MRE No. 6, Chicken Fajita!

posted in personal stuff on June 29th, 2008

I guess that my TreasureMyText textstream really says it all:

The USPS guy just delivered two original Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) - military rations. Have been looking forward to this for years now.

I have indeed been looking forward to this for twelve long years now, ever since I first read a book written by Tom Clancy where military rations where mentioned.

Back in 1996, I did not have the same facilities as I do now and I just could not get my wish fulfilled and when I was in the US the last time, during the summer of 1999, I flat-out forgot to grab a pack of MREs.

This time around however, I got myself a set and they just arrived. So far, they are looking quite good. I wonder how the taste is…

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Live from the city that never sleeps

posted in personal stuff on June 28th, 2008

One more day to go and my first four weeks in NYC will officially be over. Does not really seem that way from my point, because I can still remember the day when I go there:

On the day I left the Netherlands, I had to get up at 06:15 am, way too early for my taste, but thinking that it would all be for the greater good, I put up and made do.

After a quick breakfast, I was off to ’s Hertogenbosch Central Station, where I would meet up with a friend of mine who wanted to accompany me to the airport and wave her goodbyes.

Following a short ride on the train, we entered Shiphol Airport, which seemed to be quite an experience for my company, mostly because she had never been to an airport before, much less flown a plane.

The check-in was quite painless, with a friendly ground stewardess explaining, in great detail, where I had to go, once I arrived at London Heathrow and ensuring that I understood the directions. Makes me wonder if many people are actually able to get lost on that five minute walk…

The day before I left, I spent, I think, at least two hours packing stuff the right way and stripping out anything that would not be needed, and it paid off: once I entered no-mans-land and walked through the first checkpoint, one of the security officers actually complimented me on my packaging skills - score one for the home team I guess.

Another funny bit is that, since I am traveling with an Austrian passport, everybody felt the need to talk to me in German, which felt kind-of weird to me, but still: a great service.

The flight to London was easy, had a little chat with one of the stewards who talked to me about the planes that were already outfitted to allow cellphones during flight and how the plane we used was not yet upgraded to add this service. No child sitting next to me (in fact, nobody sitting in my row at all) meant a nice fourty minutes of relaxation.

I got a little bit freaked out when the pilot mentioned that the flight would take fourty minutes, because that would mean that I would be too late for my connecting flight and I kept stressing out until I arrived in London and finally realized, thanks to an announcement stating the local time, that the UK was in a -1 timezone. Phew!

Once in Heathrow, I made use of the instructions I got earlier and quickly found the gate where my plane to JFK would be departing from but first had to go through a security checkpoint (the fifth one at that point) where I was, once again, complimented on my compartmentalized packaging technique.

A lighthearted security guy frisked me (he skipped on the body cavity search though) and asked me for the address that I would be staying at during the first night. I had everything prepared the way it should have been (mostly thanks to and got through the whole ordeal in two minutes as opposed to ten (which is what the next guy took). Apparently, doing what the security officer asks you to do and not resisting can make it a whole lot easier.

During the flight itself, I discovered Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight entertainment system called v:port, which a selection of great movies and while consuming the food, a selection of chicken with mushrooms, pasta salad and pudding with 53% chocolate, I watched and very much enjoyed Into the Wild.

Some six-seven hours later, when we landed, people started clapping, which reminded me of the kind of audience you would expect in a Turkey-bound airplane. People, the pilot is supposed to land the plane, successfully; that is what we pay him (or her) for…

And quite a good pilot he was (or maybe just plain lucky): we got to JFK twenty minutes early, which meant that our gate was still occupied, so we just parked in the middle of a runway; if that ain’t pushing your luck, I would not know what is.

While disembarking the plane, I had a little bit of a déjà vu experience, the gangway which led us to the customs hall had the exact same ads as the one we used in Heathrow, even at the same spots.

Getting through customs was easy, the whole process not taking any longer than twelve minutes, of which I spent ten in a line leading to the actual officer. I was prepared for everything, needed nothing other than my passport and index fingers. Friendly and professional are keywords here. So much for the FUD most people tried to instill in me.

In order to combat jet lag, I decided not to sleep on the plane and complete the day/night cycle according to East coast time, which resulted in me, technically speaking, going for an all-nighter. Nonetheless, I woke up very refreshed the next morning and had, at that time, already adjusted to the local time.

The day after my arrival, Pak-Kei and me went to a few of the events that were part of the Internet Week New York, one of them being Mashable’s exhibit hall, where I discovered a couple of nice services (more on that some other time) and got rick-rolled by the DJ, which sparked quite a few laughs from the attending audience.

I also got to meet a few people from The Hatchery, which is basically an American Idol for companies, it would certainly be great to put those connections to use some time in the future…

As past of the Internet Week New York, Pak-Kei and me also went to a panel on Net Aesthetics and did some more stuff, like attending (yet another) “Diggnation does IT live” recording, where I even got interviewed, based on the fact that I was, apparently, the one fan that travelled the farthest of all attendees.

Shortly after that, the first semi-heatwave (we only had four out of the required five days to be actually allowed to call it a heatwave) of the year hit us, with temperatures averaging 32 deg. C (89.6 deg. F) and even peaking a whooping 37 deg. C (98 deg. F).

Once the heatwave was gone and our Internet uplink was restored, I finally got a chance to sit down and get dirty with the likes of CodeIgniter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, IMEEM and, in order to build what I came here to build.

A few more, noteworthy things are the thunderstorms (and lovely warnings that provides you with) and the home cooked style meals that are so fat that they can easily give you a cardiac arrest, but still taste amazingly good.

For some visuals, check out my gallery or my Flickr photostream.

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Saying goodbye

posted in personal stuff on June 1st, 2008

During the last week, I had a couple of meet-ups with friends and a tutor of mine in order to tie up loose ends and say goodbye in person to a

During the last week, I have had a couple of meet-ups with friends and a tutor of mine in order to tie up some loose ends and basically just say goodbye in person to those friends I will be missing the most.

While nobody cried (as far as I know), saying goodbye somehow never gets easier; thanks to the Internet, we will all be staying in touch of course, but nonetheless, not seeing your friends for an extended period of time does carry some emotional weight.

That said, a few friends of mine had a couple of really nice gifts for me; one of them being a picture frame with a touching selection of photographs and Jack even had a little speech prepared in order to prepare me for the trip; touching to say the least.

I also had the good fortune of being able to dine with a few friends of mine and talk about the past, present and future, my ambitions for New York and how I think it all will go. Very self-centered, but that is what goodbye-parties / dinners are mostly about, if you ask me.

One thing I realized remembered this week is how important and great friends can be and by friends, I do not mean contacts, but rather: real friends, those that will back you up, no matter what you set out to do and will try to support you to the best of their abilities.

One more thing I realized is that it is all about having the right friends and I think the best way to put it is to quote Nate’s grandpa:

If you go through life and can count on 5 good friends then you can consider yourself a lucky man.

And boy do I know that this is true, because friendship is not about the amount of friends you have, but about the quality of the relationship you have with your friends, it is about how intense it is and how intense you can make it.

That said, it is time for me to get some more packing done, because at this point, the countdown is at less than 48 hours and I am really excited to get to New York and start working with Pak-Kei.

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Valentine’s Day 2008

posted in personal stuff on February 14th, 2008

February 14th, Valentine’s Day – one of the three most important days for those that are currently in a relationship as well as for those hoping to be in one soon, and not unlike last year, there are a number of thoughts on the subject that I feel like sharing with you.

There is an old proverb that claims that if someone were to tell you who your friends are, you could, in turn, tell them who they are and I think nothing is more true when it comes to relationships.

It is said that opposites attract but most of the time, successful relationships consist of people that complete each other and while that does not necessarily mean that either partner cannot be the opposite of the other, in general, occurrences of fundamental opposites falling for each other are very rarely seen.

Let me preface this train of thought by saying that I believe many males to be incapable of living a truly blissful life without a companion, for the simple reason that we, the males, in general, depend on female council.

Do not take my word for it though, just grab a couple of books and you will see that a large percentage of authors dedicate their works to their wives or other females, not because it would be the right thing to do (it is), but because, and I semi-quote “she kept my back free and put me in a position to do this”.

And it is not just authors who greatly benefit from their partners, in fact, just about every male in a healthy relationship does (naturally, females do also benefit from relationships, but their benefits are oftentimes very different ones).

The females in our lives, be it friends, girlfriend, spouse, sister or mother, are the ones you can depend on the most, the ones that will stick by you and help you get up again when you have been knocked down and sometimes, it just looks as if we (the males) keep forgetting the support we receive, albeit unconditional in many cases, is not something that should be taken for granted.

Males are often considered the stronger sex, simply because of the way our respective bodies are built, but what holds true on a physical level does not necessarily hold true on an emotional level, for it is the females that do much of the hard work: shielding us, caring for us, healing us and most importantly: loving us. I am not saying that males are incapable of doing the same things, because that would simply be untrue, but in general, females are a lot better at doing the above mentioned things a lot better than we can.

Humans, like all animals, can easily accustom themselves to a certain routine, no matter what kind and while at times routines can be beneficial, certain routines can be a killer for relationships. There is nothing wrong with growing accustomed to your partner per se, after all, that is simply how things go, and in the process you will most probably learn a whole range of things about the other, but that does not give you the right to take them for granted, even though it is easy to accept someone’s unconditional love if they keep giving it to you on a daily basis.
Many a man are likely to just discard this show of affection as it being the way it is (or is supposed to be), routines, however, can lead to fading interest, in both parties and this, in turn leads to people being more susceptible to an unwillingness to give more than it takes to keep the relationship going.

While I am not generally a fan of the concept of a single day specifically designed to overload the important people in your life with gifts that are mostly of commercial value, I believe that many males would be well advised to at least show that they care on this very day.

For those smart males that are looking to do a little bit extra and keep the females in their lives extra happy, I would suggest that you do not stick to a single day of showing your feelings to the other, but rather spread it evenly throughout the year.

Now, I do realize that sometimes things just do not work out as expected and when things start to heat up and there is little time for niceties, the most basic, yet often: more important things, are easily forgotten, so just grab your PDA, Blackberry or whatever you own and jot down a few appointments throughout the year.

Hint: I would go for at least four days a year (although I would recommend making “her” feel special at least once every week). These days are special dates, spread out throughout the year, intended to show that you still value her, still appreciate all the things she is doing for you and still think that, excuse my choice of words here, she is the hottest piece of ass you could ever get and more importantly: wanted to get.

Showing emotions is not something that should be considered wrong or discarded as being anything less than masculine, for it takes a real man to open up your heart and show your feelings.

Take the time to show the other that you care and that you are worth keeping. Do something out of the ordinary for your partner and utilize the way our brains are wired in as that they only notice that which is different easily.

Our brains are hardwired to act as filters in order to protect us from too much information and if you apply this to a relationship, you will see that having the guts to be different, having the guts to break through some of the simple routines and do something totally unexpected and keeping her guessing about what crazy, albeit lovely idea, you will come up next can shed some very nice rewards; most of all: the feeling that you made someone else feel great about herself (or himself, just depends).

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On moving internationally

posted in personal stuff on January 11th, 2008

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me if I ever regretted moving from Austria to the Netherlands and basically leaving everything behind – the short answer? No. You will want to read on if you are interested in the long answer.

First, let me preface this entry by explaining a few things: I moved to the Netherlands in the summer of 2002 – it was more or less a spontaneous decision after having been there only once (and enjoying it) a couple of months earlier.

Normally, with big decisions, I tend to consider all the advantages and disadvantages, I weigh my various options and try to look at the big picture and disregard all small details that are not important for the overall decision.

Not this time though, when my parents first approached me in the fall of 2001 about moving internationally, I was reluctant, I knew little about the country or its customs, I did not speak one word of the language and, childish as it may seem, the one thing I could think of first – broadband Internet was not going to be available for at least a year at the very address I would be living at.

All in all, quite a hand full of reasons to tip the decision in favor of simply staying in Austria, but as always, there were also a few reason that would be able to, at least, balance the whole thing out:

First of all, Austria still has a conscript army where you are supposed to spend (waste?) ten to twelve months at, while getting paid little and seeing all your (female) friends move on to their sophomore year because they are not required to join the service.

Now, I will not say that I am a pacifist, but I do not see the point of me shooting vintage rifles, throwing hand grenades and crawling through mud all day long. Yes, it’s free physical education, paid for by the man and certainly a great way to condition yourself both physically and mentally, but at which cost? Being harassed days on end because you did not complete an obstacle course in the required time? No, thank you. I will just go to a gym and pay for it myself.

That and of course the fact that many drill instructors have enjoyed a lower education than me and still behave like they fought in both Wars and helped tip them in “our” favor. I do not have a problem with authority, I realize that there is a definite need for leaders and followers, but some things simply do not work for me.

I am not much of a patriot, I realize that, but then again I never claimed that I was one. I see citizenship as a, I guess the right word would be, attribute, that can benefit someone (or not) and I would like to think that by paying taxes and behaving like every good citizen should, that I have done a lot for my country.

There are others that are more willing to join a service and sacrifice themselves for their country, but I am not one of them. I do, however, have an insane amount of respect for every soldier that actually fought in a war and had to take another person’s life to protect the very country I am in.

Apart from the army issue, there was also the longing for change. I always wanted to spend a year abroad, just pick up a new language on the go and experience another country by immersing myself into their culture and therefore making it, at least partially, my own.

The Netherlands provided me with all that – a good education, a new country and a new language and best of all: no army I would be required to join after high school.

Obvious advantages aside, the Netherlands also were host to a number of other things that would be important for me later on, after high school – such as a good higher education that focused on new media. Yes, there are colleges and universities like that in Austria, but they do not have the same national status as the college I am studying in right now and prestige, somehow, still matters to me.

Back to the future, it has been five and a half years since I have moved here. As always, there have been the good times, the bad times and then there have been the great times: in the past two years I have personally met some of the people I admire, such as Kevin Kelly and Dick Hardt, I have talked to people that made millions on the web and lost them in the blink of a second. I have talked to some of the most influential people of the Dutch media scene and I had (and have) the pleasure of working with some of them.

I have given speeches in front of huge audiences on topics I care about and even though both cases were rather ad-hoc, I like to think that I did perform quite well.

The Netherlands, for me, were and are a catalyst of sorts: after moving here I acquired new clients, nay friends that taught me a great deal about going about business. I have met generous people that helped me by sharing experiences and interesting information with me and I have worked with people that showed me the works and I am thankful for that, because I believe that I would not be who I am today were it not for their intervention.

Business things aside, there is one issue that keeps coming up, an item that many people cannot and will not disregard as lightly as I did: friends.

When moving internationally, you are basically sacrificing friendships; sure – there are trains and planes and cars and you could visit them (or they could visit you) every now and again, but one way or another, the friendship is going to change.

Well, let me say this: real friendship transcends borders. There are a few people in Austria I still have contact with and those are people I consider true friends. Not only because we shared many things in common back “then”, but also because we still have regular contact and try to keep the other in the loop, which is good enough for me.
I have not been to Austria in more than five years now and every time people ask me when I will be going back, I have to give them the same answer: I do not know if that will happen any time soon, maybe not ever at all.

In closing, let me state that if someone were to ask me what the best decision was that I made in the last decade, I can say, with absolute certainty, it would be moving to the Netherlands and I do not regret it at all.

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