Archive > May 2007

Day 1: In LAX

29 May 2007 » In Travel » 2 Comments

Having forgotten to check my baggage all the way through to Rarotonga, I had to pick it up in AA terminal and go over to Air New Zealand one. While standing in the check-in line, I realized with absolute and frightening clarity that there was another small, yet vitally essential thing I forgot at home. My green card. For those of you lucky enough not to need one, I’m required to have it with me at all times, especially when entering back into USA. The green card was tucked into the back pocket of my Uzbek passport cover, and I completely forgot about it, since I took my Russian passport on the trip.
I could just imagine the kind of hassle I’d have to go through at the immigration checkpoint; that is, if they let me into the country at all. My mind was in overdrive, as I walked through the security in haze and went up to the Air New Zealand lounge (that Premier Exec status sure comes in handy, thanks to all the conferences). The lounge had phones (remember, no cell phone with me), and computers (with Firefox on them!). While talking on the phone to my Mom, I hit upon a possible solution.
Observation of the day: Web Messenger is the coolest thing since the ice hotel in Sweden.
I fired it up, saw that my friend Brien was online, and asked him a favor: go to my apartment, enter the code into the lockbox to get the key, come in, find the green card, and fax a copy of it to me in Cook Islands. This was a tall order, but Brien didn’t even think twice. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have some sort of proof that I’m not faking being a permanent resident. Not sure if it’ll be enough to reduce that hassle, but it’s better than nothing.
With that completed, I could finally go and enjoy the lounge, get some food (the crab salad at the buffet was fantastic), and some New Zealand wine (best one was Ngatarawa Glazebrook Merlot Cabernet). I have to say that this lounge is way ahead of the ones I’ve been to in SFO, HKG, or FRA. Kudos to Air New Zealand.

Day 1: Over LAX

29 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

What a sprawling, flat, monotonous, all-consuming monstrosity of a city this is. It lies below our wings, stretching as far as the eye can see, which is to say, not far at all, because… Oh man, the smog, the ever present smog, blanketing the city in its suffocating embrace. It’s next to impossible to imagine what things would look like without it.
The city seems organic; the veins of its highways pulsing with steady (it’s a Sunday) flow of cars. And yet it is mechanical, in the way its semi-regular grids of housing units resemble nothing so much as the intertwined components of a circuit board. Or maybe this is what a nanotech colony looks like under a microscope, steadily advancing on its surroundings, manufacturing more of itself with every minute, and belching up the byproducts of its creation.
The Star Wars character this city most reminds me of: Jabba the Hut.

Day 1: Onboard AA flight to LAX

27 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

Preparations are over. Whatever is left behind stays there for sure. So far it’s only NoJetLag, and I hope that it’ll be the only thing that I forgot. The big suitcase turned out to weigh 49.5 lbs. Precision — ha! Maybe I overpacked, but you never know what you may need in a brand new destination over the course of 3 weeks. A Frisbee, for example (count: 1). Or Shout detergent wipes (count: 4). If I followed Lonely Planet’s advice, however, the weight would probably be twice as much. Just the list of medications it recommends would warrant a separate bag. And, seriously, half of the list is prescription only. What the heck? Who’s going to give me antibiotic steroidal eardrops or Tinidazole ahead of time, just in case? Guess I’ll have to avoid contracting anything requiring such a prescription, which includes, but not limited to: swimming in the pool (swimmer’s ear), walking on the beach (coral cuts), swimming in the ocean (coral ear), lying on the beach (sunburn), eating reef fish (ciguatera poisoning), swimming in flooded areas (leptospirosis), enjoying the sun (heatstroke), sleeping (mosquito bites leading to dengue fever), taking a crap (traveller’s diarrhoea), touching stuff (poisonous cone shells), eating (eosinophilic meningitis), and, quite possibly, breathing (hell, I don’t know, but there’s got to be something, right?). I’m good at being cautious and considering contingencies, but at some point you have to stop worrying about what might happen in the course of everyday life and just live it. I did stock up on sunscreen and insect repellent, however.
One thing that has me worried a bit is weather. The rain season should be over by now, but the 10-day forecast ominously portends “cloudy” and “showers”. Damn it, I don’t want to spend my vacation bundled up in raingear. So come on, Rarotonga and Fiji, show me some sunny love. I intend to hang out in the sun and drink piña coladas, or whatever the local frozen fruity alcoholic drink is. I want to climb a coconut tree and possibly fall from it. My goal is to come back with a world-class tan, and possibly partially damaged liver (it regenerates, from what I heard). I’m really looking forward to it, if the weather is nice. No TV, no phone, no radio, no newspapers, no bloody laptop! My cameras and iPod Nano are the only electronics I am bringing along. Books, nature, and people will occupy the rest of my time. But first, let’s get to LAX, where I’ll have to pick up my bag and go check in with Air New Zealand.

South Pacific Vacation, <hiccup>, Journal

27 May 2007 » In Travel » No Comments

I took a notebook along with me on this trip, simply wanting to have a place to jot down some thoughts and observations that may enter my sun drenched (hopefully) and inebriated (most certainly) mind. But, after a couple of pages I realized that I was subsconciously writing a blog entry, addressed to you, exalted readers (click on an ad link, won’t you?). So, hell, might as well just post this publicly. I’ll try to do it whenever I have an Internet connection and enough time to edit those drenched thoughts into a form suitable for Internet (bwahahaha). Shouldn’t be much private stuff in there, and if there is.. well, that’s for the paying readers.
P.S. That “paying” thing is just a joke. Or is it?

Bula, Fiji

25 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

In the previous post I mentioned that Outspark publishes casual online MMORPG games. The first upcoming game is called Fiesta, and it’s a new, 3D cartoon style game with simple gameplay and rich graphics. It’s also free to download and play. You can check out a Flash video with demo of the gameplay on the front page of the Outspark site. Closed beta will be launching soon, so go and register for it.
Before starting at Outspark I wanted to take a break between jobs, in order go on vacation, decompress, refresh, and come back ready to tackle any challenges. Since this is a start-up, my manager asked me if I could be here for a couple of weeks to help things along and I agreed. My time here so far has been busy with getting settled in, preparing platform code for the beta, and familiarizing myself with the commuting routine. This coming Sunday, however, I will be going on my trip.
It took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to do on this break. I considered doing another Contiki tour, but couldn’t really find any tours in the summer that looked interesting. I also thought about going to Japan or Iceland, two destinations that are the top of my list, but they are fairly expensive and I would not have enough time to prepare for them. Then I finally asked myself: where could I go to see new places, chill out, take photos, and be fairly cut off from any sort of communications. And the answer was: South Pacific. I did some searching and found that Air New Zealand had a special ticket for going from Los Angeles to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, onto Fiji, and back to Los Angeles, which sounded perfect. I could do scuba diving certification, hang out on the beach, go snorkeling, party it up, or just lie in hammock and snooze. So I booked it promptly. I’ll be staying at budget resorts, such as Vara’s on Rarotonga and Beachouse on Fiji. No Internet, no TV, no cell phone, no newspapers. I’ll bring along iPod Nano, my camera, a few books, and maybe playing cards. Should be fun enough socializing with other guests and doing all the stuff that sun-filled islands have to offer.
See you soon.

Goodbye Yahoo!, Hello Outspark

13 May 2007 » In Work » 6 Comments

This past Friday was my last day at Yahoo!.
I went digging through the archives for a post from the previous time I switched jobs, and the only one I could find was written after I already started at Yahoo!. Nothing from before even hinting that I was job hunting. Perhaps secrecy is a necessary part of this process. At least this time I did drop some clues that I was leaving soon.
In any case, my time at Yahoo! has ended, and suffice it to say that it was a great time. I’ve made a lot of friends, did good work, grown professionally and as a person, and was able to contribute to reaching out to millions of people who use the Yahoo! services. So where am I going next?
I have joined a small start-up in San Francisco called Outspark. Outspark publishes casual online MMORPG games based on a common technology platform. The first game will be hitting closed beta soon, so you should go sign up for it.
Why did I decide to make the switch? Life at Yahoo! was definitely good, but without going into too much detail, I simply wanted to find new, interesting, and challenging work in a somewhat different domain from what I’ve been doing, and I wanted to live in San Francisco. Besides, I know a few people in the company already, some of which are my good friends, so it’s bound to be a great environment.
My joining Outspark does not mean that I will stop work on PHP 6 or related projects. It does mean, however, that I will not necessarily be paid to spend substantial amount of time on it. But then again, I wasn’t being paid to work on it before joining at Yahoo!.
I’ll be moving to San Francisco sometime in July, fully planning to enjoy the entirety of that fantastic city.
And so, it begins.

Web 2.0 Law #1

11 May 2007 » In Tech » No Comments

Now that Yahoo! Photos is closing down, Flickr is going to experience another surge in membership. It is already the most popular photo sharing service that matters (forget about Photobucket and such), and it has an unparalleled API. So with that in mind here’s the first of Andrei’s Web 2.0 Laws.

Law #1: As the number of mashups increases, the probability of a new mashup not using Flickr approaches 0.

Proof, what proof? This is not math or physics here, this is Web 2.0. But do go and take a look for yourself; Flickr infiltration is everywhere. And if you find a mashup that doesn’t use Flickr API, then there are only two explanations: a) the authors have thought or are thinking about using Flickr in one way or another; b) they are Amish.
I, for one, welcome our new megapixel overlords.

A Swede by Any Other Name

02 May 2007 » In Funny, Work » 3 Comments

The new guy in our group at work has been here less than a couple of months. Today he came up to my manager and the following conversation ensued:

New guy: Did L*** quit?? [L*** is a another co-worker]
Manager: No, why?
New guy: His cube is empty.
Manager: Oh, he works remotely from Colorado most of the time.
New guy: Huh.. The map on the sheet posted outside the aisle says someone else is in his cube… Crazy Swede?

Damn, I’m going to miss this place..