrified of terrorists that only a few have the courage or intellect to do anything. Well this is my protest. I am protesting the best way I know how: cutting off the cash flow.

I think those are all the main reasons. Life is obviously not as simple as this, a number of other factors have contributed. I do want to point out to the Infusion folks however, that none of the reasons in the list above have anything to do with the ‘death march’ project that I was a part of. To those who don’t know what I am talking about, I was on a team that took on a project this summer which was extremely demanding in every way imaginable. See description on Greg Brill’s blog. Yeah that project was hard and there were days when I was ready to give up. But overall it was worth it. That may sound surprising, but I learned a lot on this project, I earned a good deal of respect from Infusion (as well as more tangible rewards) and I have come out the other end knowing I am one of the people that pulled off the impossible. I’m not going to have any trouble giving a potential client an example of what I can achieve. I’ll be clear, there is no way I am ready for another one of these any time soon. I am human and it wore me out. But I want to set the record straight and say out right that I am not leaving Infusion because of this project. I mean after all, I’d be an idiot if that was the case. The death march is over and I’ve earned my stripes. Why would I leave now? If that project was my reason for leaving, I would have been in Slovakia last May.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

It's for real

The movers came yesterday and packed up all my stuff. It's for real now, I'm going back to Europe. Until yesterday it was all plans and talk, but now the wheels are truly in motion.

I'm currently living like a bum for a few days, sleeping in a torn sleeping bag that is 7 years old with a mattress pad for a bed. I've got a suitcase full of clothes , a few books and this laptop to my name right now. As much as I miss my guitars. I have to say I like living 'light'. Having stuff just means you have to worry about it. I'm sure I'll change my mind as soon as I need something that is currently on its way to Holland.

I'll be moving into a hotel (a very nice one at that - thanks Infusion!) on Monday since the lease on this apartment is up, so it's back to living on the road for a while. What really sucks is that Monday is Halloween, I have been to a Halloween keg party for 7 years straight now, and I don't have one lined up at this point. I'm hoping craigslist can help. I'd have one myself, but I just can't see pulling it off at the hotel. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Want to read a truly scary book?

I'm currently reading a book that I consider to be scary as well as amazing at the same time. No, it's not some Steven King novel. It's actually a book about eating habbits. Yeah, that's right, a nutrition book. Not what you thought I'd be reading right? Well I picked it up by accident in a way, due to one of the authors being Ray Kurzweil. I love all his other books, so as soon as I saw his name on it, I bought it without reading the description. Although not his typical book, it is of the same quality as the rest of them. The book is called 'Fantastic Voyage', and it focuses on how to take care of one's body by mainly eating right. What I really enjoy about it is the scientific depth to which it goes. Yeah, I *knew* that saturated fats were bad, but I had no idea why. If you like science and want to know such things, this book is for you. Give it a read, I guarantee you will be motivated to take better care of yourself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"Can you help me with my computer?"

All professions have their downsides. Today I had a reminder of one of the not so fun things about being an IT professional. Way too many people have this idea that since I know things about computers, they can call me when their crappy desktop is doing something they don't understand. Little do they realize that perhaps I have enough of this at work, and I would rather be doing something else. I'm not going to go on a rant here, but I will leave you with one thought.

If your friend was a professional chef, would you feel comfortable calling him and saying: "Hey man, I hear you know about cooking and stuff. Can you come over to my place and cook me dinner?" I dare you to try that one. (Ryan is excluded from this exercise cause I know you could pull it off with the neighbour).

Disabling another useless popup

Ever try to open up a file with an unknown extension and get an annoying popup asking you if you want to use a web service to see what the appripriate program is to open that file? Me too! Here's how to get rid of that useless popup:

I stole this from http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/xpmanaged/09_xpfil.mspx


To Disable the File Association Web Service by Setting a Registry Key

1. Open Registry Editor by clicking Start, clicking Run, and then typing regedit.
Caution Incorrectly editing the registry may severely damage your system. Before making changes to the registry, you should back up any valued data on the computer. You can also use the Last Known Good Configuration startup option if you encounter problems after manual changes have been applied.

2. Navigate to the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System

3. Point to New in the Edit menu, and then click DWORD Value.

4. Type the following name:
NoInternetOpenWith

5. Click the new entry (NoInternetOpenWith), and then select Modify in the Edit menu.

6. Ensure that Hexadecimal is selected, and then for Value data, type:
1

7.Close Registry Editor.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Moved my blog

Since I am soon to be an ex-Infusionite, I have moved my blog to somewhere that it can find a permanent home. As some of you have noticed, my blog has evolved from a mainly technical blog to something more mixed. While there will likely still be a tech post in here every now and then, I will no longer focus on anything in particular. As those of you who know me in person already know, I tend to have no filer between my brain and my mouth at times. That's how I envision this new version of my blog.