Thursday, March 24, 2005

What's in a name?

Dare Obasanjo is right the hype over AJAX is too much. But his assessment is only true from the standpoint of a programmer. From the standpoint of an entrepreneur/innovator, it's the small things that matter. Apple didn't invent the MP3 player, but they repackaged it, gave it a cool name, made it beautiful and captured a huge chunk of the market. Jeff Veen is right as well. Adaptive Path, Google, and others have commercialized AJAX. They've made it human, and guess what; it's going to be used a lot more.

Tiger rebate at Amazon

Not released yet, but looks like there is going to be a rebate at Amazon

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Microsoft stinks!

I don't ordinarily like to badmouth Microsoft. I'm not one of the religious zealots waiting for every stumble that the company makes and eagerly pointing out every spurious patent application that they file. I realize that MANY people use their products and get work done on a daily basis more efficiently because of the products. I also realize that Microsoft is constantly applying the best talent they can to innovate.

However, I've had three experiences recently that just bug me to no end and further entrench me in the OSX/Un*x faithful.

  1. My company uses Oracle financials for accounts payable. I went to use the web-based expense report submission yesterday and it took me well over half an hour to enter in 13 receipts and submit the stinkin' thing. The reason was because I started using Firefox, and it turns out that the UI only works for IE, and even then it does some weird stuff. The fact that their browser is antiquated and out-of-date with regard to standards and yet still the defacto standard encourages companies to build UIs that only work with IE further entrenching the mediocre product (no tabs, live bookmarks, search integration, etc.). IE 7 better be an awesome product because 6 sucks.

  2. Still using the expense reporting application I needed to print something but didn't have a printer I could use. So I went to save the page and e-mail it to myself. Unfortunately it was in a proprietary format and my only save option was "Microsoft Document Image" format. I saved it as that and mailed it to myself. I loaded the document on another XP machine that I have access to and guess what. It was incompatible! Microsoft's products aren't even compatible with themself. This is reprehensible. So I saved it from the MDI viewer into a TIF, mailed it again, and then printed it.

  3. Last, my computer has taken to opening "Microsoft Narrator" every time I login and I get an annoying 1980's computer voice reading me the UI. There is nothing in my start menu (global or user-specific) or Run section in my registry. There also appears to be no way to turn it off from the Speech, or Accessibility options in the Control Panel. So every morning I have to shut the thing off manually. Annoying.

The only problem I ever seem to have with my Mac is an interaction with CodeTek Virtual Desktop and Firefox but at least the CEO is writing me personal updates

Saturday, March 5, 2005

One more brief thought

At breakfast one morning Christi, the really nice server, said "my English isn't that good but I'm practicing". I've heard that before from other non-native speakers. The funny thing is that his self-evaluation was FAR from accurate. His English was GREAT and I was glad that he could speak to me in English, and that he could help me say a few Romanian words.

I learned Spanish in high-school and have occasion to use it once in a while because our church has a Spanish congregation that shares the building. I know that I've said the same thing "my Spanish isn't that good." Perhaps they're thinking the same thing I was? "ummm... I think it's pretty good and I'm glad to be able to talk a little bit in Spanish." Nah probably not. My Spanish is REALLY rusty ;)

Cultural biases

Neither me, nor anyone I know would SAY that Americans are nicer, more trustworth, care more about life, work harder, etc. than any other people of the world. However, I've had these odd experiences where I realized that I (and I suspect other people I know too) kinda believed that at some deep level. The most concrete example is that at times I had this fleeting and irrational suspicion of airline pilots, or cab drivers, etc.; people that didn't speak my language and didn't affirm me in some other way (say with a smile). On the last leg of the flight to Iasi I started thinking about how ridiculous that was. I've travelled lots of places in America and never felt that way (except with cab drivers... who once again don't speak my language). The only difference was lingual and cultural; I had a mistrust strictly because of these things. Throughout the week though after meeting dozens of Romanians (servers at the restaurant, cabs, hotel helpers, employees of this company we're interviewing) I was reminded that, trite as it soudns, Romanians not all that different from us. They laugh (contrary to what the smiling thing might indicate), eat, drink, and have similar desires for life and work that I do (two guys in particular that I interviewed sounded eerily like me when it comes to work). I wonder what other things I believe deep down and don't realize...

Romania culture observations

As I've been here, I've collected a few observations about Romanian culture (caveat... This is based on Iasi). I don't have much to say about these observations except that I had them:

  • Dance/electronica music is very popular. I've heard it almost everywhere I've been.

  • There's this pungent, but pleasant smell I've experienced in lots of places (hotels, bathrooms, soap, cabs)... I can't place it but it's like a potpurri that isn't fruity or flowery but more spicey (nutmeg, clove, not cinnamon).
  • Watching Romanian cartoons is funny. The voices sound very adult; not the more silly kid sounding voices that many American cartoons have for children.

  • Romanians don't care much for their roads, but there are lots of taxis. Potholes are UBIQUITOS and huge. Bogdan, the host that has been driving us around has a nice/small Alfa Romeo and he is constantly dodging potholes like someone in a golf-ball sized hailstorm.

  • Romanians smoke EVERYWHERE... Except McDonald's (this isn't about smoking, but remind me to show you my "food pyramid guide" with McDonald's food on it.... VERY funny)

  • Romanians really like sour crean (smantana). Many dishes have it as part of the sauce (sos)

Food part two

Last night we ate at Little Texas. It was odd to experience a thoroughly American place in a foreign country (even the McDonald's isn't this American). Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Waylon Jennings played in the background while we ate pretty good Tex Mex. Though I have to say that my enchillada was one of the weirdest enchilladas I've had. The insides reminded me of a some sort of creamy salad. I did however drink another Romanian beer; Ursus black. It was a bit like a porter. It was good but I can't really recommend given other alternatives. One amusing note; Corona is the most expensive beer you'll find on almost any menu.

Friday, March 4, 2005


At least when you're just out in public it's unusual to smile at people. I was walking around Iasi and I was asking myself "I wonder if I look American"... Mostly I would just walk looking at people, and when they made I contact, I'd flash a smile. I began to notice that no one returned a smile, and for that matter, I didn't really see people smiling at all in public so I began to think that perhaps smiling is American. At dinner the other night, Lucian (one of our hosts) confirmed that smiling (or not) is actually a distinguishing feature between Americans and Romanians. It's REALLY helpful to know that. I was wondering if people didn't like me ;)

Manual labor

Another interesting thing that I've noticed in Iasi is a lot of work is done very manually. For example there are a lot of people working on the roads as you drive around, and most of the people working are using pick-axes, and brooms (and not big nice industrial brooms, but ones that look homemade from branches). There are very few machines. I'm not even sure that I saw a steamroller. I suppose that explains why the roads are in bad shape.

Thursday, March 3, 2005


So far the food in Romania has been very good. Then again it seems pretty western. One thing that I've noticed is that they use a lot of Gorgonzola (yeah!) and sour cream (smantana). The night before last we ate at Casa Lavric (the guy that runs it has a website, but not the restaurant). I had a fried chicken dish (piept du pui) and a crepe (clatitte) with an orange sauce (sos) for dessert. It was indeed in a converted house and was cozy. Old-style American jazz music (Louis Armstrong) played in the background and there were lots of instruments hanging on the walls (clarinets, oboes, trumpets, etc.) Last night we ate at Casa Bilius. Personally I liked that a lot better. The atmosphere was much classier, more quiet, and less smoky. Plus the owners of the company we're with here took us out so they could help us navigate the waiter etc. For dinner, I had a beef filet (muschi) sauteed in butter, and drenched in gorgonzola (heart attack on the plate). I tried a few European beers too... Tuborg from Copenhagen; pretty typical lager, nothing that grand about it, and Silva from Romania. It was a very nice dark beer that had hints of a barley wine though only 7% (not "thick" like a stout). For dessert I had papanasi (said papanash) which believe it or not is "fried cheese"... Nothing like you'd expect; not mozzarella sticks but more like a fritter. It was served with dates or cherries on top and cream. Quite yummy!

P.S. One of the women helping at the restaurant looked at me funny when I said "bodaproste"... She explained that it IS "multumesc" and that "bodaproste" is actually something that you would say at a funeral (perhaps thanking the hosts???) Now I'm confused. I'm going to have to grill Christi tomorrow ;)

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Never expect anything

I'm in Romania now after 22 hours of travel (including about 7 of layovers). It's a a very cool experience. Being my first time out of North America (aside, I guess, from the Caribbean) this is the first time that I've been in a place where English was NOT the predominant language. Most of the people that are important to communicate with (customs police, taxi drivers, hotel reception, etc.) speak good enough English that you can get by, but most of the common people don't speak any English. It's a very odd feeling. You pretty much feel most comfortable saying nothing. I've learned a couple words "varog" (please) and "multumesc" (thank you), but even that isn't a guarantee... Apparently "multumesc" is the way they say it in the south part of Romania, but in the more Moldova/Ukraine influenced part of the country it's "bodoposti". At least that's what Christi the guy that served me breakfast this morning said. He was a VERY nice guy. I look forward to chatting with him the rest of the week.

This trip is RIPE for blogging thoughts (I'm keeping a little list), but for now, never expect anything. Christi asked me if I wanted an omelette for breakfast and I said that that sounded good. He brought me something that more or less represented an omelette but was clearly different. It defintely had eggs, cheese and some sort of meat. But it was all scrambled up and the meat... I don't know what it was; ham maybe? Whatever it was, it had a fair amount of fat on it. My "omelette" was tasty, but definitely not what I expected. Tomorrow, I'm going to get the "fried egg" how could that be much different?

I've got a digital camera with me, but it's one of those one time use cameras so getting to see any of this will have to wait until I return.