... step into my garden

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Abba Mia

Well, the new Star Wars is out and it's just great ... at least for Star Wars fans like me. As for non-SW fans ... well ... who cares? So, naturally, I decided to write my thoughts on Mamma Mia, the musical, which we went to shortly after The Force Awakens.

Do you like Abba? Do you like corny stories? Are you fondly remembering the 70s (or whenever it was that Abba was singing)? If, just like me, your answer to all those questions is a definite No, then this is the musical for you! Wait, what? how?

Well, truth be told, if you were really ... but REALLY... honest with yourself, you'd realize the answer to all questions above is actually Yes, and this musical will help you find this out the hard way. You may start out stuck in a room pack full of strangers (most shows are sold out) rolling your eyes at every line, but soon enough, you will be standing cheering and clapping and screaming like a 15 years old girl at a Bieber concert. Well, at least that's what I did... Things got quite steamy at some point with some ladies in the row behind us proving to be quite impressed with the bare pecs and abs parading around the stage. So there's that to look forward to as well ... if you're a lady that likes lady things, that is ...

There is however a pretty big problem with Mamma Mia! - the musical... and it's this:

Yes, I am talking about Mamma Mia! - the musical - the movie. The musical - the movie sets the bar very very high, The actors are great, even when they can't sing. Take Pierce Brosnan ... his singing is not the best, but who cares? It's Pierce Brosnan on a good day! He brings true character to the story (Btw I think this is possibly one of his best movies). Take Meryl Streep ... well ... she... can act and sing as well, so actually that's a top performance that seems impossible to beat. Same goes for Amanda Seyfried, that girl can sing.

There is however a pretty big problem with Mamma Mia! - the musical - the movie. And it's the fact that a live show will always impress more even with a little bit less, so in the end it's hard to say who's the winner here. My advice, see both. Beware, though, you may learn some unexpected things about yourself in the process.

And, oh yeah, if you are a Star Wars fan, go see The Force Awakens, it's awesome!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A cool Weekend

Last weekend I got to be excited about work again, which is great. How did this miracle happen? Well ... it's called a Startup Weekend. It was my second time doing this, and, as much as I wanted to, I missed writing my thoughts on it the first time around. So, without further pre-blabber, here is:

Scullder's guide to the Startup Weekend

Beware ... this blabber might take longer than usual.

Startup what?

In case you don't even know what it is, the Startup Weekend is an event organized all around the world where people who are enthusiastic about a hopefully innovative idea get to pitch their idea to a group of other people who are enthusiastic about a different hopefully innovative idea. A couple of the ideas are voted by the crowd (up to around 10 depending on the number of participants), teams are formed around the chosen ones, and people start hammering away at their projects for the big pitch in front of a real jury. The jury gets the pitches, votes for the best ones and some prizes are awarded. It starts on Friday, ends on Sunday, and it's an intense experience of sleepless nights, highly accelerated team dynamics, broken ideas and quick decisions.

Pitching my Idea

Not everyone joining the event goes for a pitch, and that's OK, as long as it's not because of stage fright. The Startup Weekend is always home to possibly the friendliest bunch of people you will find. Just this weekend, a guy lost his train of thoughts and decided to stop the pitch ... only to be brought back by an army of cheers from the public ... only to loose his train of thoughts and stop the pitch again ... only to be brought back again by even more cheers. He did finish his pitch and went on to get selected to form a team around his idea.

Yes, if you were wondering, I did pitch my idea. Nobody understood anything and I wasn't selected ... and that's OK.

Team, not Project

Smart people say that when you're joining a team in the Startup Weekend, it shouldn't be for the project... it should be for the team. I have followed this advice all the way to 2nd place victory the first time I was there, and decided to do nothing else this time. But to be honest, I started both times on the wrong foot. Found a project I liked, didn't love the team, found a team I really liked.

The first time around, I remember going into the room of the team I chose and feeling this instant chill, a low intensity tension covered by a general silence out of which one guy was trying to assign tasks to people. I thought about spending an entire weekend like that and said ... nope.

The second time around I spoke to a guy who I wanted to join, thought that he was OK. Then I saw a bunch of cool people wanting to join us and thought that this was it ... we're gonna have fun. However, the guy was not so happy about them joining the project as he was not very sure about what they would be doing. So they all basically left one by one to find another team and I decided to join the chase.

We all ended up together with a guy that I liked, but who's idea I found to be funny at best. We seemed to have a good team though, and we were ready to start.


It starts with an idea. And even though people listen to the pitches and vote for it, it's still possible that it's not a good one. C. , who had the idea, wanted to be able to sleep throughout his commute. The train conductor was always waking him up and he hated it. It was an idea driven by passion, but did it make sense to turn it into a business? We were about to find out pretty fast...

You win some, you lose some

I know by now it seems like our entire team was one small step away from singing Kumbaya while holding hands, but it wasn't really like that. One guy who joined our team, at some point decided he didn't really like the project and left home... and that's OK. You will win some and you will lose some. On another project, 2 guys left home on Saturday. The project ended up in the top 3. You will possibly lose people throughout the weekend, don't worry about it and press on. It will only make your team stronger.

Coaches and Pivots

During the weekend, you are sometimes expected to do what is called a 'Pivot'. This is when you realize that your idea has a shocking blocking issue and you need a major change. Giving a new direction to your project is the Pivot, and you can expect to sometimes have to do 1 or 2 during the weekend.

On Saturday, a couple of experienced people come and help you out. These are people that can see the problems your idea can face in the real world and can try help you find solutions. These people are called Coaches, and they are most often the reason why your project will pivot.

So, remember my friend C. who wanted to sleep on the train. We pushed this idea further and decided that he will be able to board the train, scan a barcode on the seat, and sleep like a baby. Our system would check the barcode, turn it into a seat reservation, and notify the conductor, leaving C. without a care in the world. We enhanced the idea by saying that he will be able to do this basically wherever he goes, in a train, in a parking, on a taxi. Access to any means of transport would be a touch of the smartphone away and we were pretty pumped about it. You would only have a zzzingle ticket... get it?

Pivot1 - dating?
Not going into too many details, the first 2 coaches we had basically pummeled our idea into nothingness. Not only is it very non-profitable to work with train companies, public transport companies are basically in a Monopoly situation and are completely unwilling to make any effort to accommodate anyone else's idea into their systems. When the 2nd coach told us he's been waiting 3 years for 2 cities to come to an agreement on a similar matter we realized we're basically busted. We started joking around about what we can do and someone said dating during the commute would be fun. It quickly became the best idea we had and we jumped on it. You would enter your commute route, and you could meet new people interested in dating for a somewhat speed-dating-like experience.

Great, we said, and onward we went towards our next pivot!

Pivot2 - interests
The 3rd coach got to face a team that was not very convinced about this dating idea, though it sounded pretty cool. He then went on to state that people who want to date are more likely to use an actual dating site, and that our market was not big enough. He suggested more intellectual discussions might work better, and though none of us was 100% convinced of this, the 80-90% did the trick. We jumped on it and worked for the rest of the day to put together a platform where people could meet other people during their commute and discuss different interesting issues. A young entrepreneur could get to meet an experienced one for some advice. Two students who just finished this amazing book could share their thoughts on just what the heck the author was trying to say. And so on ...

Great, we said, and onward we went towards our next pivot!

Pivot3 - back ... sort of
Sunday morning actually started on Saturday evening. When we left for home (quite early) I could tell that we all felt like we lost something, something important, called enthusiasm. We slept on it and we pretty much had the same idea when we met for a coffee&croissant next morning. Go big or go home. Yes, regulations are a pain, public administrations want nothing to do with you and technically this thing would be a monster, but we were still excited about our original idea and that felt like it was more important than anything else. It didn't take us too long to decide. The zzzingle ticket was back on, and this time we went all in. We readjusted our market to be more turistic than before, we dropped the railways from our revenue stream, we started crunching the presentation with numbers, planning, and cool screens. We went full speed ahead and it felt great. I am really proud of how we did it, how well we worked as a team, without silly conflicts, without slacking around, just helping each other as best as we could. The pitch came together from basically nothing in around 5 hours, we did a good number of rehearsals until it had a good rithm and 5 minutes before we were planned to go on, we were ready.

The Pitch

On Saturday, our third coach gave everyone a solid piece of advice just before leaving. Tomorrow, when you pitch, be passionate about it! Truth be told, if you are not 100% convinced and on board with your idea, nobody else will be either. And our pitch was just that. Fun, informative, passionate. We went in as the first pitch, which is always tough, but it went on without a hitch. Some advice ... Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Check your timing. Don't read the slides during the pitch, summarize or emphasize. Copy the structure of an existing good pitch. You should be able to do it faster than what time you have, something always comes up. The only pitches that went wrong, did so because of the timing, guys spending minutes on a single slide that wasn't really that important ... Otherwise, we had some very impressive competition, and very little hope of actually winning anything.

The Win

The Jury went and debated and debated, and came back with the top 3, a.k.a. the winners. And, we were not one of them ... But, wait, what? you will say ... you said The Win, you will say... Well, I did, because the real win is not to get a prize from the judges, though that also feels quite incredible. The real win is the pleasure you take in the weekend. I have spoken to some people from the winners, who were complaining about their teams, and didn't really seem like they had fun in the weekend. Even when not winning, we still felt great about ourselves as a team. We later found out we came in 4th, and we were quite happy about that as well. Apparently we went too touristic and not enough smart-city (which was the theme of the competition). Too late to argue that a smart city requires some kind of cooperation from the local authorities, and we were so happy that we were even actually considered for the top 3 that it just didn't matter any more.

And here we are ... celebrating our victory!

The End

So, time to wrap this blabber up ... I had a ton of fun both times I went to the Startup Weekend and it's an experience I really recommend to anyone. The key is to chose wisely the people you spend the time with, set realistic goals for yourself, avoid frustration, stay positive and most of all have fun!

Monday, November 9, 2015


Remember Quantum of Solace? You know ... the crappy Bond movie? I guess some bigshot in Hollywood saw it, thought it had potential and decided to do a remake.

 - Mysterious organization that is infiltrated everywhere - CHECK
 - Said mysterious organization chooses not eliminate the only few people that can bring it down - CHECK
 - Leader of said mysterious organization has his hideout very well hidden in the middle of nowhere - CHECK
- Bond manages to find this extremely well hidden location and blows it to smithereens - CHECK

Add a couple of scenes around these major plot points and you've got yourself the new Specter. Unfortunately, said scenes never truly connect and the result is ... tragic ...

There's this opening scene, a helicopter takes off in the middle of a huge crowd. Bond jumps on board and decides to kill ... guess who ... the pilot! Get it? ... cause he's flying the helicopter ... above the crowd ... still don't get it? Me neither ...

There's this scene with Monica Bellucci, which A called a disgrace to both actors and to cinematography itself. There's no chemistry, no real reason for anything going on to really happen ... What the hell is going on?

There's this scene where 2 amazing cars race around Rome at night. It sounds awesome but it's ... missing something ... hmm ... what's the name of that thing again ... ah, yes, it's called ... SUSPENSE

There this scene where a big guy comes into a room and kills another guy. Who's the poor guy getting killed? Why was he killed? OK, I get it, the big bad guy is, like, really bad ... but ... what the hell is going on?

There't this scene where people shoot Bond in order to kill him. Then there's this scene where another guy tries to kill him. Then there's this another scene where we find out that the bad guys didn't actually want to kill him ... What the hell is going on?

There's this guy who goes all around the world by the name of Bond James Bond. When he's not shooting bad guys or jumping off collapsing buildings, he's banging chicks left and right, but ... still ... when he finds the right girl, he falls in love in an instant ... like ... really?? wth?

So following in the newly established tradition of every 2 Bond movies sucking, Scpecter is nowhere near Skyfall, or even Casino Royale for that matter ... Farewell, mr Bond James Bond ... hopefully next time your story will make a bit more sense....

Friday, October 30, 2015

Facebook ... Fun ...?

No judgement or offence, but some things or Facebook are just ridiculous ... I wonder what my animal spirit color was 3 lives ago ... probably Pink ... most probably Pink ...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cast Away on Mars

A short while after Ridley Scott released his amazingly idiotic Prometheus upon us, a non-SF director dared to put out a simple yet precisely one billion times better movie called Gravity. I can only guess that when he saw it Scott facepalmed hard and thought to himself that this is the kind of movie he actually wanted to make ... a good one ... where intelligent characters manage to make something out of nothing ... in space. And two years later here it is ... sort of...

So, what do you need to survive on Mars? Well ... take one man and a sufficient quantity of well preserved poop and apparently anything is possible ... It's all very scientific, at least the calculation or poop per potato ratio. And you will apparently need disco music ... though I must admit I was close to loosing it after a few 80s hits. But not our man, he was relentless, unflinching in the face of overwhelming odds and the most annoying music of all time. What I am trying to say is that Tom Hanks was a wuss in 'Cast Away' ... he had the beach, the jungle, water, air, Wilson ... and he still lost it. Americans are much tougher these days ... they can launch themselves in outer space in a convertible, they can go to Mars and back and back to Mars and back without the slightest hesitation ... I'm guessing it's ... the Valium?

So yea, The Martian ... better than Prometheus...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Star Wars ... Old Feelings Awaken

The new trailer for the new Star Wars is out, and before you do anything else, you need to watch it (again), even if you have already seen it (multiple numerous times...)

If something can be said for certain about this film, it's that it will make grown men weep like babies. Nothing will stand in the way of your feelings when you will see Han and Chewie on screen. There will be stories about grown man crying in theaters. It will be true, all of it. The cheers, the tears, they will be real. No need to be ashamed, just let them out...

P.S. I just bought tickets for the 16th ... oh YEAH!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Kinda like Batman (and Robin)

Do you know how in 'The Dark Knight Rises' Batman just comes out of retirement and kicks ass? No blabbering about what he's been up to for the last 8 (?) years, no witty lines, no apologies, he's just back ... and kicks ass. Well, I'm not quite Batman yet, so here goes:

Dear blog,

I'm sorry that I've neglected you for the past year or so, I have a confession to make. It seems I have been living ... two lives. By day, I was me ... genius, famous blogger and working for a respectable software company. By night, I have tried to impersonate a well known public figure and one of my idols who goes by the name of Batman. As any respectable Batman should, I needed a Batcave to park my Batmobile, store my arsenal and hone my non-lethal but highly efficient Karate chops.

I used to wonder if Bruce Wayne painted the walls of the cave himself, but it is now very clear to me that he made his Batcave by throwing money at various highly qualified and apparently very discreet or very stupid contractors. Unfortunately, not being a zillionaire, I had no choice but to take on part of the work myself, and while the task was tough, I had my most trusted Robin sidekick at my side. And, surprisingly enough for everyone including ourselves ... we ... kinda made it.

So the time has come, fear not! I shall be springing back into action in full force, full speed ahead! Into battle (?) we go!

The long wait is over and I am .. uhm ready ... I guess ... kinda like Batman.