Trip Report: EuroTour '07

17 December 2007

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As noted earlier, Rebecca and I flew off to Europe last week for a little holiday, JavaPolis, and a week of team meetings.

With the winds behind us, we managed to make it to Schiphol airport in a record 6.5hrs from Newark. Not bad at all.

Met up with James Cobb, the kick-ass .org brand-manager/designer at the airport. We managed to keep each other walking around and awake all day to stave off horrible jet lag.

The wife and I stayed a night in Amsterdam before taking the train to the lovely Centraal Station area of Antwerp. If you're looking for the ambiance of a Motel 6 with the convenience and bouquet of being beside the Greyhound Station, this is the place for you!

Once in Antwerp, we hooked back up with James, and met, for the first time, the Fabulous Five from Poland: Przemek, Ryseik, Adam, Tomek and Pawel (left to right). Mark Newton was present for a few days, but had to return to Switzerland early, unfortunately.

We ate a lot of frites. And waffles.

The Polish developers attended a lot of the conference talks, and we as a team had some great whiteboarding/brainmapping sessions about the future direction of, as we're calling it (more blogs to follow on that topic).

Somewhere along the way, the guys goaded me into doing the Java Black Belt competition at the Cap-Gemini booth. I managed to make it to the finals, and ultimately won a PlayStation 3. Unfortunately, it was a PAL-based Region-2 PS3, which is decidedly incompatible with my Region-1 NTSC lifestyle choices. It's now living in Poland, along with a Nintendo Wii that Adam won.

I chatted up Crazy Bob and learned that we'd both lost our hats during the trip. A man without his hat is a sad sad thing. Luckily, I did manage to procure another. Also luckily, I have more hair than the other Bob.

I met Vincent Massol, Stan Silvert and Julien Viet for the first time. I met Emmanual Bernard, Max Andersen, and a host of other JBossers yet again.

During the entire trip, I managed to get yelled at a lot (hat shopkeeper, hotel matron, inn keeper, bar maid) and had that Alecia Keys song injected into my skull everywhere I went.

Overall, a success!

Learn a new (spoken) language

20 January 2007

culture north-carolina polish

Pimsleur Polish For a variety of reasons, I've come to the decision that I should learn how to speak Polish. I know a crapload of computer languages, of course: Perl, Java, Ruby, Bash, Tcl, Logo. But English is the only thing I can speak, even after 3 years of floudering in highschool French and a year of 8am university Latin courses.

It's time to learn another human language.

Sure, you can speak French and sound sexy. But even simply pretending to speak French is enough to accomplish that. Everyone's 4-year-old speaks Spanish fluently these days, and I simply don't need to be shown up by a 3-foot-tall crumb muncher. That's no good for the ego.

So, Polish it is.

I live in a small mountain town and figured correctly that our bookstore wouldn't have any useful Polish courses on CD. Thanks to the zippy folks at Amazon, and my seemingly unending free trial of their Prime cheap overnight service, I possess the first 10 lessons of the Pimsleur system.

For those of you who don't know (I didn't), Pimsleur is purely an audio/spoken system. There's nothing to read. The Polish speaker on the CD works backwards through sounding out words and there is just enough repetition to learn while keeping it all interesting.

Vo-Tech!So far, I can say

  • Excuse me!
  • Do you speak English?
  • Are you an American?
  • I understand a little Polish.

The package of 5 CDs is nice enough. I quickly ripped them to iTunes so I could drop them on the iPod. The CDDB is just whacked when it comes to the Pimsleur CDs, be warned.

Then, for the hell of it, I Googled for Polish resources in my town.

Lo and Behold! The local vocational college, about a mile away, has a Polish class starting next week. I'm heading back to school!