Tag - romania

People I want to remember from eLiberatica

I met such great people on my recent trip to Bucharest for eLiberatica 2009. There’s something about conferences and trips: you compress so much experience into so short a period of time that you feel like old friends with people you met just a few days before.

Here’s a few that I want to remember and stay in touch with …

Georg Greve
georg-greveGeorg is passionate about free and open source software … and also passionate about good user experience. Totally unexpectedly, we completely connected, discussed software and life passionately and humorously … spent a lot of time together. It’s funny, but in the way we joked about each other and poked holes in each other’s ego, he kind of felt like a brother.

He’s the president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, a great speaker, and about as smart as they come (he was trained as a physicist and was planning to go into nanotechnology before being seduced by free software).

Anca Luca
Anca is a software developer for Xwiki, a corporate collaboration company/community in Romania and around the world.

She’s wicked smart – working on a better online word processor/text editor than currently exists on the market – and is very definitely totally switched on. (I know something about the challenges about creating word processing capabilities in a browser, as I’ve done that for a past project. I’ll be very thankful not to have to do it again in the future!) She’s also extremely articulate, and I told her she should be on the panel of speakers for eLiberatica 2010.

Jeroen van Meeuwen
jeroenJeroen is a geeks’ geek. VP of the Fedora Linux association for Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, he coordinates a ton of open source development. He’s also very funny and personable … and definitely knows how to party. I’ve heard, however, that trying to out-drink a Finn is like trying to win a land war in Asia: don’t even bother … and I think Jeroen might have discovered this fact.

Monty Widenius
monty-wideniusIf you know open source software, you know Monty. He’s the co-creator of the MySQL database. He’s an extremely successful software developer as well as entrepreneur … but here’s the thing: he has no ego. Zero.

Or maybe I should say attitude. He’s got some programmer’s ego about technical stuff, although he’s always willing to listen to other viewpoints. But he’s got zero I’m-a-bigshot attitude, in spite of having created absolutely iconic software and successfully selling his company to Oracle.

David Axmark
david-axmarkDavid is the other half of the creation of MySQL, and he’s very similar to Monty in that he has absolutely no attitude … he’s a regular guy, approachable and easy to talk to.

He’s a fairly avid photographer – has 6 cameras – and was always taking shots of people from odd angles when least expected.

Oana Iordache
oanna-lordacheOana is part of the Agora team, along with Anca, Marina, and Andreea, who took amazing care of the speakers at eLiberatica 2009, and made everything else in the conference run smoothly as well.

More than that, she’s a funny, patient person who accomplished the gargantuan task of teaching me a couple of dance steps when we all went out Saturday night. As I mentioned on Flickr, when I dance, women faint, strong men weep, and small children run away screaming … but I think I made a scrap of progress that night. Thanks!

Romulus Meier
romulus-meier2Aside from having about the coolest first name you can get in Romania aside from Vlad, Romulus is the general manager of Agora Media, the company that puts on eLiberatica conference. He’s smart, engaged, and isn’t unwilling to have a little fun, too, which is important in a leader.

He’s also an amazing dancer, and told me that if I came for 10 eLiberatica’s, then I’d probably be pretty decent as well! I really appreciate the fact that he and the Agor team absolutely made the event an experience to remember for me, and I think all the other speakers as well. And he fed us like kings. Wow …

Danece Cooper
danaceDanece is the “open source diva,” and she had an excellent, excellent talk on open source success stories in government and corporations.

She’s worked for just about everyone in tech … Sun, Microsoft, Apple, and other companies, and is currently with a start-up – a new experience for her. Funny and friendly!

Ismael Alea
ismael-oleaIsmael is the kind of guy that you can meet for 30 seconds and be talking like you’ve known each other all your lives. He’s Spanish, and very definitely has a high-tempo Latin personality … passion, excitement, laughter, and lots and lots of hand talking!

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There were others as well … I’m thinking of 10 or so people that I met and chatted with during the after-conference party on Saturday night, whose name I either don’t know or can’t remember, and who I don’t have photos of. But they’re in my memory, fondly.

. . .
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Staying in touch is a hard thing to do across a continent. There’s Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more …. but it’s not like face-to-face. Monty won’t be able to try to convince me to have some 60-proof jet fuel online, and Georg and I won’t be able to riff back and forth the way we did in person.

But I’m hoping to stay in touch, and meet each of these people and more in person again. Perhaps eLiberatica 2010?

We’ll see!

Carpe diem: on spontaneity

The best things in life happen by accident. Or, at least, partially by accident … to those who are open to opportunity and change.

vladLast Sunday I was wandering around old Bucharest when I happened on the remains of Vlad Tepes’ old castle. It’s a fascinating place, and as I wandered around, checking it out, I struck up a conversation with Radu, part of a troupe of medieval revivalists who put on demonstrations of medieval arts and warfare at the site.

Vlad Tepes, as you probably know, is better known to North Americans as Dracula, and he was an integral figure in fighting off the Turks and helping the region we now know as Romania win its freedom.

For whatever reason, the show didn’t go off that evening, but Radu and I kept chatting. After a while, he offered to give me some lessons in medieval longsword fighting. Hardly believing my luck, I jumped at the chance and spent the next hour learning how to attack and how to defend myself with a 5-kilo training sword.

raduI learned the standard defensive and offensive postures … he taught me the basic arm and upper body techniques for defense, and a couple of different options for offense.

It was hot and we were both sweating profusely by the end, but this was just about the most incredible and wonderful experience of my whole trip.

I also learned that a swordsman never touches the blade of his sword with his bare hand, as the oils and sweat of your skin can corrode the blade. That lesson was rammed home when I inadvertently touched the side of my blade with my hand after a few ringing slashes and parries, and got a piece of Romanian steel inserted under my skin … which I had to dig out with a needle the next day.

steelOn every single trip I’ve made (and it’s got to be close to a hundred by now) I’ve had the most amazing experiences by first learning a bit about the location, thinking of a couple of possible things to do before I even get on the airplane, and then completely going with the flow when I’m actually there.

The pre-work ensures I don’t miss anything that’s an absolutely must-see (from my perspective, not some guidebook), and forms a basic background of knowledge about the destination. Then, when I’m actually on the trip, I have some backstory, some clue, as to what might be a great experience or not. But it can all go in the fire if something that appears better in the moment turns up.

The reality is that you can’t plan for your moods, for who you meet, for the weather, or any of a hundred other factors that play into what will be the most amazing opportunity. So planning a trip – or a project – extensively and sticking to the plan robotically is a waste of time.

I think it was Clauswitz (and if I had internet connection on this airplane I’d verify it) who said, “In battle, planning is essential, and plans are useless.”

I think that’s true about a lot of things in life.

Bucharest photostream, part 1

Here’s a selection of my photos from Bucharest.

The first few are people, and if you want the details on who they are and what they do, you might want to go to Flickr to see all the notes. The majority of the photos, however, are of the city and architecture …

Click the expand button to go fullscreen.

Memories of eLiberatica …

As I look past the wing of the airplane down to the patchwork German countryside, I can almost believe the illusion that the earth is sliding past while I and the plane are stationary. It’s an easy illusion to indulge in, because as I leave Romania and Bucharest the experiences I had there in such a short time are so vivid in my memory.

contrasts

All the memories jumble up as I try to record them here … arriving at 11:30 PM and strolling, jet-lagged, through midnight streets … photowalking through old Bucharest … swordfighting at Vlad Tepes’ castle … lunches and dinners with amazing people like MySQL founders David Axmark and Monty Widenius, Free Software Foundation Europe president Georg Greve, Fedora EMEA vice-president Jeroen van Meeuwen, Spanish open-source advocate Ismael Olea … the list goes on and on.

tower-geometry“Open source diva” Danese Cooper is a really fun speaker to listen to, and she’s worked for practically every company that matters (except for IBM, as she told me).

The people at Agora Media were amazing as well … Rom (the first person I know who is actually called Romulus, which for a guy with a modest dose of Star Trek Virus™ like me is pretty cool) Maier … Anca, who took care of us as no-one else could … Andreea …. Oana, who took pity on me and showed me a couple of dance moves so I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself at the club (hey, 99% is NOT 100!) … and many others as well.

But it was a great thrill to see the people of Romania, especially the students and IT people who came to the conference. Smart, dedicated, passionate … they are intensively switched-on. It was such a privilege to wander the halls during the conference and meet them, ask questions about what they were studying or working on, and learn about their worlds.

The after-conference party was a ton of fun, and while I don’t have a hope of remembering all names of the people I met, a bunch of us have already connected on Twitter and I’m looking forward to staying in touch that way.

I’m going to put other recollections and thoughts, along with photos, in other blog posts …. keep posted.

With love from Romania

It’s 2 AM in Bucharest and the dogs are barking in the distance.

I’m in town for eLiberatica, a conference on open source software, and I’ll be speaking tomorrow today, but I’m fully jet lagged and in spite of the fact that I was up and traveling for about 32 hours straight, my body has no desire for sleep. This is going to be interesting.

The hotel is an interesting mix of modern art/decor and 19th century eastern European. The spaciousness, funky color scheme, and contemporary furniture is the modern part; the unhappily combined lack of adequate A/C and window screens is the 19th century part. I’m not quite sure where the pirated stations on the 20″ CRT TV or the pulsating rhythms of the first-floor bar fit.

I came in at about 11 PM last night, was massively overcharged by an unscrupulous cab driver who expertly inferred my lack of local savoir faire, and took a brief stroll around midnight before coming up to fail miserably at the one task that matters right now: sleep.

At least the location is good – I’m about a block and a half from the Romanian Palace of the Parliament. Here’s a pic I’ve filched from Wikipedia:

palace_of_the_parliament

And the neighborhood is intensely … interesting, from what I could tell of it during a late night stroll. Lots of graffiti, which makes you think a bit, but also lots of people including couples and women out late at night. Some amazingly interesting architecture – I can’t wait for a daytime photowalk. At the risk of over-generalizing from an insufficient sample size, I’m guessing turn-of-the-century Romanian design was not about minimalism.

Ah well, it’s now 2:39, according to my trusy iPhone connecting to RO Vodafone, and 6:39 “home time.” Time for another attempt at counting those bloody sheep.

Good night, or something …