2016-12-04

Christmas tree wars

A month before Christmas  in Lithuania is a "real" battlefield. Luckily not a really real one - the field of competition is full of Christmas trees. So, it's fair to say that's a fir wood of competition! Christmas toys, garlands and lights are our cannon balls and bullets. Yes, the war is fictional, otherwise even with Christmas toys, garlands and toys much damage can be done. But it is very real in the newspapers and online portals, filled with titles "which Christmas tree is the best this year?" and alike.
It's true that we Lithuanians like to compare ourselves to the neighbors - the closer the better. And the rivals in this competition are our cities and towns. Thanks to this every-year competition, the centers of towns turn into little commercial markets selling expensive stuff and alluring with their smells of waffles, cookies and mulled wine. So, yes - our hearts of towns had turned into something you can find in every western Europe city during Christmas period. Nothing original, but not entirely true. The competition between two main cities is so tough, that they start preparing for next Christmas at the beginning of the year. Yes, brainstorming ideas, evaluating the budget and doing the hard work. Could you imagine a work, where your main duty was to decorate a Christmas tree? No, I don't think it's a fully and well paid position, rather they run on a good will and great ideas than on a good salary, but in any case - the task is exciting. And yes, our nice looking Christmas trees are not made from a single fir tree. It's rather dozens of smaller fir branches put on a carcass, but it still can be made to look like a real tree. Well, in one of Lithuanian cities in the past Christmas trees were being made from other stuff, like plastic cups and bags and bottles and the things alike, that combined together still had a shape of Christmas tree. In the past years it uses more and more fir trees(unfortunately) and is more natural(and looks more like a Christmas tree in Western Europe capitals), but still has some interesting elements. Some toys can be activated through internet and change lightning color or start rotating. This year there is a merry-go-round below the tree carcass - it was made specially for this occasion. This tree is located in the old town square of Kaunas. (To get a visual understanding of what I'm talking about, you can check out the trees from the other years at this page: https://kaunoeglute.lt/)
It's main rival is located in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It has always been more traditional-western-Europe-commercial type of Christmas tree(because of a bigger budget). But still with a typical look it managed to achieve something beautiful this year as well. Well, maybe the right word would be - inspiring - the light bulb lines from the tree are going into all directions and forming like a roof - but the light garlands are very evenly distributed and it makes a feeling of being in some magical places. Well, symmetry always works great on people! The best way to experience Vilnius's Christmas tree is to get under this roof and at a time when it is less crowded.
And I hear that other towns are becoming more inventive and brave every year, so, hopefully this Christmas tree competition will have more than two strong competitors this year.

2016-11-18

Continuing about BuildStuff

When you make a mistake, what you try to make? To admit it or to cover it up?
So, I've been wrong about one thing. In my previous post, I said - there wasn't a darts board on the BuildStuff conference, but I was wrong. There was one, but I couldn't see. So, I guess it's not so bad - even without Foosball or ping pong. But who needs those games when there is a possibility to build your own AI that competes against AIs of other players in hexagonal world, right?! Once you try it - it's hard to stop and you keep improving and improving your strategy... maybe missing a session or two... going late to sleep because researching the algorithms... And here you actually have a chance of winning, nothing like buying a lottery ticket. So, I've been wrong twice. The second wrong thing I told was that two bank companies were taking part in this conference. There was actually three of them! And the AI hexagon world challenge was presented by the third one - no wonder I missed it.
All three days passed in an eye-blink giving sessions better one after other. Companies took out their big guns and drums to entertain the attenders. The evening party featured two bands(one of them with Undefined name(so, geeky!)), everyone was having fun - making it harder to get up and feel concentrated the next day.
The birthday cake was huge decorated like a CPU(probably) and drowned in a sea of cupcakes. To make it easier to choose one, they were decorated with programming languages and framework names.
But the real firework of the conference was a closing keynote given by a musician Jurgis Didžiulis about motivation and stimulus of life, revealed few of his trade secrets and tried to make programmers dance and sing. He admitted that it wasn't that easy after all. And one thing he didn't fail - he made us laugh quite a lot.

2016-11-16

BuildStuffLT again...

So... today is a first day of BuildStufLT 2016 conference for developers that actually build stuff. For me it's a third time in a row. Don't get too jealous,  because last year I went on my own expense.
Whenever I get asked for how many days I'm staying there and give an answer of "3 days" I get the high eyebrows... It's true that the best experience seems to be when you go there for first time, but it doesn't mean that other times are worse - the conference is changing every year and everyone becomes more picky once they have a baseline for comparison. No, first time is not the best. Everyone just tends to idealize it like a first love.
So, what's different this year?
Believe it or not, none of the companies having their lounge space-mini headquarters dasn't brought a single fuss-ball table!!! There are no table tennis,  no darts (probably there never were ones ever). The space itself is themed as a DOS operating system. And there is an old gaming console space containing really old stuff... After opening speech (which had Vilnius mayor as a guest) we got showered in a rain of balloons. This year  everyone can ask questions through sli.do application, and the questions are visible on smaller of screens, one can vote/like them and the questions get answered at the end of the session. There are even two coffee desks this year(there was one last year), at least two bank companies presenting themselves (a big improvement after the last year's one). One can play treasure hunt by scanning QR codes of certain company employee cards'. It's just the day one, and I believe that many tricks will be revealed tomorrow.
But it's not the tricks and games that everyone is coming there for. The speakers, the networking matter much more. But with 5 simultaneous tracks it's impossible to attend them all(good news is that later the recordings of the sessions will be available online) and to choose the best ones based on a short description. So, I will mention only those that stood out the most and the ones I attended.
The opening keynote speech was given by Greg Young himself about long sad story of micro-services which according to him always have been there but only under a different name. So, we are reinventing the wheel every time.
Paul Stack talked about centralized logging without the blood, sweat and tears and bragged about his architectural solution which helped reduce the expenses on infrastructure from $25.000 to ~$140 per month. And he achieved all this by using AWS Lambda, Kinesis and Elasticsearch.
I was impressed by Hadi Hariri's capability to explain the main features(and how to use it for DSLs) of Kotlin(a new statically typed language) in a clear and concise manner. I even got inspired to try it out myself. That's no surprise at all, because I like trying out new things, but some presentations can make you refrain from trying the stuff out...
Next followed Alberto Brandolini's session on a serious issue of learning. A serious issue targeted with funny jokes and pink goggles. According to him, our brain is wired so, that we end up learning anyway - so, if the work we do is boring, we end up learning other stuff. And according to him, nobody should feel bad about that. He cited many quotes of Dan North and I thought "I should look him up online later".
What I should have done instead is looked at the session schedule more carefully - as the closing keynote of the day was given by the Dan North himself. What he did talk about was the important topic of decision making. Of course, the scope of decisions was narrowed down to IT dilemmas(a big disappointment that expected some insights of complicated human's life): automated vs. manual build, automated vs. manual tests, test-driven vs. test-after vs. test-first, spike vs. stabilize, monoliths vs. components, objects vs. functions, synchronous vs. asynchronous, threads vs. event loop vs. actors vs. CSP(yes, these all are concurrency models), dry vs. decoupled and many others existential questions in developer's life. And to no surprise, the answer which one of those to choose according to Dan North is "it depends". However according to him one shouldn't default to this answer when tackling such situations: Scala vs. Java or spaces vs. tabs. But in general, every decision is a trade off. And when you know what you are trading off, you can make an informed decision.

No, the conference is not worse this year. It's a different one indeed, but what matter the most to me is whether I hear my problems addressed from the stage and get inspired by those speakers. It's a fifth anniversary of a conference this year. In the opening keynote Greg Young challenged us to try imagining a birthday cake for 800 people... So, Greg, how big it will be?

2016-11-07

A bit of Warsaw

After two days spent in Warsaw I can't find any good enough reasons why i wasn't coming there more often. Yes, Polish language is strange, it sounds similar to Russian,  but not similar enough to completely understand it. Reading it is easier(once you figure out those 4 consonants in a row), but the way they transform some letters (i mean, how could somebody write a "ł", ans pronounce it like "v"???). Ok, every language is strange for a foreigner. and it's not a reason to avoid a city so big and so close.
I didn't go to museums or galleries (shame on me), i was busy with dancing and catching up with a sleep. And finding comfortable shoes. so, the things I'm taking with me from Warsaw:
+ i was locked for half an hour in an airbnb apartment i was staying. doesn't really count as a kidnapping - but i had a few weird perspectives in my mind for that moment.
+ caramel store with a live "show" of making those. i 'm not really a a fan of hard candies, but i like how it filled the air with a sweet smell.
- i couldn't find a post office that would work on Sunday - for that reason i couldn't send any paper postcards. i wish they just stell them in kiosks, liks they do in my country.
+ music everywhere - from music box musician to playing Chopin's benches, live tango music in the festival to a coffee shop with a perfect playlist with me. i went there twice, and it always played a music genre or artist i enjoy - tango nuevo, Gregory Porter or salsa.
Yes, I'm definitely coming back for Warsaw.

2016-11-01

Easily sidetracked

How often does it happen to you? You listen to a music in the background, lyrics of the music catches you, you google it up, then suddenly you find out that the lyrics is a soundtrack for a movie(with a decent imdb rating). Then you watch a movie, and discover an action takes place in famous bookstore in Paris. Then you realize that somebody has already told you about that bookstore before and how amazing it is. Then you hit "like" for facebook page of that bookstore. End of story. Not really, just one song, one movie later you are not the same person - you wish there was a bookstore like that in your town. Yes, I'm talking about the "Shakespeare and company".

2016-09-27

Hospitality of Florence

Sometimes my posts do come in non-specific order - it's just because some experiences are brighter and some need more time to process. So, there is a huge gap to cover - from Friday to Sunday.
After milongain Bologna followed a milonga in Florence which was in less cosy place, and the gap between dancing experiences was wider too. But first things first - before going out to dance our feet off, we experienced a real italian hospitality. It was my first couchsurfing experience as a guest too. I guess staying with a person you already know helps a bit. After exploring a Callenzano town (which if not for the cars parked there could fool you into thinking that you experienced time travel and ended up in medieval times), we visited a park with freely roaming rabbits, lots of hungry ducks and one turtle. Then followed a park with a giants statue, an overlook to Florence from a far and a dinner. Which had to be somewhere in a restaurant,  but ended up at hosts home. It had tobe a pasta bought from a shop, but turned out to be a specialy for us homemade pasta with a bottle of fine wine. So, our host is an excellent cook.
The next challenge we had to face - finding a parkingplace next to milonga. It took nearly 10 minutes - not bad for a first timer. And then dancing dancing dancing with live music and some acrobatic moves.



Hello and Good bye Bologna

At this specific moment - my feet are screaming and hurting like they had walked the whole day. Because they did - half day in cersaie fair, half day in Bologna. One thing for sure that half day in city center wasn't even barely close to enough - so, when there isn't enough time, you just walk without looking at the map, finding street musicians, street arcs and buildings older than the previous ones, ordering dinner in my poor italian without asking "parla inglese?".
One thing i know for sure - I must come back to it sooner or later. Of course, better sooner than later.

And yet to make this end of vacation more painful - an early flight with 1 stop awaits me.

One question which bugs me - how italians can sleep with just thin sheet-like blanket?