Jul 04 2018

Driving on the wrong side of the street

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 11:33

After almost a month of being in Edinburgh and taking the bus everywhere I was put in the situation of getting an Uber quite a few times, mostly because my Amazon packages were delivered where I work. I needed to take them home and some of them were too big or/and too heavy to carry to the bus station so Uber XL was the only solution. And I noticed that a trip with Uber was much shorter than one with the bus, the bus can take up to 50 minutes depending on how many people need to board it, but an Uber did even 15 minutes in a good, traffic-easy day. The only benefit of taking the bus was that it is was cheap and I was taking advantage of that time to read, but if I needed to get home faster I had to pop up 20 £ out of my wallet for a trip. And this was, well… painful.

As a coincidence, the week that I decided I needed a car, my got got sick, really sick. I almost lost her. The first morning when she started showing signs, was the morning when I had to go and do a test drive, so being an idiot owner I just dropped by a veterinary clinic, tried to tell them what my cat has, hoping I could have gotten some medicine to make her well, ended up getting her scheduled for an appointment on Monday morning and I went to my drive test. It was scary, I must confess. Driving in UK, as an European driver requires serious brains rewiring. You have to mirror in your head all the rules you know and apply them for driving on the left and also you have to change gears with your left hand. So if your are right-handed and your left hand is mostly useless, it’s really difficult. Thankfully, (yes thankfully!), in 2011 I broke my right hand and that I was the moment I realized that I should force myself to use my left hand more. Because sure, I was lucky then and there were just some bones that were broken and my right hand was supposed to be usable again in 2 months time, but what will I do in case I ever fuck up so badly I need my right hand amputated? With this thought in mind, I used my left hand to do right hand stuff whenever I could. I am even quite good at writing with it now. ;)

In September last year, I also started learning piano and my teacher was amazed that my left hand actually seemed to have more dexterity than my right. So when I got into that car, I was a little bit scared, but I also had the expectation that my left hand would surprise me in a pleasant way. And it did. First 20 minutes of driving and I was already using the 3rd gear.

So I bought the car and I used it to bring my cat home from the hospital. She was in there for two days. This was Saturday. And today it is already the third day I went to work with my car. I managed to trick the other participants to traffic that I am an UK driver. There was one single close call when I was a little bit scared I did something wrong , it was in this big intersection and I needed to do a sharp right and when I say sharp I don’t mean 90 degrees, more like 30. Google Maps said I could, the sign on the road had an arrow oriented right and the traffic light was green, still, made sure  that there were not many cars on the road just in case and I went for it. And then on my left I saw a bus. The bus driver had his WTF face on. From behind the bus a black Audi just popped up, full speed ahead. I did not get to see this driver’s face, but I head the annoyed honking as he bolted in front of me. After him, I did my sharp right and I was on the right lane, on the road I intended to be.  I still do not understand yet what I did wrong in that intersection. I guess I will just have to take a walk one day, because it is close to where I live and try to understand the rules of that intersection, otherwise, I will probably avoid it forever.

For me driving on the left is not such a big thing. As long as there is traffic there is clearly no mistake in regards to on which side of the road you should be. The sign on the road and traffic lights help you a lot as well. What I was expecting to be difficult for me was the fact that there were quite a few new elements combined: new car, steering wheel on the right, driving on the left(so mirrored traffic rules) and new city (doh!), so more than one thing to handle at once. But I’ve always bragged I am multi-tasking and apparently I still am. I did have the beginner-driver feeling a little, and every time I come back from work there is a little more adrenaline than it should. This is because of two reasons: I am coming back home during rush hour, so more traffic and in addition to that, there is a portion of the road that is under repair, and the usable lane is only the one taking me from home to work, the other one is blocked. So coming back home is a hassle and I haven’t managed yet to do less than 40 minutes, because trying to avoid that blocked part of the road, made me select the wrong lane more than once and ending up in parts of the city where I shouldn’t have. You could say I got lost, but it’s difficult to get lost with Google Maps, the more suitable expression is that: I am accidentally exploring Edinburgh. :D

Except for these little inconveniences, all is well. I have a lot of parking space available next to my house, gas is cheap and roads are pretty good. Well, sort of. Roads are really not that good, I have to admit this. So my fellow Romanians, you can laugh your asses off, because I am still driving while avoiding holes and bumps on the road, so I feel like home, only now I’m doing it on the left and in a more civilized country.

Stay safe, stay happy!

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Jul 03 2018

A short skepticism story

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 13:15

I started learning programming at age of 14. I was in high-school and the programming language did not really matter to me. For me it was all about algorithms and data structures as means to solving problems. Whether I was using FoxPro, Turbo Pascal or C, what it mattered was solving the problem and getting the results.

Then I went to the university and because of a series of unforeseen circumstances I ended up writing most of my solutions in Java. And it was all classes, interfaces and objects, OOP for short.

Almost my whole career was centered around the OOP way of solving problems. Even when I was writing JavaScript code, I was still stuck on classes , objects, fields and methods. It did not really occur to me that there was other way of thinking and designing my solutions anymore. OOP seemed so natural, it modeled real life objects and processes after all. But real life is most of the time inefficient and less than optimal, and real life solutions are based on things designs created by at least two generations before and propagated by adults that function based on the “it is known” principle. Because, after all, there is a risk involved in doing things differently, that most people prefer not to take. It is the “If it works, don’t fix it!” engineering principle.

Enter “Gica-Contra”, a Romanian term that describes people that “swim against the current”, people that feel compelled to be against the other 99%. This term has always been used by my mother to describe me because since I was a child I was quite rebellious and stubborn, and always felt the need to ask that  damn question loathed by parents who thought parenting is easy: “Why?”. If you think this kind of attitude changes with age, you are mistaken. I have become the kind of adult that does the following:

  • asks “Are you sure?”
  • says “Let me double-check that!”
  • says “Neah, there must be a different/easier way to do this!”
  • asks “But, what if …?”
  • asks “But how do you really know?”
  • says “If too many people have the same view on this, there is something shady about it.”
  • and many more.

And all that my friends, translates to a single term: skeptic.

Being so stuck on OOP, I was quite skeptical about functional programming. And rightfully so, as the only programming language I could associate it to was Turbo Pascal, and suffice to say, I did not like Turbo Pascal very much. Also there is so much hype about functional programming nowadays, that it tingles my Gica-Contra sense a little bit too much. And that’s the thing that got me worried. I’ve always considered my skepticism as a superpower, as the fuel for my out-of-the box thinking engine. But when it came to functional programming, it kept me from even taking it into consideration, it kept me in the dark. And that’s when it hit me: I was behaving exactly like the traditionalists and conservative narrow minded humans that I’ve always claimed to despise.

This had to change. I needed to come into the light. Thankfully I now work for a company that pays for independent study, we have 10 training days per year, when you are payed just to study whatever you are curious about and the conclusion of those days must be shared with your colleagues via a blog post or presentation. So I took advantage of my first training day to start learning Kotlin. And it was mind-blowing. Especially since one day earlier I also participated to a Scala workshop that went very well. All of a sudden, there was all this new information coming from comparing the two languages. It’s like the fog was lifted from my eyes and I finally could see the power and the versatility of functional programming.

And most of all, I could see the practical side of it. Solutions that needed 20 lines of code to be implemented in Java, needed only 2 lines in Kotlin, and surprisingly, they were still readable. Almost the same in Scala. Come to think of it, I have been bothered for a while by all the boilerplate code required in Java to fit the OOP principles and some coding conventions  that nobody asked me about. All these getters and setters, all the bloody curly braces and all the NPEs… Kotlin and Scala reduce that. And funny enough Java is going in that direction as well, I mean with modules, you might as well just declare your fields public and avoid writing setters and getters, because if the class is not in an exported package you have nothing to worry about.

So yeah, interesting times are coming. No worries, I’ll keep you in the loop. ;)

Stay safe, stay happy!


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Jun 28 2018

Part of the plan

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 2:20

I told you in a previous entry that my cat is sick. Then I thought the only problem was her swollen eye.  So I went to the vet and treated that. 60 pounds later, I had medicine and hope that she will get better. One day after, she stopped eating, the eye was not swollen anymore, but now puss was coming out of her both eyes and nose. I kept guard on her last night, making sure she was ok. This morning, her nose was dry and this is the worst sign with furry animals. It means that they have fever and that they are dehydrated.

So I called her doctor and I managed to get her scheduled tomorrow morning. Meanwhile I am still watching her. She hasn’t moved from her bed, where I put her last evening. I forced her to drink some water.

I know that in English, inanimate objects and pets are referred by “it”, but to me she is not a pet, she is my partner, she is my rock. She taught me how to say no and she taught me that all creatures alike need relaxation and sleep. She also helped me understand my empathy and to accept boundaries of others. It might seem ridiculous that a creature that cannot speak or express itself the way we humans understand could do this, but sometimes gestures, actions speak louder than words.

I have moved from Iasi to Sibiu with her by my side. Then I left her alone for two weeks and then put her in a cage, in a van with a lot of other animals and some strangers for 4 days to get her here. Because of the stress of that experience, she now weights 1 kilogram less.

She’s been with me since 2007. She survived two relationships. She reminds me to go to sleep when I get lost in writing and she starts purring out of the blue when I start feeling sad.

To me she’s not just a pet, she is an old soul. And I know she will probably die before I do, because her lifespan is shorter than mine, but this will not happen if I can prevent it somehow. She is not dying of old age, she is dying of a bloody infection. And that can be cured, all it takes is a little effort and a little money. And I will invest and do all in my power to make her better, because I did not have the time to imagine how my life would be without her. I had a plan: get a more technical job, move to Edinburgh, get the cat to Edinburgh, get a house with a garden for the cat, look for a pet sitter for the cat, learn, improve, excel, travel.  The cat is part of the plan, she has to get better.

Sick Psycho

Stay safe, stay happy!

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Jun 25 2018

Short update

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 2:17

It is Sunday evening and I barely have time to write anything because I had a full week. Let’s start with the basics.

I finished installing my piano and my desk. The desk is electric and can be lifted up to 1.5 meters. Both the frame and the desk table top were ordered from Amazon and I was scared that I messed up with the dimensions of the desk table top, because when it got delivered, it was huge. When I started assembling the desk frame, I realized pretty quick that I should have went with IKEA, because the instruction that came with it were not so clear, I actually had the impression that the manual was for another product. But I’m an engineer and I managed to assemble it, and when the desk was all set up, I congratulated myself for the decision of not going with IKEA. And the size of the desk table top is just right for all my needs.

Iuliana Cosmina’s Desk

So yeah, things are starting to settle. So much that I got my first Scottish cold. No idea how, but it’s not a surprise. I’ve never been the person with a really strong immunity, my only superpower is that I can take a cold on my feet. It has gotten more difficult with the passing of the years and me getting older, but  it’s still doable. As long as it is not bronchitis or pneumonia, I can function just well. So this is what I did, I went to work functioned as normal. Plus I could not just take a sick leave and miss my fist company hackaton. So, twice a year, at the company where I work now, an internal development contest takes place. Teams are organized and different projects are assigned to them, project that have nothing to do with work. It’s just development for fun. And I suspect there is quite a serious budget for this, because there are even hardware projects. My team build a throwable microphone, in the shape of a bear, with an accelerometer and a potentiometer controlled by an Arduino chip. And because we had limited testing possibilities, we used a NeoPixel LED strip to test it.

Franken Bear

Of course everything ended with an awesome barbecue that my new manager worked on for two days while we coded and prepared our presentations and demos. And drinking was involved; we had quite a few types of beer, cider, whiskey and wine. So yeah, we had a lot of choices. :)

I had to cut it short because on Saturday morning I had to go to a test drive. Yes a test drive. A week ago I decided a car is a necessity for me, that will most likely reduce my time to get to work to 15-20 minutes. So I scanned the dealerships, learned a few tips from my colleagues, learned a little about the bureaucracy involved and I went for it. I will take it home this Friday.

After the drive test I had a walk on Portobello beach, since the dealership I chose was close to it. It was a warm, sunny day and it was full of people enjoying just as much as I did.

Portobello Beach

You would never think to associate sun and warmth with Scotland, but one day like this can convince you of the contrary.

Also, my cat is sick. She has one inflamed eye. So on Saturday morning instead of sleeping late to recover, I had to wake up as early as I could and go to a near-by veterinary practice to ask for advice. So on Monday morning, my cat is scheduled for a check-up and who knows what else, at a different practice than the one I went to, because they do not have an empty spot in the practice close to me. Good news is, the doctor is Romanian. As the representative that spoke to me on the phone about the car. So, apparently there are more Romanians here than I thought. But the ones I’ve met so far seem awesome. :)

During the weekend I assembled my clothes stand and moved the mattress into the bedroom with the window facing East, so I’ll wake up and fall asleep easier. The other bedroom has become itself sort of a wardrobe, because I moved the  clothes stand there and added the ironing board too.

Also, apparently my kitchen fire alarm is quite sensitive, because it went off today when I was frying some onion. It scared the shit out of me and because I was so panicked and opening all windows and doors, so the deafening sound maybe would stop before the firemen arrive, so the onion ended up being burned for real. Wonders of a civilized world …

I look at my situation and it seems so silly to me that apparently it looks like I will have a car before I have a bed. Because, I had not many options when it comes to cars, but when it comes to beds … well, too many options seems to be a problem. Also it is sort of normal to spend 5000 pounds on a car, but 700 pounds on a bed and mattress seems ridiculous.

So, here I am, with a fully furbished house and a car and sleeping on an inflatable mattress. Maybe if this inflatable mattress weren’t so damn comfortable, I would be more motivated to buy a bed, but honestly, if this mattress can take it I might never buy a bed.

So yeah, this has been my life this week, and that is why I did not have enough time to write anything on the blog.

Stay safe, stay happy!

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Jun 20 2018

You gotta go to the city

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:59

One of the things I am being asked often by people at home, friends and family, since I moved here is if I’m going out. Like the fact that I was not going out while in my country, had anything to do with the country. Well, the answer is yes, I am going out. I am definitely going out more than I was going out in Romania, but this is because I have a home to set up and a new city I need to learn to get around. But I’m not going out to bars and clubs because this is not what I do. I’m just looking for shops and taking different buses. But at some point I plan to go to a bar here and there, but right now I don’t have the time. I am alone trying to set up a house, writing a book and adapting to a new job that is different than any other job I’ve had before. Also, I am losing two hours daily on the bus, I am cooking for myself, I am running a little because I want to try to keep myself as fit as possible. And, I do not have a car anymore, so my mobility is restricted. I plan to fix this though, but this also takes time. So, when should I go out?

I am not on vacation here, I moved here. I cannot wait to explore this beautiful city and this beautiful country, but right now I have other priorities. So, no my dears, I am not going out, not going to the city. I am going to work, then going home, to my cat and my book and since yesterday, to my piano. But I promise you, I will go out. Someday! ;)

Stay safe, stay happy!

Jun 18 2018

19 days later

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:27

Today is my 19th day in Edinburgh. It was not all milk and honey, but overall, I love it here. I was so scared of all the bad experiences as an immigrant in another country that I might have over-prepared.

The fact is, I did not come here to take anybody’s job, I did not com here for a better life. Actually, after taking out rent, taxes and monthly utilities I might be left with less money from my salary, compared to what I was left with in Romania. But then again, if I compare with my situation in Romania, everything could be seen as disadvantageous here.

I no longer have a car, and this hinders my mobility a little but at the same time, “forces” me to walk to a bus station or another. This “forces”me to see the city I live in and almost every day I have at least one moment where I just want to exclaim happily “I live here now!”

The weather here is crazy. In a good way. It’s fascinating really.  First of all, days are way longer during summer. No idea when the sun rises, but at 6 when I wake up, outside is lit up enough to feel safe when running in the park. Sometimes it rains during the day and then the sky just clears up, like all the  clouds have melted away and the sun comes up at 20:00. And the light is so weird it feels like morning again. My brains is a little screwed up by this, I must confess, because I feel tired during the day, but then it’s like I wake up at 20:00. I feel this boost of energy and this eagerness to start a brand new day that is just difficult to ignore and just go to sleep.  And then it gets dark, but not that dark, at 23:00, you can still see somebody’s face without any additional light and the sky is still light blue.

The house that I rented is nice as well, all floor is covered with this fluffy carpet that my cat enjoys rolling on and the vacuum cleaner bought specially for it keeps it in quite good condition.  It is the first time I rented using an agency and in this country this shit is quite serious. The agency is in charge with making sure the place is given to you in pristine condition and make sure it stays that way. Sure, they get a big bonus for that, but damn, it is comforting to know that in case something goes wrong around the house I can call them and they will fix it. The cat loves the house, and loves the garden, she has 2-3 hours a day when she just disappears. And she loves the self inflatable mattress, she didn’t pierce it yet like she did with the yoga balls. :) I am still trying to understand how the thermostat works, but oh well, you can’t have them all.

Also, it is the first time I rent an unfurnished place and there is this feeling of accomplishment that grows with every decision I make regarding the things to buy and how they are arranged.

I am still bleeding money, or at least it feels this way, because I have all these initial investments to make. Once this is done, everything will come back to normal, and my spending will become normal.

As for the new job, things are starting to settle down, apparently there is order in this chaos and there is information everywhere, on how things were designed and they are supposed to work, and they actually work. I cloned the sources and I was able to build and start the project by myself. And that happens every time, I almost forgot how this felt like, because at the previous project I worked on, there was always something crashing.

And the food, I either don’t know what to eat from here, or where, but daamn British  truly can’t cook.  So a big investment that I had to do this week was kitchen tools because I had to prepare my meals for the week. I am tired of sandwiches and wraps. At least the beer is awesome, and there are so many options when it comes to it. So far, my favorite is the ginger beer. I like the little tingles it causes in my taste buds.

There are assholes here as well, I realize that every time I run in the park and I see rubbish thrown here and there. I understand that when you live in a city you are most likely fed up with it and stop seeing its beauty, but why trash it?

Anyway, I am here to stay, unless I die or something.

Soon I will write an article on this blog with all the necessary steps you need to go through to move here without hassle. It’s not an invitation for my fellow Romanians, it’s just a basic guide for whoever is interested to move to another country. Because after 19 days, there is one question that keeps popping up in my head: “Why haven’t I done this sooner?”


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Jun 09 2018

First week at my new job

Category: MiscellaneousIuliana @ 1:40

I wanted to write this post, after my first day, but as the rational person I am I stopped myself? Because what can be said about the first day? Not much, you meet a bunch of people, you get an access card and you start the bureaucracy proceedings. You don’t really get any opinions and the ones you get are first impressions that are wrong most times. So I avoided writing until now. But here I am, writing about it. So, how was it?

It was different. It is the first time I work with a foreign team directly, from the first day. And it is the first time I work in a truly software company that is not outsourcing. So it is different, I am still trying to figure out if I will fit the team or fit the project. In the beginning I had the impression that this is the most disorganized company I ever came across. But, bit by bit, things started to become clear. Sure there are some corporate things that might make my work more difficult then they should, but the development environment seems to be quite in good shape.

Going to work takes me about 40-50 minutes every morning, and the bus takes me right through the city center. I am a little bit perplexed of how … not “misplaced” I feel here. When I moved to Sibiu, even if I was brokenhearted, I still missed Iasi. But it is not the same here, I miss the people of Sibiu, but I do not miss … “home”. And now that, soon my cat will be here, and starting with Monday I will have a house, so I can begin a new life here, I can build something new. And I can make it exactly as I want to.

And I like this city so much, I cannot contain my enchantment every time my bus passes down on Princess Street, next to the Edinburgh castle, or every time I board a tram. I don’t think I’ve ever been so enchanted with a place I lived in.

Until I get some inspiration, you can relax your eyes with a few pics. I got my RIDACARD two days ago. It is very practical when you get on the wrong bus, because you can just jump off it and jump into the next one, and the next one, until you managed to get where you want to go. This happened to me today, two buses and a tram later, I was home together with my ETEKCITY mattress. Not the perfect time to get on the wrong bus, because the box was not that small, but oh well…



I don’t know what else to say. I am confident that I made the right choice. But I guess, time will tell.