Happy New Year!

The year 2014 is rollin’ in already.  It’s still a few hours away from where I am, so this is a good time to take a few minutes and reflect on what 2013 was like.  I’m not gonna do a lengthy post, like the last year, so here is a quick summary of what it was for me and what happened (with links to archive for more details).

  • January.  Mostly spent at work, launching the huge project, tying up loose ends and dotting all the i’s.
  • February.  More work, with a little break to watch all the coverage of Chelyabinsk meteorite.
  • March.  That month was busy with a few highlights.  Cyprus banking system collapse was the biggest news around, which coincided with my trip to Amsterdam for the RT training.  The announcement of the Google Reader decommissioning sent me on a quest for the alternative.  Earlier the same month I’ve attended TEDxNicosia, which was awesome.
  • April. This is traditionally the month I celebrate my birthday.  This year I became 35.  Also, there was a one million views milestone for my blog, according to WordPress.com stats.  Work-wise, there was the largest git merge ever.  I’ve also discovered something that I will enjoy tonight.
  • May.  I finally got fed up with both Gnome 3 and KDE 4 and switched both my work and home desktop environments to MATE.  This was the best decision ever – I’ve never had a desktop in my way since, yet.
  • June. Played Quake 3 after a really long break.  Then more work.
  • July. Another business trip to Tel Aviv, Israel.  A new team member at work and a new area to learn a lot about – Quality Assurance (QA).  Pretty much reading and reviewing software all month.  Work extends even to my personal projects with HashBackup and Amazon S3.  The highlight of the month though was the workshop I attended for work.  Eye-opening!
  • August.  In terms of this blog’s archives, there were plenty posts into my Music category.
  • September. I’ve been given a new title at work – Director of Web Development, for pretty much the same work I’ve been doing so far under Team Leader and Senior Developer.
  • October.  This was a month to learn new things, which are out of my daily scope.  At first, I attended the First Aid training, which got me prepared for emergency situations and accidents.  And second, I’ve became a trained Fire Marshal.  Also, flew back to Tel Aviv, Israel for another business trip.  And learned to cook sushi at home – the first try was horrible, but the second one was way better.  Oh, and there was yet another workshop even from work, for which I stayed in Aphrodite’s Hills for a couple of days.
  • November.  I’m on the cover of Forbes.  Just kidding.  Started taking some of the annual leaves I had accumulated at work.  Relaxing, resting, not doing too much.
  • December.   More resting and relaxing, slowing down for the holiday season and Christmas magic.

And if that list is not enough, here are a few more overall bullet points:

  • Place of the year: Alio Olio, Limassol.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours in there, enjoying the company of many cool people, drinking probably a truck-full load of beer and enjoying some food.
  • TV show of the year: Homeland.  The best TV show I’ve ever seen.  Period.
  • Movie of the year: In the loop.  Even though it was released back in 2009, this was the year when I watched it.  Made me laugh out loud a few times, and it’s a smart comedy – something that I haven’t seen in a long while.
  • Drink of the year: Beer.  Obvious, of course, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway.
  • Dish of the year: kebab in Tel Aviv.  Those things are awesomeness out of this world.

There you go.  These are the highlights of my 2013.  There were more, of course, with friends, family, projects that are still in progress or didn’t make it, jokes, videos, music, gaming, fooling around, and so forth.

Here is to an even richer 2014!  Happy New Year and best wishes to you and your family.  Have a great one!

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas

Here we are again.  The end of the year is here, all presents bought and wrapped, waiting for the midnight, kitchen full of smells and sounds, occasional looks at the clock, phone calls, chats, and messages with friends and family.

So, how was this year?  How does it compare to the previous few?  Looking at my archives for the last year and the year before that, I have to say that this year wasn’t as fast flying through or as hectic as before.

I spent the first quarter of the year mostly working at our ImpreStyle startup and consulting Easy Forex.  That was the time of learning a lot of new things, both technical and business.   Such an arrangement also provided plenty of opportunities to meet new people, especially, in the case of Easy Forex, people of different cultures, the ones that I don’t know much about.

Roughly by May, it so happened that we had to take a break from ImpreStyle.  So I joined Easy Forex as a full time employee, filling the shoes of both a web developer and a team lead.  A new team, a new department, and a very challenging project all occupied my attention for the rest of the year.  Again, learning new things and re-thinking old ways.

The result of all that work is being launched over these days – Easy Forex’s website rebuilt on a WordPress platform.   It wasn’t as easy as it might sound.  The team had a lot of constraints, shooting at a moving target.  The site itself is a monster, with multiple cultures, multiple languages, static and dynamic content, consuming and providing a variety of APIs, deployed over a very complex architecture with Akamai CDN, load balancers, clusters, and so on.  On top of that, the specification of the project required an identical implementation to the previous CMS, which meant that a lot WordPress native concepts had to be worked around.  The end result, even though still a bit messy, is a rather elegant solution based on WordPress with both public and custom plugins, advanced multi-branch git setup, over 20 KB phing build script, and more.  And even if it doesn’t look the part (yet), I am quite proud of what has been achieved by the team.

Looking back at my previous end of the year posts, travelling seems to be an important part of my life, with not too much of it happening in the last few years.  Well, at least this year I had an opportunity to travel to Israel.   The next is also looking bright with a few possibilities marked down in the calendar, but not yet fully confirmed.

But enough about technology and work.  What about friends and family?  Well, it was a rich year in family affairs.  The highlight of the year is my brother’s marriage, with a few relatives flying over from Russia and spending a few days with us here, in Limassol.  That also gave an a chance to spend some time with my dad, who I haven’t seen in six years or so.

In summer, my wife and son flew to Siberia to catch up with some family affairs over there, and, in September, we were entertaining one of my sister-in-law’s family in Cyprus again.  It was nice.

As mentioned before, with my work changes back and forth, I had plenty of opportunities to meet new people.  I am glad to say that a few of my new work acquaintances became personal friends.  Also, sadly, it seemed that I’ve parted ways with a couple of people.  Maybe it will change, maybe it will not.  That’s not entirely in my hands at this stage.

Judging by the sounds and smells from the kitchen, I should be wrapping up.  Overall, I think it was a good year.  It was, as always, different from what I was expecting, but it still brought me more joy, happiness, and new experiences that sadness and sorrow.  Hopefully, the next one will be as good or better.

With that, I wish you all a very Happy New 2013, and a Merry Christmas.  I hope your wishes will continue to come through, that you’ll be full of health, joy, will, and strength to explore life and to find new things.  All the best to you and your loved ones!  Have a good one.

Chinese New Year

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I’m a big fan of Chinese culture.  Today, at the office, we had Chinese New Year celebrations will plenty of home-made food (cooked by our Chinese colleagues) and red decorations all around.  That inspired me to read some more about China on Wikipedia and even try my hand at calligraphy.

The above image depicts my third attempt, which was good enough to be readable and was actually recognized by at least one Chinese person as “this is actually pretty good“.  Let’s all call that my best wishes for all of you this year.

P.S.: If you wander what that one means, I used this image as the source of inspiration.  Wikipedia says it means “When wealth is acquired, precious objects follow”.  Having no idea myself, I’m inclined to trust that.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New 2012 Year!

Here we are, in the last hours of the 2011.  Those of us who celebrate the New Year holiday are either taking a quick nap, getting ready for the night of partying or getting ready to receive guests, cooking in the kitchens, calling relatives, cleaning the house, and starting to have a quick drink.

I am among those who are cooking in the kitchens and taking a quick drink.  Taking a quick break from all the preparations, it’s a good time to relax and reflect on the year that is almost gone, as well as pave the road for the coming year.

If I was to use a single word to describe 2011, I’d definitely stick with ‘quick’.  It seems that only a few weeks ago we celebrated the New Year, and here we are again, a year later.  It is, for sure, one of the quickest years I had so far.  Things just flew by me so fast that I barely noticed any time at all.

It wasn’t as chaotic as 2010, but it did bring a lot of new and interesting moments.  I spent most of 2011 working for FXCC.  Even when it just seems like yet another Forex company in my resume, it is not exactly so.  New team, new concepts, new technologies, new ways of doing things.  The experience I had this year was definitely enriching and empowering.  One example to give was my new and extended experience with Microsoft Windows.  And even though I haven’t changed my personal preferences from Linux, I’ve definitely learned a lot and saw many things in a new light.

One of the items on my wish list from last year was an Android phone.  I’ve been following the platform for a few years and finally I got myself an Android device early in 2011.  I also was considering an Amazon Kindle, but that wish changed a bit.  Instead I now desire a tablet.  And even though I still don’t have one yet, there is one in the mail.  Yes, that’s right, I’m awaiting a delivery of a tablet device.

One of the biggest adventures I’ve ever had happened this year too, and I didn’t even have to travel for that.  I’m talking about ImpreStyle – a start-up and a project that I am doing together with my very close family.  We started back in May and recently we reached yet another milestone (more on that later).  There were a lot of slow downs, problems and misunderstandings, but we managed to pull through, solve it all, and push it together.  We have an excellent team now, where each one brings to the table something that others can’t.  And we have some really good signs for this project for the upcoming year.  I’m sure that each member of the team learned plenty of new, but I’ll speak of myself here.  It’s been a while since I wanted to get into mobile technologies, and finally I did.  I’ve learned a lot about how this industry and market operate.  I’ve learned a lot about web promotion.  I’ve learned a lot about online marketing – now from a more practical perspective.  I’ve learned more about finance, accounting, management, and other areas of running a business.  In some more, than I ever wanted to know.  Yet, I’m sure I will learn more next year.

Something else that I experienced today and enjoyed a great deal was my first TED conference.  TEDxNicosia event was awesome on its own. But for me personally the timing was excellent as well.  It came just when I needed it and provided the inspiration that I needed.

While I’m writing this post, and thinking back and forward, I’m enjoying a glass of a real port wine.  I got a bottle directly from Portugal thanks to Michael.  This is yet another first time for me.  I’ve tried the Russian idea of port wine quite a few times but it has nothing in common really.  The real stuff is awesome – definitely something to experience again!

Now, for the New Year.  My biggest hopes and plans are all around the ImpreStyle project.  I think that that will be the year when it grows up, defines itself better, and gets a much needed infusion of resources.  We’ll see.  Regardless, I think I will get even more into the mobile stuff – smartphones and tablets in particular.

I also think that working on the same project brings the family closer together.  That’s what was happening this year, and I hope the trend will continue.

As with any year, I am always looking forward for some travelling.  I haven’t been out of the country in either 2010 or 2011, so I hope this year will provide me with an opportunity or two to go and visit foreign lands.

That’s about it really.  Instead of having many different wishes and expectations, I am concentrating more on those which are the most important to me.  How about you? What are you expecting from 2012?  How did 2011 treat you?  How does it compare to your expectations from it a year ago?  Let me know in the comments.

Once again, Merry Christmas and  a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.  Enjoy the holidays season and family time.  I hope Santa Clause brings you everything you wished for and a little more on top of that.  Have fun, eat, drink, and I’ll see in 2012. Tada!

Which day is your candidate for the Groundhog Day?

This blog post (in Russian) tells a story of a young woman that really loves the first day of winter, when the first snow falls. The author suggests that if there was a chance, this woman would have chosen the first day of winter to live through again and again, like the character of Phil, played by Bill Murray in the excellent movie “Groundhog Day“.

The author of that story also asks an interesting question.  If you had a choice, which would be the day you’d choose to live through and through, like in that movie.  If you could pick any day at all, which one would that be?

For me personally it is a hard choice indeed.  I love and cherish every day of my life.  Except for, maybe, Mondays.  I’ve had plenty of excellent days over the years and I can’t really pick one of them.  But if I had to, I guess I’d have to go with the 1st of January, the New Year Day.  Why? Well …

I am Russian and Russian celebrate the New Year like nobody else.  It’s one of the biggest holidays in our culture.  We eat, we drink, we have fun, and everybody stays up until very late.  Until early morning even.  1st of January is a public holiday.  No matter which day of the week it is, you don’t need to go to school or work.  Since everyone stayed up late, most people sleep through the morning, waking up in the afternoon.  This is probably the only day when I am not standing out in this regard, when I’m not the only one who loves waking up past midday.

Oh, and then there is food and television.  31st of December is the evening of celebrations.  We prepare lots of food.  We call plenty of guests.  We dress nicely.  We behave.  It’s all nice, but it’s a tiny bit too official and tiring.  On the 1st of January though, it’s totally different.  It’s the relax time.  There is still plenty of food and drinks from yesterday.  Whoever survived the drunk night is not in the mood for any official behavior.  People under-dress, grab food, and spend a lot of time in front of the television watching entertainment shows or movies, taking short naps in between.

By the evening, people, and people I of course mean myself, are often recovered enough to take a short walk.  Time to see friends or relative or visit the nearest pub.  Slight tough upon the yesterday celebration with an attempt to reconstruct the chain of events from a collective memory.  And then early bed time.

I think that year on year, 1st of January is the closest day to a perfect one.  So if I had a choice to live through one day time after time after time, I’d choose that day.  Gladly, of course, I actually do have a chance to do so.  It’s just that I have to wait a year in between.

What day is your candidate for the Groundhog Day?

Bob, the fish

My son Maxim has been asking Santa for a gold fish.  Among a billion of other things, of course.  And while he wasn’t so sure about all those toys, he somehow was certain that Santa will bring him a gold fish this year.  For it was an almost done fact.  Something like tomorrows sunrise.  It’s not here yet, but you know for sure it’s coming.

Neither me, nor my wife Olga know anything about fish.  Except that it lives in the water and you can eat it in a variety of ways.  But fish as a pet is weird.   Still, we decided to go along with it.  So, for the New Year’s Santa did bring Maxim a small glass bowl for aquarium with a gold fish in it.

Maxim was overjoyed.  I think part of it was due to him expecting the gold fish for Christmas, and not getting it, sort of, downed his hopes a bit.  And then he didn’t find the aquarium under the tree for the New Year’s.  Santa was afraid that our cat will either eat the fish or knock off the aquarium and spill all the water, so he left the present on the table.  And Maxim just didn’t check there.  Yeah, I know, modern age kids.  Back in our day we’d check everywhere!  But I digress.

As I said, Maxim was very excited to have a fish.  He wanted to do things with – watch it, feed it, put more water in the aquarium, move the aquarium around, put more stones on the bottom of the aquarium, feed the fish again, and watch it some more.

By the end of the day, I noticed that the water in the aquarium wasn’t as crystal clear as before.  And the fish seemed to be swearing at us all.  At least it looked that way.  Now of course I think that the fish was trying to breath with its mouth.  Anyway.  Dirty water.  So I changed it – spilled half of it out and put some new water in.  The fish looked better.  But not for long.  The next day I felt like I need to change the water again.  And again.  And again.

Then it hit me – the Internet!  I had to read at least something about the fish.  Since I didn’t know which brand, model, class, or type this fish was, I just read a bit about gold fishes.  And even that little that I read made me worried.  Here is a list of things (I don’t dare call them facts yet) that I read:

  • Aquarium gold fish don’t exists in natural habitat.  They were created by humans for humans.  And while some of them are beautiful, they are very fragile.  One small mistake and the fish is dead.  One big mistake and the whole aquarium is cursed.
  • Aquarium fish is very sensitive to water.  Preparing and maintaining the right water is almost as hard as sending human to Mars.  Maybe not that expensive though.  Aquarium has to be prepared with water before the fish goes in.  Once the fish is in, it’ll take a couple of days for it to settle and adjust the water for itself.  And then that’s what you’ll need to maintain.
  • Gold fish needs a lot of space.  Suggestions varied between a 10 liters and 20 liters of aquarium space per each fish.  Our fish bowl was under 2 liters.
  • Gold fish are a common present for office competitions, birthdays, and other holidays.  But because most people don’t know how to take care of the fish, the fish usually survives only for 3-4 days.  Oops!

Well, at least we tried.  With water changing and everything.  But that didn’t help.  Today morning I woke up to a dead fish.  Bob-the-fish was its name.  And it survived in our custody from December 31st, 2010 to January 5th, 2011.  That’s almost a week. And somewhat longer than the average for a gold fish present.  Not even long enough for me to make a photograph of it.  Sad.

Today we’ll probably have a family meeting to decide if we want to try again.  And as much as I am for having pets in homes where children grow up, I am against torture and animal cruelty.  If we are to try, we’ll need better preparations this time.  We’ll need to learn something.  And we’ll need to get a bigger aquarium.  That’s for sure.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

First of all, Happy New Year and Merry Christmas to all of you!  Best wishes to you, your families, and friends.  I hope all your disappointments and mischiefs will stay in 2010 and that 2011 will bring only the good stuff.

Looking back at 2010, I see a very rocky year.  So many things came and went, started and finished, appeared and disappeared that it’s hard to keep the track of.  I found and left two jobs.  I moved back to the apartment from the rented house.  My wife found the job, but not for long.  Maxim started school.  My mother moved to another apartment and got back to her blog, even though in a completely different way.  My dad took over a website and became a webmaster in just the few month that he was online. With all these changes around me, I didn’t focus as much on blogging, photography, and technological trends.  But now that most of these changes are (hopefully) over, I’ll get back to my interests.

I don’t have any big plans or hopes for 2011.  I hope that everyone around me stays healthy and wealthy.  I hope I’ll get out of the country for a few days (not much travel happened in 2010, but that was well compensated by 2009).   I hope I’ll finally get myself one of those Android phones.  And maybe even an Amazon Kindle.  These gadgets interest me enough to review my programming skills, which I hope will see some refurbish this year.

With that, I once again wish you all the best, and hope you’ll share your year reviews and hopes for 2011 in the comments.  Have fun, enjoy, and celebrate.  Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Better late, than never they say.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

I totally missed the appropriate time for New Year resolutions and forecasts, so I won’t bother much.  But in brief, the year 2009 and was good to me.  I traveled a lot, learned new things, had quite a few interesting challenges at work, met a whole bunch of cool people, pushed quit a bit of paperwork that was lagging behind, got my mother in Cyprus and my dad on the Internet, and more.  It was a bit too difficult and challenging at times, but in a good sense.  In a way that I probably had too much going on for me, rather than not enough.

As for the New Year, I hope it will be as packed with stuff as the previous one.  I hope that I’ll continue my travels and shift a few things at work to get to new challenges and new areas that I wanted to explore for some time now.   Also, I still hope that I will sort out all the paperwork during this year (possible, but knowing me well, I have doubts on how realistic this hope is).  I have quite a bit of plans for this year, personal projects and such – I hope that they will starting turning real as opposite of being just plans.  But, the time will tell and we shall see.

Once again, happy holidays and best wishes to you and your loved ones.