# Monday, 07 July 2014
Monday, 07 July 2014 05:23:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

7/6
Today I am grateful for the hospitality and generosity of my cousin Sharon and her family, who shared their San Rafael home with us this week.

7/5
Today I am grateful for an afternoon watching the Oakland A's win in walk-off fashion yesterday with Tim Giard and cousin Billy.

7/4
Today I am grateful for my first trip to California in 6 years.

7/3
Today I am grateful for a successful apartment search yesterday.

7/2
Today I am grateful for:
1. Running into old friends yesterday
2. A good night's sleep last night
3. Staying close to home most of June before the crazy travel month of July.

7/1
Today I am grateful to my friend Mike for taking the time yesterday to teach me about Azure Notification Hubs.

6/30
Today I am grateful for a strong end to the first Fiscal Year with me on the inside.

6/29
Today I'm excited that I've had the chance to meet so many entrepreneurs the past couple months. Their energy is contagious!

6/28
Today I am grateful for a few hours hanging out yesterday in my hometown of Grosse Pointe, MI.

6/27
Today I am grateful I could spend yesterday evening with my son Tim.

6/26
Today I am grateful I had a chance to spend yesterday afternoon with Nick Giard before he returned to Florida this morning.

6/25
Today I am grateful for my teammates, who often go out of their way to support one another.

6/24
Today I am grateful I have the opportunity to work from home when it makes sense.

6/23
Today I am grateful by the overwhelming choice of videos I can watch whenever I have free time.

6/22
Today I am grateful for some extra sleep this weekend to make up for the last few weeks.

6/21
Today I am grateful for a combined birthday/Father's Day dinner celebration last night with my boys.

6/20
Today I am grateful I finally got my car fixed after being unable to open my trunk for a month.

6/19
Today I am grateful for the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group. Volunteering the past 6 years has been a great experience! I will miss you guys!  #‎MIGANG‬

6/18
Today I am grateful for a week full of user groups and other dev community stuff!

6/17
Today I am grateful to all those who missed the USA-Ghana World Cup game last night to hear me talk about Azure Mobile Services at the Windows Developer Group in Columbus.

6/16
Today I am grateful I could spend Father's Day with my 2 favourite people - Nick Giard and Tim Giard - at the Tigers game yesterday. (and a walk-off RBI)

6/15
Today I am grateful for
1. The example set and the lessons taught by my father.
2. The privilege of being a father to my 2 boys who have grown into excellent young me.

6/14
Today I am grateful for
1. Sushi with my boys
2. Technical assistance from a friend.

6/13
Today I am grateful my son found a summer job yesterday.

6/12
Today I am grateful for a successful Dev Day yesterday in Columbus - our final first-party event of FY14.

6/11
Today I am grateful I could spend time yesterday with my boys and I got to meet Nick's girlfriend for the first time..

6/10
Today I am grateful my son's car trouble was easily repaired.

6/9
Today I am grateful for the network of smart people I find myself surrounded by.

6/8
Today I am grateful to the organizers and attendees of the Pittsburgh TechFest for making me feel welcome here. ‪#‎pghtechfest‬

6/7
Today I am grateful for dinner and an evening with Randy and Pam in Pittsburgh. It has been too long.

6/6
Today I am grateful to see my son Nick yesterday for the first time in months and to share dinner with both my boys last night.

6/5
Today I am grateful for a full day yesterday and a chance to meet so many new people.

6/4
Today I am grateful for
1. Lunch with an old friend I haven't seen in years
2. A chance to clear the air
3. The enthusiasm in the audience last night for my Azure talk at The Factory Co-Working space in GR.

6/3
Today I am grateful to my brother Doug, who found and fixed up a used car for my son.

6/2
Today I am grateful to Peter Ritchie and Susan Yount, who said nice things about me in public.

Monday, 07 July 2014 00:21:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 30 June 2014
Monday, 30 June 2014 01:22:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 26 June 2014

I’ve been home from Romania for a few weeks and I’m really glad I made this trip. I hope I can go back next year and I hope I can schedule multiple European conferences during the same trip.

Here are a few final thoughts about the trip

International Travel is much easier for Americans

To travel to Romania, I had a passport, an airline ticket, and a hotel reservation. After I arrived, I decided to go to Hungary. I rented a car and was at the border crossing 12 hours after making that decision. I didn't need to call anyone in Hungary to let them know I was coming.

Europeans have it different. To travel to the US - even for vacation - a Romanian must apply for a Visa. Visas are granted by lottery, so chances are he will not get one on his first application.

I speak only English fluently and know only a few phrases in other languages - none of which are common to eastern Europe. Yet I had very little problem communicating in Romania and Hungary. Why? Because Europeans grow up learning multiple languages and guess what the most popular language is? Nearly everyone in a large city's service industry speaks passable English, as does nearly everyone under 30. It was blind luck that the language I grew up speaking is the common language for these countries.

Hotels

I was surprised that most Romanian hotels did not have an alarm clock – something that is now standard in American hotels. Some hotels also did not provide a washcloth. I looked and was surprised not to find one.

In the Cluj-Napoca hotel, there was a low sink about the size of a toilet next to the toilet. I don't know what it's for but I did not wash my face in it.

In the second hotel I stayed in Budapest, the pillows were enormous - way bigger than I've ever seen on a bed before. I wonder what sort of creatures usually stay there.

Infrastructure

Romania has only one highway. Major cities are often connected only by 2 or 3 lane roads.

The roads in Romania and Hungary are not as well marked as in the U.S. Often the road names are on the side of a building, rather than close to the intersections. In Budapest, the many road sign are printed with a fancy font, making them difficult to read in a hurry.

Miscellany

Smoking is more common in Romania and Hungary than in the U.S. Smoking is allowed in restaurants and many people smoke while eating. I had forgotten how much that bothers me.

Every single person I met in Romania and Hungary was friendly and willing to try to help. I was lost several times and I received help from complete strangers, who went out of their way for me.

The landscape in Romania is much prettier than in Hungary (at least where I traveled). Transylvania was filled with green, rolling hills, farms, and small towns everywhere I went. But Budapest was a nicer city than any I found in Romania. I liked the Romanian cities but Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.

This is part 4 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Romania

Photos of Budapest

Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:16:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Last month, I wrote about the advantages of the BizSpark program. Here, I will describe how to apply for this program.

There are two ways to sign up: With and without an Enrollment Code. If you don’t have an Enrollment Code, your application goes into a queue and is evaluated by someone at Redmond and you will hear back in a week or two with a message indicating whether or not you were accepted into the program. If you sign up with an Pre-Approved Enrollment Code, you can begin accessing your benefits immediately! I or another BizSpark Champion can provide you with a Pre-Approval Enrollment Codes.

Qualifying startups can contact their local evangelist to receive a Pre-Approval Enrollment Code.

Here is the process for signing up for BizSpark.

1. Navigate to https://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/

BizSpark-01

You may need to log in with a Microsoft account (formerly known as a Live account). If you use Microsoft services, such as OneDrive or Instant Messaging, you already have a Microsoft account; If not, you can get one here.

Click "Join Now".

2. Select Language

The “Language” page displays, as shown below.

BizSpark-02

Scroll down
    Select a Language from the Dropdown
    Click the [Next] button.

3. Enter Startup Information

The “Your Startup” page displays, as shown below.

BizSpark-03

Scroll down (again)
    If you have a Pre-Approved Enrollment code, enter it into the "Enrollment Code (optional)" textbox. If not, leave this box blank. NOTE: Although the Enrollment Code is optional, there is a great advantage to having one: a Pre-Approval code will enroll you immediately, instead of waiting a week; and it will guarantee your acceptance in the program.
    Enter the rest of the form with information about you and your company.
    Click the [Next] button.

4. Agree to Terms

The “Agreement” page displays, as shown below.

BizSpark-04

Scroll down (again)
    Click the Checkbox to indicate acceptance of the End-User License Agreement
    Click the [I Accept] button.

5. Confirmation

The “Thank You” / Confirmation page displays, as shown below.

BizSpark-05

At this point, you should be either enrolled in the BizSpark program or have submitted your application. Those who are enrolled can click “My Benefits” to see how to download software and activate their Azure account and immediately beginning taking advantage of the BizSpark benefits.

It only takes a few minutes to sign up.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:59:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 24 June 2014

I have 6 Windows Phone apps to show you this week. I tried each of them and they are all well done.

Applause Light

(Click here to install)

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This app displays a big "Applause" button. Hold down this button to hear applause; release the button to stop it. You can choose from Light applause, Standing Ovation, rowdy applause, or Small Crowd. You will probably hear me using this app at the next technical presentation I attend (or that I present at)

My Minutes

(Click here to install)

1b9081c7-03ec-48f4-ac09-4b64735b62c4[1]

Enter text notes about meetings you attend; A timer lets you record when the meeting  starts and stops, so it can calculate meeting duration. It even lets you assign notes to a particular time segment of the meeting.

World Flag Quiz

(Click here to install)

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This quiz displays the flag of a country. You need to guess the country that represents. You win by correctly identifying flags and by going through the quiz faster.

Motivational Penguin

(Click here to install)

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Open the app to see a penguin urging you to "Believe in Yourself!" or "Work hard! Keep fighting!" or "Don't give up your dreams!"
Set the Lock screen to update with one of these Penguin messages and change every hour (or daily or twice daily) so you can get random inspiration throughout the day.

Car Locator

(Click here to install)

deed0efa-d037-4da7-84aa-9934bfe208e3[1]

Open this app and Save the location of your car; return to the app later for directions where you left your car.

Pandamonium

(Click here to install)

1d231ecb-3ffe-4785-bcd9-af2a36224557[1] 

This is a game in which you move a Panda back and forth along the ground, trying to catch fruit as it falls from the sky. Points for catching fruit; You lose when too much fruit hits the ground.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 18:25:33 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 23 June 2014
Monday, 23 June 2014 21:25:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 22 June 2014

Day 7: Sunday, May 25

From Cluj to Budapest

I woke up earlier than I expected, excited to drive from Cluj-Napoca, Romania to Budapest, Hungary. The front desk called and ordered a rental car, which arrived late morning. Meanwhile I ate breakfast with those conference speakers who remained at the hotel.  The car arrived but without sufficient papers to leave the company, so I had to take the car delivery man to his house (Not his office - his house!), so he could pick up the papers.

I stopped at a shopping mall, hoping to get a card for my phone that would allow it to work in Europe. My phone had lacked the ability to call or receive email or browse the web since I arrived, except when I was connected to the hotel wi-fi. Before I left America, I had called the local AT&T store to ask how I could use my phone in Europe. When I told him I bought the phone at the Microsoft store, he told me it was certainly unlocked and the best solution was to buy a SIM card after I arrived in Europe. I found a shop at the mall that would sell me a SIM card; unfortunately, when she inserted the card into my phone, we received an error message that the phone was locked by a provider. This was a problem because I was counting on using GPS to tell me how to get to Budapest. I had no idea even how to get out of Cluj, much less which road led to Budapest. I found a solution to this problem: I stopped at a Travel Agency in the same shopping mall, where a friendly travel agent printed out a map to Budapest and translated the key directions for me. I was on my way.

I arrived in Budapest about 7 hours later, after only getting lost 3-4 times.

I didn't have directions to the hotel but it was located in downtown Budapest and I assumed that it would be obvious how to get downtown (as is the case in most American cities). Sadly, I found myself driving lost among the outskirts of Budapest. I pulled over to question a few pedestrians but none spoke English. Finally, I found a helpful lady and 2 high-school age girls who were leaving church. They not only found directions on their smart phone, but they rode along with me to guide me to my hotel before taking a bus back to their home. In America, it is almost unheard of for 2 innocent girls to get into a car with a stranger (much less, a foreign stranger), but I'm glad these girls had no qualms about this.

I thought I was late meeting Adam and Magdolna, but I learned that Budapest is in a different time zone than Cluj, so I was actually early.

They took me to a nice outdoor cafe, where we ate plenty of Hungarian food. After dinner, we walked along the river and he advised me on sights to visit the next few days.

IMG_0092-L[1]

Day 8: Monday, May 26

Budapest Castle District

The busy schedule, extreme travel, and lack of sleep from the last week caught up with me and I slept 12 hours before slowly waking up around noon. I spent much of the afternoon in a small cafe sipping a latte, writing, and watching the world go by.

Adam had left town for 2 days to visit his father, so I toured the city on my own.

In the late afternoon, I headed up to the Castle district, which lies across the river on a hill overlooking the city. The palaces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have been restored and turned into museums. In fact, the entire hill is covered in museums, along with old churches and monuments. The view of the city is amazing from this area. It was dark before I finally climbed back down and crossed the river to my hotel.

My travels were guided in part by suggestions from Adam and from a Walking Tour outlined on a map of Budapest that I picked up at the hotel.

Monday night, I had a chance to do laundry at my hotel and it felt good to freshen my clothes.

Budapest03-L[1]  IMG_0188-L[1]

 IMG_0146-L[1]  IMG_0171-L[1]    

Day 9: Tuesday, May 27

Gellert Hill and downtown Budapest

The Marriott I originally reserved was nice (suite of rooms, full kitchen), but far too expensive for my budget, so I reserved an apartment in the Jewish District. I checked out of the Marriott and headed for Gellert Hill, so named for St. Gellert, who - according to legend - was tied in a barrel and thrown from the mountain by pagans to die in the Danube.

The climb to the top of the hill was a challenge, but it was worth it. Halfway up the hill, one finds a statue of Gellert, surrounded by roman columns overlooking the city and a waterfall.  At the top stands a 19th-century citadel and a magnificent statue dedicated to the people of Hungary.

Near the bottom of the hill is a monastery built into stone of the mountain. The monastery is closed to the public, but the associated church is open. The contrast between the stone hideaway of cloistered monks and the bustle of downtown Budapest is startling.

I walked across the Liberty Bridge and through downtown Budapest visiting (among other sites) the Central Market Hall, where dozens of vendors set up stalls to sell meat, fish, vegetables, and other wares; The Hungarian National Museum; and the Church of St. Michael

I walked back to the hotel to pick up my car and head to my new hotel. Streets in Budapest are not marked nearly as well as in the US (if they are marked at all) and the sign for the hotel was not visible from the street, so it took me a long time to find the hotel and check in. .

When I finally find the it, I was pleasantly surprised. Although the rate was a third what the Marriott charged, I had a suite at least as big as the Marriott’s. And I had free wi-fi. If I return to Budapest, I will first check out All4U Apartments in the Jewish District. My room overlooked a pedestrian area of restaurants and bars

I had to rush to meet Magdolna, who had invited me to dinner. She found me wandering aimlessly a half block from the restaurant, searching for the correct street number. We shared Hungarian fish soup and a Hungarian dessert consisting of pancakes, rum, chocolate, and whipped cream. After dinner, we walked around an old part of Budapest before I dropped her at her subway stop.

I finished the evening with a craft wheat beer at Léhűtő near my hotel.

When I tried to sleep, I discovered the downside of a hotel near so many bars. I drifted off to the (very loud) sounds of a rock band and a techno DJ at bars below.

IMG_0232-L[1]  IMG_0207-L[1] 

Day 10: Tuesday, May 28

Last day in Budapest. Last day in Europe

In the morning, Adam returned to Budapest and invited me to a Turkish bath. I walked from my hotel (about a mile) and I was ready to relax when I arrived. A Turkish bath consists of about a half dozen small pools, each set to a different temperature. Nearly-naked men soak in them for a bit, then move on to the next pool. I tried them all - from the shockingly cold water to the shockingly hot water. Spotlights of different colors shine from the ceiling into the largest pool. Supposedly, different color lights will heal different ailments. I'm not sold on this medicine, but I did try it.

All in all, it was a relaxing morning, hanging out and chatting with Adam. 

Afterward, I had lunch near my hotel and drove back to Romania.

I had no trouble getting back to Cluj-Napoca, but I had no idea how to get to my hotel. I stopped at a downtown restaurant, where I received directions that did not help. By some miracle, I stumbled upon the hotel a little after midnight. I only slept about 4 hours before I had to get up and drive to the airport for my flights home.

IMG_0120-L[1]

This is part 3 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Budapest

Sunday, 22 June 2014 17:51:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 21 June 2014

Day 4: Thursday, May 22

IT Camp, Day 1

Up early to hear the keynote. Peter Keller talked about fear in organizations - what causes fear; how fear can hurt us; how to manage fear; and how fear can motivate us to achieve new things.

Mihai Tataran and Tudor Damian gave a second keynote - this one about security. The highlight was Tudor's demos showing how easy it was to hack a user's password in a typical corporate environment. The main effect of this second keynote was to make the audience afraid for the security of their data, so it's a good thing it was preceded by a talk about fear.

Later that morning, I gave my Data Visualization talk. The room was nearly full and it was very well received. I was fortunate that I could give this talk in English, even though English was not the first language of most of the audience.

In the evening, the conference organizers reserved much of the hotel dining room and treated the speakers to dinner and drinks. This was a great opportunity to get to know the other speakers - most of whom were European and most of whom I had never met.

IMG_0052-L[1] 

Day 5: Friday, May 23

IT Camp, Day 2

I delivered my second presentation - this one on building a Windows 8 game using Construct 2. The audience was great and seemed to enjoy it.

I recorded 2 interviews with Technology and Friends - one with Peter Keller and one with Tudor Damian. Both of these have been published at http://technologyandfriends.com/.

I took more time today to talk with the conference attendees. Unlike most American developer conferences, this one was attended by nearly 40% women. The industry seemed far less dominated by males here than back home, although I did notice only one female speaker.

In the evening, the conference organizers took the speakers to a local restaurant and treated us to another multi-course meal. Again, it was a great opportunity for me to get to know the speakers. Although most of the attendees seemed to be from northern Transylvania, I met speakers from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, England and the United States.

 IMG_0068-L[1] 

Day 6: Saturday, May 24

Alba Iulia

The conference was over but IT Camp reserves the day after the conference for a cultural outing for all the speakers. This year's outing was to Alba Iulia - a beautiful city south of Cluj. Alba Iulia was the first capital of Romania when it gained independence after World War I.

After the bus ride to Alba Iulia, we stopped for an excellent lunch and set out to walk around the city with a tour guide. Alba was a walled city that was well-fortified against attacks but that was never attacked. The country have spent the last five years restoring the city's historic buildings and monuments and the place is gorgeous. Our tour guide was supposedly telling us about the history of the city, but it was hard to tell as he never spoke above a whisper and there were several dozen of us.

After the bus ride back to the hotel, we were treated to one last dinner. I don’t recall attending a conference that treated speakers as well as IT Camp. From the 5-star hotel accommodations to the food to the conference organization, everything was done well.

After the bus returned to the hotel, the conference treated us to another (excellent) dinner. We hung out in the lobby after dinner talking and I decided I would drive to Budapest in the morning. I had met Adam and Magdolna from Budapest a few days earlier, so I made plans to meet them for dinner.

IMG_0085-L[1]  IMG_0074-L[1] 

This is part 2 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Romania

Saturday, 21 June 2014 23:53:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)