“The Expert”

bored

If you spend a number of years doing something (getting more experienced, learning things, doing mistakes), you start to know what works and what doesn’t, what is good and what is bad. Even if you aren’t that good at the beginning.

Some people will acknowledge this, some won’t. And that is alright, because you can’t know everything and you can always make mistakes.

If someone ask for your opinion you try your best to let them know what you think, because you are a nice person.
And you tell them once, twice, even a tree times. But some people can get over the fact that they are wrong. So what do you do then?

If you got the choice, you just let them be and do what they want. If not, you listen to their opinions, tell them yours, listen to them telling you that you are wrong and how things should be done and then you do what they want. Even if you know that is not the best solution or even a good one.

After a few months they come back to you and ask what is wrong, why aren’t people using it, why is everyone hatting it, why aren’t people more engaged.
And you tell them again what you’ve told them a few months ago.

Then nothing changes..

 

Some of you may know this, if not watch it, the video illustrates perfect the situation.

It’s not you, it’s me – time for a break JavaScript

zen

Starting with June 2014, when I decided I want to create websites and apps, HTML and CSS have been part of my daily life.
The same, more or less, with JavaScript (expect 3 months when I played a little with Ruby).

I don’t consider myself a JavaScript programmer. I know a bunch of things and I created some really fun stuff with it, but this is all.

The whole JavaScript environment: libraries, frameworks, people around, etc., is full of crap. And for someone learning (or trying to learn) is overwhelming and maybe even a little depressing.
It feels really good to step aside from this.

Leaving aside JavaScript, I really like the design part, especially UX. And I hope that someday I will have the opportunity to explore it a little more. I will stop using Free Code Camp and also I will stop working on the Android course.
For now I think I will focus for a while on data analytics.

I started playing with Python, doing the tutorials from Codecademy (I’m at 80%) and next up is Learn Python the Hard Way.
Hopefully I will also move from web design to data analytics and this will allow me to concentrate on one thing. I don’t know where this will go and what will follow, we will see.

“The Emperor has no clothes”

I must admit that when I was young I read less than most of the kids. (maybe it’s because I first learned how to do math and reading came about 3 years later)
But even so I already had a few favorites books. And I can remember them even 25 years later.

One of those books is called The Emperor’s New Clothes and it was written by Hans Christian Andersen.

For those of you who don’t know the story, here is the summary from Wikipedia:

A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothes themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions, and the Emperor does the same. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him, and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all, and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor suspects the assertion is true but continues the procession.

I don’t know why Hans Christian Andersen wrote this and what was the social situation then. But I can see a lot of similarities these days.

Growing up I always knew it never was a good idea to directly express what I thought. Even though it was true.
Honesty is appreciated only when people agree with you. If your opinion is contrary with their beliefs, you’re gonna have a bad time. Even though you are right. People don’t want the truth, people want comfortable lies that reinforce their opinions and their way of living.

I think in life you have moments when you like having popular opinions, but I also believe that as you get older you just don’t care that much about other people feelings.

And in a way I always liked being the one backing up unpopular opinions if they were true.

But for must people it is really hard to tell that “the emperor has no clothes”, even if they see it with their eyes. They don’t want to offend their friends, or their colleagues, or their managers. They just want to be accepted, be part of the crowd.

I think we need more kids calling bullshit when they see it.

And don’t get me started with diplomacy. An apple is an apple, even if you call it apple or malus domestica.

malus domestica

Movies for the weekend #002

Assassin’s Creed
2 points from 5
I was pretty good. I could say that it was better than I was expecting.
For someone that doesn’t know about the games it won’t seem that good. But at least the fight scenes are done well.

Inferno
1 point from 5
Really bad, I fell asleep while watching it. It took me 3 days to finish the movie.

Arrival
3 points from 5
It is not your ordinary alien movie. I enjoyed the ending, but the story was developing kinda slow. A bunch of times I was just waiting for something else to happen.

movies

Questions every business should answer

I recently read the book Zero to one by Peter Thiel and I want to add here an idea so I won’t forget about it.

He talks about seven questions every business should answer. They are what could make a business succeed or fail.

  1. The engineering question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  2. The timing question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  3. The monopoly question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  4. The people question: Do you have the right team?
  5. The distribution question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  6. The durability question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
  7. The secret question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Get them right and you will have a better chance at building a successful company.

business

Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

I have an ever growing list of books I want to read. One of them is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.

People seem to like human and animal comparison. I’m not a huge fan of them, but Nate Silver as a really interesting one in his book.

How Foxes Think How Hedgehogs Think
Multidisciplinary: Incorporate ideas from different disciplines regardless of their origin on the political spectrum Specialized: Often have spent the bulk of their careers on one or two great problems. May view the opinions of “outsiders” skeptically.
Adaptable: Find a new approach – or pursue multiple approaches at the same time – if they aren’t sure the original one is working. Stalwart: Stick to the same “all-in” approach – new data is used to refine the original model.
Self-critical: Sometimes willing (if rarely happy) to acknowledge mistakes in their predictions and accept the blame for them. Stubborn: Mistakes are blamed on bad luck or on idiosyncratic circumstances – a good model had a bad day.
Tolerant of complexity: See the universe as complicated, perhaps to the point of many fundamental problems being insolvable or inherently unpredictable. Order-seeking: Expect that the world will be found to abide by relatively simple governing relationships once the signal is identified through the noise.
Cautious: Express their predictions in probabilistic terms and qualify their opinions. Confident: Rarely hedge their predictions and are reluctant to change them.
Empirical: Rely more on observation than theory. Ideological: Expect that solutions to many day-to-day problems are manifestations of some grander theory or struggle.

So what am I, a fox or hedgehog ?

  • Multidisciplinary vs Specialized: Easy one, Multidisciplinary. I studied marketing, started working in sales, then did some marketing, project management, product management, product design, web design and development, social media, community management, event organizing. Now I’m thinking about switching to data analytics.
  • Adaptable vs Stalwart: I would dare to say Adaptable. I get bored by doing the same thing and it is even more boring doing the same thing in the same way. There are always new and sometimes better ways to do things, so you could at least try some of them from time to time.
  • Self-critical vs Stubborn: Well .. a little bit of both. I always acknowledge my mistakes and I never mind taking the blame, but I do tend to be stubborn and sometimes I do not see things as they truly are.
  • Tolerant of complexity vs Order-seeking: I think Tolerant of complexity. I do like order, but I think that things are most of the time complex and I do enjoy trying to solve them or looking for solutions.
  • Cautious vs Confident: Probably too Cautious for my taste and I little more confidence wouldn’t hurt.
  • Empirical vs Ideological: I think Empirical, but I’m not totally sure of this one.

It seems I am a fox, although I do have some spines.
Is this a good or a bad thing? I don’t really know.
Should you prefer a company full of foxes or full of hedgehogs? I don’t know, you could pick either one.

But looking at the agile approach companies seem to take in the last years I think a fox would be a better fit.

It is better to move in smaller steps and you want to observe, measure and adjust along the way.
You need to be aware that customers don’t always fit a typical already known belief. So you need to prepare for more than one outcome.

And speaking about more than one outcome, it is probably a good idea to also have in mind more than one approach. This is why I am a big fan of multidisciplinary teams. You always get great results when you mix ideas from different disciplines.

I also want to add that if something worked yesterday it won’t necessarily also work tomorrow. And if something didn’t worked yesterday, it will probably not work tomorrow.
Don’t get stuck in the past.

So are you a fox or a hedgehog?

fox

Review Philips HC3410

Four months ago I bought this Philips HC3410.
Since then I’ve used it weekly, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a few words about it.

First a few specifications:

Cutting system
Cutter width 41 mm
Cutting element Stainless steel blades
Number of length settings 13
Range of length settings From 0.5 to 23 mm
Precision (size of steps) By 2 mm
Power system
Operation Corded only
Ease of use
Cleaning Washable blades
Maintenance free No oil needed
Service
2-year worldwide guarantee Yes (Plus 3-years with registration)

I was going monthly to a barber shop for my hair and I always wanted to cut my hair at home. So buying a hair clipper was a good idea.

I use it 1-2 times each week and I can’t say I have any complaints until now. It is a really good deal for its price.
Initially I bought it just to cut my hair, afterwards I wanted to also give it a try on my beard. And since the first try I’ve stopped using my Mach 3 from Gillette.
The power cord is pretty long, 2 m. It is easy to use and also easy to clean afterwards.

I keep my hair pretty short. You could have problems trying to cut longer hair. I heard people complaining that they had to stop to remove the hair. But for me it works excellent!

I can say I got my money back already.

Philips HC3410

Movies for the weekend #001

Moana
1 point from 5
Could be alright if you see it with the kids. But there is nothing special about it. I skipped the singing parts. The story is lame.

Passengers
1 point from 5
Bad movie, bad acting. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have 0 chemistry together. Not a good role for either of them.

Underworld: Blood Wars
2 points from 5
Worse that I was expecting. I think there will be another one considering the ending.
I liked it somehow, but I can’t compare it with the first two.

movies

How to Persuade People

I recently read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. It is a short and interesting book. Considering the things happening in Romania in the last weeks I thought it would be a good idea to summarize here some of the ideas from the book.

people

Cialdini talks about 6 ways of persuading people:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Consistency
  3. Sympathy
  4. Authority
  5. Social proof
  6. Scarcity

Reciprocity

Think about the free food sample you get in the supermarket. There are a lot of reasons for companies to offer them. Even if you refuse them or if you don’t like them that much, afterwards the chances to buy that product are pretty big.

A good example from the book is a little experiment a professor made. On Christmas he sent greetings cards to random people. Most of them responded back, even though they didn’t knew him.

Another important thing to have in mind is that when you get a small gift you will probably feel indebted to return the favour. And often you will give that person a bigger gift or favour.
There is nothing wrong to receiving and giving gifts. The thing is that when you receive something from someone, without an apparent reason, they choose what to give to you. And afterwards they ask for something from you, maybe a particular thing or a favour. They choose what to give to you and they also choose what to receive in return. Doesn’t seem fair.

I like to think that there are no free stuff.

Consistency

I usually see consistency as a good thing, but you really need to be careful with this.
When you take a decision you do it based on what you know and expect in that particular moment. A lot of times things change afterwards. Maybe you receive a new information, maybe one of the initial factors change. When something new appears, it would be a good moment to rethink your decision and see if you are still ok with it. It is alright to change your mind.

I know, easier said than done.
Have you ever received a phone call from a company doing some research about their product or about one of their services ? Or maybe someone knocked on your door ?
They usually say they have 2 or 3 questions to ask and it won’t take longer than 2 minutes. And you say “yes”. After the first 15-20 questions you start thinking that maybe it would have been a good idea to say “no” instead.

Sympathy

Multi-level marketing (MLM) organizations work based on this one.
It’s hard to say no to people you know, people you like, or to your family.
“You don’t need to buy anything, just come and listen to them”. “You don’t need to sell these products to other people. Just buy what you need and you will get a discount. Maybe from time to time you can also help a friend and get them something they need”.

Don’t ask your friends to buy something from you just because you know them.
Sure, I know it works, but it is wrong. Think about Avon, Amway, Herbalife, Oriflame, etc.

Another good example would be the different public figures (so called stars – athletes, singers, actors, etc.) you see on commercials on TV. This is also the reason you hear about them supporting some politician.
It makes you buy a product or vote for a particular politician just because someone you like supports it.

Authority

The best example would be the Milgram experiment.

The best method of defense against this is to ask ourselves two questions:

  • is that authority figure an expert on that subject?
  • how is he?

Social proof

This is a bit tricky. An easy example would be the laughters you hear while watching a comedy series.
Hearing other people laughing at some jokes makes you also laugh. Laughing at something makes you think that that thing is funnier than it really is.

Other darker examples would be from small religious cults. Being part of a group makes you do things that you wouldn’t do if you were alone. You can read about the Seekers cult from Chicago. I also recommend watching the movie The Joneses.

Scarcity

I think everybody knows about this but for some reason all people choose to ignore it.
If something is rare (or appears to be rare) we expect for it to also be expensive and we also expect it to be a good deal.
Best examples ? “Huge one day sale”, “Limited offer”, “Black Friday”, “if you don’t buy it now I have another customer that is ready to pay good money for it” ..

Conclusion

Is hard to defend against all of these. The first step is to know about them. It is also really important to observe how we act when we are under these kind of influences. Afterwards it will be easier to avoid them or to see some red flags when we are acting in a certain way.

MillyBridal scams customers

Update 12.02.2017: After one month of emails/chats/negotiations we received almost all the money back. I guess it is better than nothing.

Iarina thought to buy some things from http://uk.millybridal.org/ (http://millybridal.org is basically the same site) for the wedding.

After searching more info about them she decided to cancel the order and request a refund.

This was a month ago. Since then she basically talked with them daily. She still hasn’t got the money back.
We will look at what legal actions can be done against them. But I also wanted to write about this so other people are warned.

MillyBridal scams customers. Be careful.

If anybody needs more info about them, check this:

MillyBridal scams customers
MillyBridal scams customers

“Screw It, Let’s Do It”

I started reading “Screw It, Let’s Do It” by Richard Branson. I was a little circumspect when I got the book, didn’t know if I will enjoy it. But man .. this is such a great and fun book to read. It just gives you a nice boost of energy and it awakens in you a desire to do stuff.

While I was reading the book it got me thinking about myself, how I am living and what I do with my life, job, if I’m really enjoying myself. And in a way I can say that yes, I really am.
Is there room for improvement? Yes ! A hell of lot of it.
But I’m doing my best.

I think that the thing that always gets me going is that I get bored really fast and I always feel the need to be challenged, to learn things and do stuff.

My first job was in a bookstore. Selling books and other stuff. It was a really fun place and I had great colleagues. But I was paid close to nothing, little less than 200 euro per month. So the small salary and the routine made me quit in about 6 months.

Second job. I got a sales job in a small IT company. First thing I did there? Putting invoices in envelopes and sending them to customers. Pay was a little better (not much more) and I knew I will be learning a lot of things. And I really did.

When I left, after almost 3 years, I was working as a Project Manager, running projects worth millions of euro, implementing ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems that were used by hundreds of thousands of people.
After 3 years there, doing all the things I did, I can say that if I will ever be in position to run a company, I’ve got the knowledge to do it.

While I was working there I got bored again so I thought I want to learn how to build websites. I had some knowledge from school, but didn’t knew that much. So I started learning HTML, CSS, some JavaScript and a lot of things about building things on the web.
In short time I was already having some small gigs and making some extra money.

I was having fun creating websites, so I thought that maybe I can get a job. So I quit my job prepared to look for something else and with enough money for about 3 months.
It took me less than a week to get an offer and I said yes. It was from my current work place where I work as a Web Designer.

Fast forward to January 2017 (almost 2 years later). What I do right now beside my daily job?

  • have some fun on freeCodeCamp, learning things about web development
  • enroled in a nanodegree program from Udacity, learning Android development (got a scholarship, and I’m really grateful for it)
  • learning to play a xylophone and it is a lot of fun
  • learning German
  • part of a team at work and we are building an AR prototype
  • learning more about design (and will maybe move to a UX design position)
  • a lot more stuff

And all of this just because I get bored easily.

Is it hard? Yes.
Is it fun? Yes.
Do I got the right skills for all this things? Unfortunately, no ..
Will I succeed in doing all of them? I don’t know and I don’t care that much. I want to do them and I do them.

My point. Read “Screw It, Let’s Do It” by Richard Branson. Start doing anything you want to do. It is worth it, you will find your place in this world and things will get better and better.

grass growing

Can someone read 50 books in a year ?

Short answer is yes.
Long answer .. you can read even more.

When I wrote My wishes for 2017 someone people asked if that is really double, if I can read one book each week (the year has 52 weeks).

The math is pretty simple:

  • an adult reads about 250 words per minute
  • typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words

50 books * 50,000 words / book = 2.5 million words
2.5 million words / 250 wpm = 10,000 minutes
10,000 minutes / 60 = ~167 hours

So if you read for 30 minutes each day you will read more than 50 books in a year.
Now think how much time you spent in front of the TV each day or how much time you spend on facebook or playing games on your smartphone.
And it is really easy to read these days. You can read paper books, you can read on your phone, you can read on your kindle, you can listen to audiobooks.

I suggest reading this article wrote by Charles Chu, you can find a lot more info there.

books

Visit Berlin in one day

I went together with Iarina to Berlin this weekend. It is a nice city and we enjoyed visiting it. We are both glad we had the chance to do this, but I can’t say we liked it that much. I also visited Munich a few times and I like it more than Berlin.
We didn’t had a lot of time to visit it so I wanted to share what we did, maybe other people will find this useful.

I found some great tickets and we flew there with Ryanair. Everything has really cheap, 32 euro in total (round trip, both of us). We arrived there on Saturday at about 1 pm and flew back to Bucharest at 7 am the next day. So we had less than 24 hours to visit Berlin.

But we got to see a lot of things and walked a little more than 25 km.

We arrived at the Berlin Schönefeld Airport and from there we took the S-Bahn to the city. You will need a ticket that covers all 3 city zones if you want to get to the city center and one ticket costs 3.4 euro. You can buy the tickets from the station (card or cash; just be aware that the machine won’t accept bills larger than 10 euro).

From the airport we took the S9 until the Bornholmer Str. station.  And from there you can take either S1 or S2 and get to Brandenburger Tor station. Which is the station right next to Brandenburg Gate. The trip takes about 1 hour. There are faster ways according to Google Maps, but for me this seemed like the easiest one. Getting into the right trains and walking across the stations is pretty easy and you shouldn’t have any problems with this.


Main things we saw in Berlin

We visited them in this exact order. So you can even use these locations to draw a map on Google Maps and follow it across town.

1. Brandenburg Gate
It is really impressive and it is bigger than I thought it would be. It is one of the best-known landmarks of Germany, being built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.

2. Reichstag Building
I recommend you make a reservation in advance so you can also visit it. We didn’t so we only saw it from outside. It has a large glass dome at the very top with a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape.

3. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This is like a maze of blocks of concrete. According to Wikipedia there are 2,711 blocks. We spent about 30 minutes walking inside it and making bad jokes. Just be careful not to bump into people while inside. There is also a museum you can visit, but we skipped it due to a really long line.

4. Tiergarten
We both like parks so we spent about 1.5-2 hours walking across it. There are a few monuments in the park so make sure you also check them out. I liked more Englischer Garten in Munich.

5. Potsdamer Platz
There are a few nice buildings, but not much. It was on the way to the other objectives, so we added it on the list of things to check.

6. Topography of Terror
This was the best thing we saw in Berlin. And if you are gonna check only a few places, make sure to include this one on the list. It is an outdoor and indoor history museum. It is located on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era. I think we stayed 2 hours there reading, listening and watching things.

7. Checkpoint Charlie Museum
It is named after the famous crossing point on the Berlin Wall, and was created to document the so-called “best border security system in the world”. You can skip it if you want. It is not that impressive.
But we saw a lot of Trabants there and this was fun.

8. East Side Gallery
“An international memorial for freedom”, Wikipedia says. It is a section of the Berlin Wall, longer than 1 km and has over 100 paintings from artists all over the world.
It is kinda far from the rest of the things we saw, so be ready to walk a lot. But it is worth it, I really really liked it and it has some amazing paintings.

9. Berlin Cathedral
I think it is better to see it during the day. It was pretty late when we got there and at night it didn’t seemed very impressive. But it is nice, so if you got time make sure to check it out.

10. Museum Island
It was late when we got there so everything was closed and there weren’t a lot of people around. We anyway didn’t want to visit the museums, because we didn’t have a lot of time.

11. Alexanderplatz
This was the final point of our trip. You will see a lot of interesting buildings and the famouse TV tower.


Where we ate in Berlin

We walked around a lot so we had to eat. I already had a few places in mind around our route and this is how it went.

Quchnia, Markgrafenstrasse 35
After we arrived in town this was our first stop. We stumbled on it while looking for another restaurant, but it was a good pick.
Food is good, the cakes are excellent!
Iarina had a cafe latte, I had a ginger tea, both were good. We ate the same thing, baked potato, with salad, chicken breast and a nice sauce. I forgot how it was called.. We usually order different things so we can try more stuff, but this place doesn’t have that many choices.
We also ate a fruit tart which was really good. Total amount spent was around 35 euro, so pretty decent for a good meal.

Madami – Mom’s Vietnamese Kitchen, Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 3
We went here for dinner. Man .. such a good choice! The food was excellent, cheap and the place is really nice. It was probably the best vietnamese food we have eaten until now.
We spent 25 euro for two dishes and a bottle of water.

Other places on our list: Chupenga, Mohrenstraße 42; Bibi Mix, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 5-7; Scheers Schnitzel, Warschauer Platz 18. These were based on reviews I read and closeness to our route. Maybe we will check them next time.


All in all the trip was great, we had fun and Berlin has some must see locations. Now it is time for some sleep.

berlin cathedral
Berlin Cathedral

New Home

We try to discuss about our future as often as possible. And I think this is important for all couples.
My favorite discussions with Iarina are related with what we want, what we wish, what we should do.

We both want to have our own home and we discuss a lot about this.

First question is if we are going to stay in Romania, or if we want to move in another country for a few years. Sure this isn’t entirely just our decision. It also depends on what opportunities we encounter, if we get any job offers, etc. There is no point in moving in another country if we are going to live worse that we do right now in Romania.
So if we are going to move to another country we will definitely continue to rent a place. There is no point in buying a home in another country.

If we continue to stay in Romania (right now the most probable outcome) it is possible that we will move to another city.
Bucharest is pretty nice, especially if you are visiting or staying here on short term. But on long term I can’t say I like it that much. It is crowded, it is polluted and it is getting worse.

We are thinking about Sibiu and Brasov. We like both of them and they offer plenty of job opportunities. Sibiu has a big plus because it is closer to Targu Jiu.

And if we stay in Romania we will probably buy an apartment or a house. The other option would be to build a house.
All 3 options have their weak and strong points and we still haven’t decided what to do.
In a few months we have our wedding and we will talk more after it. We will probably take a decision by the end of the year. But a lot of things can happen until then.

small house

Speaking about building a house.
We are thinking about a wood house and I’ve been starting to make some research on this. And I stumbled on this (really great info, but it is in Romanian).

Project – The honest Romanian guide

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks.
Initially I was thinking to open a google document and add things there when I encounter them or when I’m thinking about them.
And maybe in time I would have enough of them so I can publish an (e)book.

After starting the blog it only seemed natural to just make a page for it and put it online, so anyone can access it. The book idea still stands and maybe one day I will do that too.

But for now you can find here the project: The honest Romanian guide.

And as mentioned on that page it will be a collection of things Romanians hate or make fun of when someone else does them, but do them themselves.

open field