Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Do What I Want

It's 10:00am on a Sunday. I just made my second pot of coffee. I'm not tired, I just love coffee. Maybe I should consider decaf one of these days. I thought I would blog while my chicken baked in the over. I eat copious amounts of stir- fry. On any given 5-day work week, I consume the contents of a wok at least 4 of those nights. Sure, any idiot can cook stir-fry. But that's not why I eat so much of it.

I live in a world with limited food options, compared to what those of you in North America might be used to. Most of the fresh vegetables here taste like plastic, especially in the winter. I don't trust a landlocked Slovakia to stock any fish that retains an iota of freshness. And don't get me started on the pork and beef, they're just a scratch above slabs of animal fat. So in my faltering attempts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I am confined to generous portions of chicken and a medley of frozen vegetables. Stir-fry just makes sense.

I live a pretty structured life these days. I hate to be so predictable, but carefully created habits and patterns allow me to make the most of my time. And boy, do I value my time. I usually get groceries on a weekend morning. If I can make it Sunday before the church crowd is relieved from their weekly mass, I consider the day off to a great start. During the course of a typical grocery run, I buy a large number of chicken breasts and then bake them when I get home, as I'm doing now. This saves me the hassle of having to worry about raw chicken going bad and then subsequently cooking it every night in the pan. I feel like baked things might be a little healthier and allow me to use less oil in the pan too. Bonus, or ridiculous justification of my habits?

When these routines of mine are thrown for a loop, I tend to get a little annoyed. I don't think that it's because I'm anti-social, grumpy or overly-obsessive compulsive. It's just that I know I am going to be inconvenienced in a major way during the week if I can't get these auxiliary things, critical to support my highly productive week, done on the weekend. I'm busy as an elf the week before Christmas these days, what with work and all. And that makes me value my time even more.

That's not to say there aren't days where I'm a complete, lazy, piece of trash. You should have seen me yesterday.

Upon reflection, while holding my limited time in high regard allows me to get a lot done, it also has some drawbacks. I very much prefer to do things on my own schedule, - another reason I enjoy working for myself. Working on my own schedule often means opting out of other people's plans. This would perturb me more, if I didn't enjoy working and believe that the rewards at the end would be well worth giving up a few afternoon activities and evening programs. I need to remain conscious of my actions and remember that every once in awhile it would probably do me some good to give in to the whims of one of my peers, because some times I'm surprised at the fun I have or the opportunity my eyes are opened to. As always, it just seems to be about becoming aware of, and striking the right balance.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bratislava Video Round-Up

When I first arrived I looked for videos about the place I all of a sudden found myself in. Here's a few classics to give you an idea of what I'm living through.

I love to hate this place. And I love it a bit, but don't tell anyone.

For all of those who have been wondering at home, yes, Euro Trip was right, re: Winter. And 18-40sec was filmed in my backyard, I'm pretty sure.

I'd say about 70% of the housing looks something like this.

This is a 3:30 video montage of some dudes driving around my immediate hood. It's a bit redundant, but at least watch the first 1:20 sec to get a good idea of what life is like.

Probably the most legit one from the Washington Post, and why girls are skeptical when they hear my native English.

UPDATE: A little long, - I would advise you skip the nice parts - but the most recent and accurate.

UPDATE II: Just watch the first 15 seconds. They really just go after the place.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Little Things

Sodium-free soy sauce.

English signs to read in idle places.

People that smile and can walk without looking at their feet.

Houses without graffiti on them.

Complete shite weather... Not.

These are the things I miss.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Late Night Patriotism

It's 3:02 am on a Thursday. But this isn't just any Thursday. Second intermission of the Canada vs. Russia Men's Olympic Hockey Quarterfinal is underway. I can't understand this Slovak commentary so I thought the opportunity to do some late night blogging was a worthy one.

Canada is in the midst of trouncing Russia with a 7-3 lead. It would be heartbreaking to see them blow it; and yet I'm too superstitious to outright declare victory at this point. But score aside, there is one thing that is very cool, that finally made me feel that raw Olympic Spirit. You see, I've been incredibly busy with work, and the 8 hour time difference puts a kink in watching live events, so I haven't been AS enthralled with this contest for ultimate winter athletic dominance as I may have been in the past.

But I'm up now. And boy, am I glad. Not only because I am witness to an unreal game but because - and not to sound like too much of a tech nerd - I did it while on Twitter, connected to a number of my friends who all felt pretty much the same as me. My good pal @amitayer said it best.

Keep in mind, it's three in the morning and I suffer from chronic sleep deprivation on a good day, so sorry if this is a little incoherent.

I need to nap before setting new records of caffeine intake work.


Back to the Balcony

The amount of Nutella I consume is ungodly. But that's not what this is about.

For those readers who operate with the Celsius scale, I'm happy to inform you that I am now consistently enjoying double digit temperatures. As an Ottawa native, the notion of persistent positive temperature readings in the month of February is mind-blowing. To those of you that remain trapped in the confines of the frigid 613, I don't mean this personally but: Suck it. Maybe it's cliche to blog about the weather; but quite frankly good sir, I don't give a damn.

While I concede, there may be a brief relapse and even a flurry or two, I declare with certainty that the worst is most definitely over.

Off to the balcony where I will stand in a "fresh white tee" and watch incompetent drivers try to parallel park in spaces far too tight.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Reuters, 19/02/2010, IBM Corporation Signs Three Year, EUR56 Million Agreement With Slovak Ministry Of Finance For Integrated Finance System
Copyright 2010 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.

Date Announced: 20100219

IBM Corporation announced that it has been selected by the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic to provide technical assistance services for the design, development and implementation of an intelligent, integrated finance information system for the country. According to the three year, EUR56 million contract signed, IBM will standardize Slovakia's fiscal system by integrating and streamlining existing processes into a unified collection platform. The project will be funded from European Union structural funds and co-financed from the state budget. The project is part of the Slovak government's program to revamp the tax information system; improve communication between taxpayers and the tax authority; and unify the collection of taxes, customs duties and insurance contributions. IBM will undertake the project in several phases: introducing a 'one-stop service'. Taxpayers will be able to perform a variety of tasks using one platform, eliminating duplicate confirmations and forms, and reducing the administrative burden for citizens and companies related to the collection of taxes, customs duties and insurance contributions; enabling integration and communication between various local authorities; and establishing a centralized taxation information platform.

Significant Development ID Number 1825233

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quantify It.

Ok seriously, this weather is amazing. The sunshine has certainly instilled some pep in my step, so to speak.

Another productive Sunday is well underway. I'm very smily about the whole thing. Sarp, my flatmate, chastised me about being lazy last night, and not going out. It's nice to know my night in evening last wasn't for nothing then. Furthermore, this morning I've realized that he's equally lazy, if not more. As noon slowly encroaches, he has yet to emerge from his bed. To be lazy then, is in the eye of the beholder? By taking it easy last night I'm now leagues ahead of him, as far as "slothing about" goes.

Not that this is some kind of competition.

But that's not what I want to blog about this morning. As I've systematically optimized the exploitation and use of my time in the last few hours, and the weeks leading up such said hours, I've realized my methods have changed slightly. Things are going relatively well right now. So I want to take note of what I'm doing.

I'm an avid agenda user. Those learning skills they teach in grade 6 have provided me with huge ROI, as it turns out. My planner use varies depending on how I'm feeling. It's consistent, always, but sometimes I put dumb things on lists (like cutting my nails, - seriously, I'm a freak) to make me feel more productive. I just love crossing things off lists. I'm sure there's a surge of dopamine associated with the action that drives this neurotic behaviour of mine. At other times I use numbered lists and every now and then I encircle things with highlighters.

So given my regular fluctuation in agenda use patterns, it's realistic to think that I would stumble upon things that work and those that don't. The difficulty seems to be in realizing the effect of my varying habits - can habits vary? Sounds like an oxymoron - and realizing what to keep and what to take out with the trash.

As of late, I've been very specific with my daily to-do lists. I realized that I was failing to get anything done. I kept delaying things to tomorrow. I just wasn't getting shit done. I looked at all of the items I was putting off: They were lofty, ill-defined tasks.

So I did the exact opposite. I changed things from "read" to "read one chapter of book x." Instead of doing research I would get "25 names and numbers of decision makers." I quantified my daily goals. The prompt realization struck me, that I was finally getting things done again. I struck items off my list with ruthless efficiency.

And the benefits multiplied. Not only was I getting more things done, I was better able to structure my time, as I had a very good idea how much time any one of the well-defined task would take. I also noticed that the work I was producing was of higher quality.

Other things I do regularly that seem to work include numbering my giant lists and allocating times.

If you have your own ways, I'd love to hear them. Seriously.


On a completely unrelated topic, I'm bouncing around a hypothesis in my brain. I don't think it's ripe yet to take fruition from but it involves starting another blog. I think I would be able to muse successfully about starting a business. Specifically the multitude of trials and tribulations that have come along, all in a tongue and cheek manner of course. The biggest reason I want to do it is because I don't think that this is the appropriate forum, yet I have so much to say on the topic. I'll repurpose this little internet space to focus more on my day to day adventures, as well as general personal development. More to come on the subject...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Turning A Corner

I stepped outside around 3:30pm, Central Eastern European time for a quick walk yesterday. I like to take afternoon breaks to clear my brain from the monotony of being awesome.

I was met with a welcoming glow from the afternoon sun and a balmy breeze. Winter is almost over. If I were to believe the forecast, the temperature is supposed to rise to the double digits next week. Mild weather in late February is something unheard of, for this Canadian. I can't help but feel that I might just be making it through my first winter in this bleak, grey, post-communist world. I'm hesitant to say too much however, lest I jinx myself.

I'm hopeful that this meteorological change foreshadows similar improvements in life and business. With better weather I can't help but feel a spark in my step, and with a better attitude should come better outcomes. I'll keep you updated.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Open Letter to McDonalds

Below is a complaint I submitted to McDonalds. Please share any of your experiences.

I recently moved to Slovakia from Canada. I am an extremely avid coffee drinker. I was primarily a Starbucks patron, or Tim Hortons' if circumstances necessitated.

In Slovakia though, McDonalds is the only place to get reliable, fast, and quite frankly delicious coffee (seriously, I was impressed with the quality of your brew). I go every day, multiple times a day (as I mentioned, I'm an AVID consumer).

Usually I drink my coffee black. To be honest, it makes me feel more hardcore than most people, and it's quite tasty (rotting stomach and stained teeth not withstanding). Sometimes I use creamers though, just to mix things up. And man, do your creamers scream "sub-par". Struggling to open that creamer is probably the worst part of my morning, now that I think of it.

I'm not sure if the tab you are meant to pull open was designed as a cruel trick by your supplier, or whether it's years of karmic injustice being consistently unleashed on me in a twisted ploy to even my score with the universe at large, one day at a time. Either way, 19 times out of 20 the excessive vacuum seal of the creamer causes small spurts of the white thick liquid to ejaculate all over my clothes, keyboard and desk when I peal back the aforementioned tab. On the worst of days, the body of the creamer itself breaks in half and spills the entirety of its contents all over my lap.

Please, please, please, do something about this. Even if it just means buying the Tesco brand and using those.



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Hallmark Day

Happy V-Day friends.

Earlier I Skyped with my family. My mom made a remark that got me thinking. She asked if people celebrated Valentine's day over in this part of the world. I hadn't seen much in the days leading up, but I had assumed people did.

I can't be sure though. Asking a Slovak would be the easy answer, but taking hints and cues from my surroundings is another option. And speculation is fun, so let's do it.

I spent most of my day doing completely non-valentine related things; primarily chores and other things required to ensure I have an awesome week. I took a walk this afternoon for a little reprieve, to explore and observe. I was somewhat shocked to see nothing in the way of hearts adorning local stores, not an Eros in sight.

My mom was right. Without Hallmark driving mindless consumerism, the optical assault induced by the ubiquity of Valentine's Day related paraphernalia is negligible. Maybe that's a good thing?

Either way, have a great day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Own Your Time

Another productive Saturday. Amazing. Although this time, it's more out of necessity, than anything else. Work is a little (read: hella) hectic right now; so I'm in the office. But at least I'm able to go at my own pace, blogging all the while.

Since this self-employment gig began, my attitude towards work has changed. I'm doing this for me. Sure, I'm trying incredibly hard to serve other people something of value, but I'm only trying so hard to please others because I'm convinced it will translate into more Euros for me. I'm a selfish bastard, at the end of the day. But at least I'm honest about it, unlike you passive-aggressive, conniving, manipulative cretins out there.

Oh how I love the word cretin.

I digress.

At my previous job, I sometimes questioned why I had put myself in such a situation. I mean, it was tedious work, constantly turning tricks for the man. No matter what my monthly salary, hourly wage, or commission structure, I was still enslaved to the 9:00-5:30 routine. If I was hungry at an hour that wasn't lunch time, I was obliged to sneak away from my desk and clandestinely acquire a snack. Or sit unproductively and listen to my stomach growl as I waited out the clock. To overcome the idea that I was making my bosses rich for a measly commission, I scoured my situation for an iota of positive-spin. Even though I was committed to someone else's cause, I found a way to convince myself it was in my own best interest to hustle harder. It has something to do with that 10,000 hour thing.

And now, working for myself, I've realized I can continue to distill value on different levels. While it's mostly about stacking mad scrilla, it can also be about more than that. I know it sounds crazy, but allow me to explain.

A gigantic part of my role at this organization, and at the previous place that was lucky enough to harbor me, is B2B inside sales. That's a fancy way of saying I call people on the phone and sell them my ideas, all neatly packaged into day long events broadcast over the internet. If they think they might like my ides, they purchase the right to listen.

Obviously, I hear the word "no" a lot. Not everyone is THAT enthralled with my INGENIOUS thoughts, believe it or not. "Quel surprise!" The French reader might proclaim, in the most sarcastic of tones. The repetition of that same monosyllabic response can be tiring. Even with the prospect of financial freedom at the end of every conversation it can be tough to self-motivate. Paradoxically, self-motivation is exactly what you need heaps of, if you want to be a boss in this industry.

So I looked for other ways to derive value. Ways that were not to tied to the direct outcome of the call I was making. And now, 9 months or so later, if you give me the name and phone number of just about anyone in the english-speaking world I will have no problem calling them up and pitching them whatever idea or product you might have. I'm getting pretty good at it too. Of course I still have a long way to go, much to learn and more practice ahead of me (and countless rejections), but it's all just a step on developing the extremely transferable, and valuable, skill of being able to close anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So that's my strategy for getting the most out of work. What's yours?

What I'm hearing.

Friday, February 12, 2010


This is similar to my last blog post. I would ask you to please forgive the redundancy, but it's my blog, so I'll do what I want.

My uncle is coming to visit me in a few weeks. I'm excited. My family has repeatedly asked me if I need anything from North America. Other than the latest GQ, I haven't been able to think of anything. I don't really need stuff, but I also am becoming more and more capable.

For example, just the other day I finally managed to find sweetener BEZ CUKOR (without sugar), VHODNE PRE DIABETIKOV (suitable for diabetics).

I've finally got my oatmeal just the way I like. It's empowering.

If you don't know why oatmeal is such a big deal, you haven't been reading long enough. Here's some perspective.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I called someone today, as I do most days. You might call it a cold call, in that I'd never spoken to this particular executive before. I do a lot of this.

About 15 seconds into my pitch, he stops me. He says "Hey hey hey, Jeff, you call me up like you're my best friend but I don't even think we've met before."

My first days in this line of work, I used to secretly wish that people wouldn't pick up when I called. When they did, I would stutter like crazy.

So I guess I've made progress?

Like those calls, this particular one didn't yield any direct results.

Baby steps.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

[A]Typical Sunday

I've been going to the bar less, as of late. I think it's good for my liver, not to mention numerous other aspects of my life. I've predominantly limited my social galavanting to one day a week. Just enough to break the cycle. I can sacrifice one night and the subsequent day to binge drinking, if it means a break from the regular tension of life on the daily. I'm ensuring my own mental stability, really.

The thing is, I have quite started to enjoy these weekend days that result from not being excessively liquored-up the night before. For example, I awoke today at 8:00 am, with a clear mind and a day that stretched out in front of me for what felt like forever. It's 3:48 pm, by the standards of most mortals I have already conquered the world, despite moving at a relaxed pace and drinking copious amounts and varieties of tea. I feel productive and my hope is that the productivity will continue, like that annoying Lamb Chops song that never ended. My hope is quickly reinforced with productive action, so I'm justifiably confident in my hopeful prediction. Action is key, after all.

One of the many things I got up to this morning was hitting up the grocery store. It's important that I make it before noon, to avoid the after-church-crowd and the chicken famine that ensues after their ransacking of the local Billa . And don't get me started on submitting to the low-quality pork, the only other real meat option available, for my weekly culinary fodder. My grocery bill is fairly consistent from one week to the next, another sign that my lifestyle here is getting more comfortable, or stagnant, if you want to look at the other side of the coin. My real point though is this: There are no cars out on the street. This isn't limited to one rogue trip to the local supermarket. As I mentioned, the limitations on my binge behaviour have been more encompassing and longitudinal. It's something I've been observing and pondering quietly over the last few weeks. The city is a ghost town on the weekends.

When I was in Canada, people were always doing errands on the two days that start with "S". Whether it was running (obviously not actually running - driving fast) to the mall to consume things, take their kids to hockey practice or one of one hundred other things, people were doing stuff. And using their cars to get from A to B. Throughout the Slovak summer, there were also always people about. But now that I think about it, most were just walking around and enjoying the nice weather. Wintertime must keep these supermodels cooped up, leaving the streets barren, much to my chagrin.

I wonder if kids don't have as many extra curricular obligations in this part of the world? Are soccer moms here less intense? I could see this lack of activities keeping parents from scurrying from arena to ballet school, or what have you. Maybe after church, families spend time together. Maybe they go to grandma's house for the afternoon to drink tea and keep from frolicking in the city streets. Maybe nobody has the cashflow to mindlessly consume at local shops. I'll keep thinking about why this might be but wanted to give you a quick heads-up to something that is awry.

Music for your Sunday morning.

I'm going to sleep through my first Super Bowl tonight. I hope the Colts dominate and the game is complete shit. Ok, I'm just jealous - enjoy the show EST friends.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Visits to Dreamland

I've always hated sleep. For as long as I can remember, I've sucked at it. I'm poor at sleeping in and I'm worse at going to bed on time. I'm easily distracted and entertained, so lying down and closing my eyes isn't perceived as all that valuable.

On the theme of alignment though, I've decided to give this sleep notion a little more attention. Sure, I can wake up at 5:00 an and drink 8 cups of coffee before noon; in fact, I regularly do just that. I feel like I'm quite productive in my current routine. But I would be remiss not to examine other ways of doing things. Is it worth keeping some type of sleep journal, recording mood and sleeping patterns? How do I accurately determine the optimal amount of rest I need?

Either way, at the probing of a friend I've done some reading into the ill-effects of sleeplessness. I think a good first step is to educate myself about the real consequences of chronic sleep deprivation. Knowing what I have to lose will allow me to accurately prioritize my visits to dreamland.

UPDATE: How well do YOU sleep?