Aug 14 2017

The US adventure(part 4)

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 5:32

In the morning of 14th of August, I packet everything and left Vienna behind. The next city to visit was Washington. I planned to hang around the great capitol for 2 days, but sometimes things do not go as planned. The initial plan was to park the car somewhere in the centre of Washington, visit all I could, then go to sleep in Silver Spring, a Washington suburb and repeat the next day, before leaving to Baltimore. Like I said, it definitely did not go as planned.

I entered Washington and got scared when I noticed there was no parking where Google said there would be one. And I sort of drifted in traffic looking like crazy for a place where I could stop the car for a moment so I could check the GPS and choose a destination. And because there was a lot of traffic, I ended up moving around the center of Washington for quite a while, so you could say I saw a lot of it. In the end I found a place where I was able to stop for 5 minutes and by then I was so panicked that I just set the Silver Spring hotel as a destination and left in that direction. It took me about 45 minutes to get there and 30 minutes I drove on street called 16th(apparently somebody low on creativity when naming some streets in Washington). This street was weird like hell, most of it was full of churches. I kid you not, I was actually playing a game, saying “Dang” every time I noticed a building that was not a church. A lot of the churches were Protestant and Reformed, but I also saw a Scientology church.

Anyway, I digress. So I got to my hotel at about 11 in the morning and they did not have a room for me. So I just left the car there and headed for the metro station to go visit the city center. Lucky for me, the metro station was only 10 minutes walking distance. I bought a day pass, because my plan was to move a little and hopped on. I got off in the center of Washington, in L’Enfant Plaza and went directly to the museum center. I mean, I was there for the museums after all. And I killed about 4 hours in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I’m into science a lot, so staring at plane engines, rocket systems, helicopters, satellites, the original first moon station and astronaut costumes was heaven for me. And then looking at all the animals, some of them extinct and all the human skulls in the order of their evolution was mesmerising.

But there is a catch when it comes to visiting museums. If the entry is free, every idiot gets in. And yeah, unfortunately there were a lot of idiot kids, making stupid noises, touching or kicking things and even more idiot parents that were allowing this kind of behaviour. It’s quite sad really.

After I finished with these two museums I had the most horrendous chicken sandwich of my life, I had not much choice, because in the city center the other option is overpriced restaurants for snobbish tourists. So I chose the cheapest tourist meal that provided me enough sustenance to keep my legs running to the Washington monument and then to the White House, where currently one of the biggest idiots this universe ever produced currently resides. Or he would, if he wouldn’t be out golfing all the time.

After I was done, I found the nearest metro station and I went straight to the hotel where I took a quick shower and then drifted off to sleep at 10:00 PM. And that evening with my feet hurting like hell and a smell of perspiration I never ever smelled on me before I decided to leave Washington alone. Thus, first thing in the morning, I jumped in the jeep and drove to Baltimore.

Washington did not impress me much, but then again not most capital cities do. I just think that big concrete jungles are really not my thing.

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Aug 13 2017

The US adventure(part 3)

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 5:13

Here it is, the day of the concert. This is the concert I bought the thicket by mistake for, the ticket bought at 3:00 am in the morning that started my US adventure.

I had to fill my day with something and as Vienna is quite poor in places to kill time I chose to go to a wetland national park, the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As I am a big lover of nature and isolation, this turned out to be a great decision, as the park was mostly empty of human beings and I had the nature all to myself. The water lilies were no longer blooming, but there were other plants and insects just as interesting. I walked between the Deephole Point and Taylors Point, and took small breaks to admire small beaches and butterflies. And of course I got bitten by some bloody insect and have some itchy sports on my right shoulder. But oh well, I will bear it all for the love of nature.

US might have its flaws, but from what I’ve seen seems to take nature and protecting it very seriously.

After I was done with the park, I did a small stop in Springfield. Yes, there is a town named Springfield in Virginia. The town is quite small, it does not look like the Springfield in “The Simpsons” and from a short visit, it did not seem like they really want to benefit from the “connection” with the series, because I was not able to find “Simpsons” themed stuff anywhere. So I just stopped at the mall, had a ribeye steak and headed to the next town.

The next town in my plan was Alexandria. I panicked a little when I discovered that it was quite difficult to find a parking spot, but in the end I managed to find one and walked for about an hour through the Jones Point Park. The park is set up along the Potomac River and over it is the highway uniting Alexandria with Rosalie Island. It was fascinating for me to see how well the space beneath the highway was used, a lot of vegetation, some basketball fields, some skating establishments and parking places. Sure, there is a lot of noise coming from the highway, but I think people are just used to it.

After Alexandria I came back to Vienna, to the hotel and prepared for the concerts. Taking a bath and eating something, there was not much to prepare, really. I climbed in the truck and got there 1 hour earlier. And I had the occasion to notice something very interesting. Aside from the seated places in the Filene Center, tickets without seats were being sold, and people could choose their own place in the grass, on the field in front of the establishment. And they were allowed to bring in blankets, food, drinks, anything that you would bring at a picnic. It was amazing.

The concert started at 19:00 with a young tallent with an amazing voice: Brynn Elliott. She was amazing and I intend to pay attention to her career.

After she was done, Switchfoot was on. I had the impression that being the older and more successful band, they will be the last to sing, but no. That was not the setup. They sang quite a few of their old songs and not many from the new album. Jon Foreman, the lead singer, even climbed down from the scene and walked on chairs between the fans. He was two rows in front of me, and I hated myself for not getting tickets there. But oh well, I’m not a teenager anymore, touching a famous person does not mean to me as much as it would have meant 20 years ago. Now I really think that having a coffee or tea with the admired person would do it for me.

Jon Foreman is an awesome human being, Switchfoot has lanuched its 10th album and the band is 21 this year. That is damn impressive and their alternative sound, the positive messages in their well written lyrics is what has made them what they are. Switchfoot is loved and appreciated in US and they are a trademark of this country. I read some article before coming here that they are a Cristian band, well I did not hear God and the bible mentioned that much in their lyrics, that’s why it made me laugh at first that I, an atheist for more than 10 years, was actually enjoying Christian alternative rock. What I always loved about Switchfoot lyrics was that although some songs were about sadness, there was always that line that mentions hope. And is the kind of music that makes you think. One of their biggest hits “This is your life”, starts up like this:

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes,
This is your life

And today is all you’ve got now
And today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes.

This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, are you who you want to be
This is your life, is it everything you’ve dreamed
That it would be when the world was younger,
And you had everything to lose?

And I was watching him, listening to him sing this song with so much force that I actually started thinking. Is this all there is about my life, alone here, on a different continent so far away from home? But then again, when I was younger and had everything to lose, I actually thought I had nothing to lose, because I was nobody, with no special skill or talent and also… as it seemed at the time, no potential. But here I was, on vacation on another continent, watching this guy sing live after listening to his music for about 10 years. The younger me never dreamed this, because the younger me only dreamed about survival. So yeah, I am more than I dreamed that I would be, and this is not even the last version of me, there are more changes coming and I really hope I will love the me that I later become.

After Switchfoot, Lifehouse took the stage, and I noticed for the first time(silly me) that this band does not have a keyboard. So all the sounds in their songs are obtained by playing a guitar,a bass and drums. So what makes them so special? Well, the sound is definetly good, but again the lyrics make the difference. And the voice of the lead singer, Jason Wade is quite peculiar. It’s is hoarse and strong, but soft when it needs to be. Maybe I’m wrong here, but his voice resembles a little to Chester Bennington’s. Listen to “Whatever It Takes” and notice how his voice changes during this song. And notice the lyrics as well, they are heart-felt, they are sincere and the song was written for somebody in his life, a real person, a real situation, and thus, real feelings are communicated through the song.

Overall the concert was amazing. I have no doubt that John Mayer will probably top this night, but for the moment, all I can say is that buying the ticket to this concert is one of the two most beautiful mistakes I’ve done in my life.

The other one was kissing you, one year ago, on my birthday.

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Aug 12 2017

The US adventure(part 2)

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 3:23

I woke up Saturday at 6:00AM without any alarm. Going to bed at 10:00PM definitely helped with that. The first thing I did was to go to the restaurant area to get breakfast. I was told it was a continental breakfast, but I was not told which continent they were referring to. The restaurant area was a 60 square-meters kitchen, that has one big table on which the following were set: a toaster, a bundle of bagels, really small butter cubes, small Philadelphia cheese cilinders, jam cubes, a big karrafe of orange juice, a coffee maker, a coffee filter, a bowl with coffee creamers and a box of tea bags. Those were the options of the continental breakfast. So yeah, definitely not Europe, because continental breakfast means something else in Europe.

I got my bagel, got my cheese, got my coffee… well so called coffee. My mother would like it probably, because it smelled and tasted just like the communist stuff she was drinking when I was a kid. I was watching the news and realised the impression I got while I was in Europe was not just my impression but the actual truth: every thing in the US news is somehow related to Trump. I mean, wtf? Nothing else happens in this country, except all the stupid things he does??? Apparently nothing else is more important. Some new-Nazi human rebuttals kill a woman and the bigger tragedy is that the president did not properly condemn the mother-fuckers. And curiously so, it is. Maybe I’m not seeing things right, but nazism is a belief or hobby that should be prohibited by law. You can’t allow marches and protests for it, like you do for LGBT. LGBT tries to protect rights and defend people that were born in a certain way. Nazism just tries to take rights away from people, and nobody is born a nazi, you become so by being around nazi assholes. Anyway, it’s terrifying for me to see that US is dealing with this shit that Europe has already dealt with and it did not end well. So, if I were president I would outlaw this shit right now, before they end up believing that they are right in their beliefs. US should learn from Europe’s history instead of making its own mistakes. Anyway, these are just my two cents and I might be wrong in what I’m writing right here, but you know what else is wrong? Nazism.

So, I ate my bagel, I listened to the news, checked how far away Charlottesville was and then went around my business. First item on the list was to check out the Wolf Trap Filene Center, where the Switchfoot&Lifehouse concert was taking place the next evening. And because Google maps said is only 1 hour walk, I just started walking in that direction. And I had the first insights about the US way of life. I was told Virginia is one of the richest areas of US. Well, considering that the neighbourhood that I traversed was made of houses with vales startin at 1.3M$. I find that fact to be quite true. Americans definetly like big things. Big portions, big cars, big lawns, big streets and big houses. No idea how things are in other cities, but in Vienna everything is spacey and big. The houses are similar in style, but they each have their own particularities, you can figure out which neighbour is richer by how their front lawn is designed. If they have space for more than one car to be parked, with more than one garage, definetly richer than average.

Vienna is very green. Even if they build houses they make sure to affect nature as little as possible,thus is is not unexpected to see a relatively new house, with a three in front of it that if you tried to hug its trunk, your hands would not touch. Vienna VA does not have much in common with Vienna from Austria, and honestly I did not expect it to.

I managed to reach the Wolf Trap National Park For The Performing Arts and had a long walk to get aquinted with the area. During my long walk I also learned its history. The Wolf Trap National Park For The Performing Arts was opened in 1966. 100 acres were donated by Catherine Filene Shouse to build a large outdoor amphitheater, what is now the Filene center. She later donated two structures which are now the Wolf Trap barns. These whole organisation is dedicated to art education in any form. The have numerous volunteers and they teach arts, especially music to kids as young as 5 years old.

The Filene Center is a magnificent construction. It allows has quite a few chairs in front of the scene. The sitting area is opened on the sides wich allows for natural airflow and the performances can be viewed from outside the establishment, from the hills surrounding the amphitheater. I can’t add here any pictures because the internet is not that great, but that establishment is great for any kind of events.

There are shuttles going to/from the Wolf Trap park to the city before/after the events and there are two huge parking lots, one for the members and one for non-members. Needless to say, I was quite confident about the logistics of the event.

I returned to the hotel and spent the rest of the day doing some shopping and visiting the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. When I say shopping, I mean I found Best Buy and bought myself an iPad. Although initially I wanted the 12,9″ one, I figured out I actually need one that fits in my bag and settled for the 10.5″. I’m very happy with my purchase, as proven by this entry and the previous one. I could joke about it and say I just bought the iPad so I cloud blog. I could joke about it and say that I bought it because I did not have an adapter for my European charger and thus, no way to charge up my phones. But the truth is, I was planning for a while to get a Kindle or a tablet, so … why not iPad?

As for the Meadowlark Botanical Garden, it was the best part of the day. It was sunny and silent and so much beauty, so many plants and colours. I’ve seen some water lillies that have a flower as big as a human head, I’ve seen some stick insects, yeah, those insects that look like sticks, and noticed that monster benches and a few plants were donated by people that had their names on memory plaques. As I’ve seen so far, a lot of things are done here with volunteers and donations. That neighborhood watch we’ve seen being mentioned in movies actually exists. So if a lot of things are done by community effort, why the hell do these guys pay taxes for!?

I also found a Walmart and bought three types of Twinkies, because I want to bring home to my colleagues the most American thing ever.

As for the car, we get along nicely now that I’ve learned how to drive it. It is amazing to me how fast I’ve adapted to not having a clutch. Also I am amazed at how easy it is to park the monster. I’ve parked it perfectly almost every time. I can’t explain it really. And yes, having really big wheels and 4×4 traction make this baby very stable. So far I love it, and I’m starting to get the love Americans have for trucks.

After a whole day in the sun, I went to the hotel and went to sleep. Another ten hours of blissful rest. Yeeey!

P.S. If you see any funny words, that seem not to fit in this entry, they might be there because of autocorrect. I did not disable it yet. I will disable it when it starts getting annoying, but for writing in English, currently it is quite practical.

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Aug 11 2017

The US adventure(part 1)

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:10

I am writing this in a hotel room in Baltimore, because I am so tired that I cannot sleep. And I might have a little bit of a cold coming up, but how I got here is a long story. I can tell you one thing, this is starting to feel like a real vacation for me. Since I left from Sibiu there hasn’t been one night with less than 10 hours of sleep for me. Anyway, let’s begin.

I left Sibiu on the morning of the 11th of August, after barely sleeping three hours. I was so scared that I would forget something, that something bad would happen and I would miss the plane and this obviously translated in the inability of falling asleep. I slept on the plane to Munich, and then I slept in the Munich airport, and later I slept on the plane to Washington DC. I would have slept more if the bloody Lufthansa personnel wouldn’t have made so much noise with them serving stuff every two hours. Seriously, it felt like a Romanian wedding. So much food and drinks, and this was the economy class.

I landed in DC and took about one hour and a half until I was cleared to enter the wonder that is the US. Because of all that waiting in line to be cleared with the customs, I did not have to wait too much for my bag, so there was that. I got my Samsonite bag and got out of the airport and into an Alamo shuttle so I could go to their office to rent a car. Did I mention it was raining cats and dogs. Anyway, I asked for a compact one, just for me and my bag. They upgraded me to a 2016 Jeep Renegade, because … why not? Actually there was one reason why they upgraded me that I discovered later. The car had the possibility to switch to manual and use it as a stick driven car, and considering that I gave them an European driving permit when renting, they might have thought that I might be grateful. Problem is, when they gave me the car they did not tell me anything. The guy, name Robert, just told me that he upgraded me and the car is at the end of the line. I ended up in front of this almost monster truck, that I had no idea what to do with. I don’t have a small car, really, Peugeot 308 is quite a big car apparently. But a Jeep Renegade is a monster car for a 1,62m person.

So I climbed in. Really, climbed in, because I made an effort to lift up my leg to get into the car. And of the next 15 minutes I tried starting the car. After 5 minutes I gave up and searched for the user manual. I was half a kilogram heavy and I was inpatient and could not find the damn section. I then asked a friend on Facebook, how do you start a car with automated transmission. And this was his answer:”Push the button!??And step on the clutch.:))))” In the end, thank heavens for stupid-proof cars, when I pushed the button I just looked in the monitor and is was telling me “To start the engine, push the brake pedal and the start button”.

I was finally ready to move. I looked at the stick, there were a few letter I could identify, R for reverse, D for drive, P for park, N for neutral. All good. But there was also a + and – right below the D, no idea what were those for. And thus I drove from Washington Dulled airport to Vienna with the engine screaming until I realised I could actually change gears.

The next day I realised that I could drive even easier, by using the automated transmission if I just put the stick in the appropriate position. That was a fun day.

Of course I got lost when going from the Alamo office to Vienna, and managed to enter the airport parking lot. But I’m a lucky human being. Because I did not have to pay for just strolling through and the exit of the parking lot was just in the highway to Vienna. And there I was, driving a truck for the first time in my life, with an automated transmission – for the first time in my life, on an US highway – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE!!!! And I was all alone and it was raining like Noah’s flood was coming and I had no idea how to enable the damn windows whipers, so I just used them manually until reaching Vienna.

Before ending this entry, I have to tell you about the hotel. The Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel looks just like the typical hotel from CSI, yes the type they go to when they investigate murders. Nevertheless, it was clean and cozy and it had parking space, a lot of it. I could not ask for more at the time. Nevermind that the light in the room did not work. Nevermind the noisy air conditioning machine, that you could not breathe without, because there were no freaking windows!!!!! Well, there were windows, but not in the typical European windows, those that you can actually open to get some air. But considering that the air here is hot and humid, windows that actually can be opened are quite useless. Unless you really want a way for thieves to come in, I guess.

So yeah, this was my first night. After all the scare, after all the struggle I was finally in a bed. And with all the uncertainty of how this vacation will go, after almost 24 hours without staying horizontally my body gave up and dropped into a deep slumber until 6:00 AM the next morning.

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Aug 06 2017

It’s done

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 23:51

I would love to say that I’m back, that will write more often from now on. The truth is that I really don’t know. I do not have much to write about these days, I seldom left my small home office for months now. Well, except from going to work and doing groceries that is.

I’ve been working like crazy to finish my new Spring book, before going on vacation and I cannot believe it that today It was the day when I submitted the last chapter. Of course some reviews will be necessary, because well… my English grammar might not be that good. And considering that the release date is 6 months away, a lot might change until then. Java 9 might get released and Spring 5 might release the Java 9 compatible version. Truth is, only time will tell. What I can tell you for now is that I’m done for the next month or so with sleepless nights. I’m done with the stress of getting it done, I’m done with the thinking of how things could be re-arranged, how concepts could be explained better. I’m done.

And as usual, when this happens, I mean, I’ve been here two times before, there combination of bitterness of things that I will not get to do anymore, like stress on a damn implementation that does not work as advertised and I need to figure out why and the anticipation for things that I have the time to do now.

After my vacation I will start my guitar lessons. Or piano. I’m not sure yet. I will learn Kotlin. I will deep dive into Thymeleaf. I will start working on that application idea that has been bugging me for a while. I will sleep more. I will exercise more. I will go out more. I will play more.(because I really miss Heroes 3)

Who knows? Only time can tell.


Jul 22 2017

Chester Bennington finally gave up

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 11:00

I have no words. I guess I just waited for this to sink in. Chester Bennington finally gave up. After battling depression and addiction for years, he finally broke. I really hoped he wouldn’t. But he did. I did not listen to Linkin Park in a long while. I do not really like their new sound, adapted to the modern tastes in music. But I loved “Out of Ashes“. That is the last time I really focused on his lyrics and his voice.

He was a tortured soul, he had a rough start in life. And he used his music to reach people who felt just as broken, just as hopeless, so they won’t feel alone in their struggles. And he reached me, a 16 years old girl looking for a place in the world, feeling the world was shutting her down at any turn and any try. Linking Park was the band that opened up the world of Rock Music to me, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Now it sunk in. I feel like I lost a childhood friend. The world was so mean to him, it hurt him in many ways. I really, really hoped, he will somehow¬† manage to put all that behind him. Oh well, at least now he’s free, nothing hurts anymore. Rest in peace Chester.

 

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Jul 14 2017

I love internet

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 14:28

Darren Hayes, the favorite singer of my youth just liked my tweet. I know it is not much, but I just made contact with my favorite singer.
Life is good…

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