When in non-Rome parts of Italy...


So now that I actually have a long moment, let's try and catch up on my experiences so far!

Italy - Salerno

Yo, Italy is WARM. Amsterdam was a balmy 75F/24C compared to the 85F/30C that Salerno was getting the time I was there. Oh, and we have to be in full suits for the wedding? I was brimming with excitement. Not to mention, the flight to Italy was when I started really feeling under the weather (thanks to my lovely girlfriend for giving me a going away gift). Anyway, meet Rob! 

Rob leaving us a going away message on his graduation day

Rob leaving us a going away message on his graduation day

I met Rob a couple years into college when we were in the same classes together and we helped each other with school work and hang out in the Computer Science lounge during our free time. We became good friends, played games, and worked on group projects together. He graduated a semester before I did but got a job in Pittsburgh so he wasn't too far away. So when I got a wedding invitation from him, I was super stoked. Not only was he getting married, but it's going to be in Italy? Aw hell yeah.

So shortly after getting situated in my room, I got a chance to see Rob before the wedding as he showed me around Salerno and where the wedding was to be held. I also got to meet his fiancé Claudia for the first time but unfortunately could not spend the rest of the evening with them and their friends as I wanted to use the rest of the night to recover as much as I could before the wedding.

The next morning, the rest of my friends and Italy travel friends arrived. Sean and Meghan came first in the morning from Scotland so they were pretty adjusted to the time difference already. Nee, however, decided to drive from Pittsburgh to JFK (~7hr drive) before flying to Italy. He basically didn't get any sleep since leaving so he was heavily jet-lagged. 

But friends were to be wed so formal wear was donned and we were on our way. I swear, I worked up such a sweat that I felt like I was going to pass out half-way through the wedding. But we managed to survive, snap some great pictures, and make our way to the wedding reception at Hotel Raito.

The reception was held in such a fantastic venue and lots of food/drink was had. And what's that? I'm sick and tired and Rob is requesting people on the dance floor? I will always sacrifice my body and dignity to keep the party going. 

Italy - Amalfi + Ravello

After sleeping in, we made plans to take the nearby ferry to Amalfi where explored the city, had some gelato, then took a bus to Ravello. There, we walked around a bunch, checked out some of the public villas, and had lunch. Words don't really describe as much as pictures do:

Italy - Pompeii

On the last full day at Salerno (and the last day before Meghan left us), we visited Pompeii. It was during this visit that we learned of Sean's "skill" of bullshitery as a fake tour guide. Some facts that we "learned:" 

- The technology of Pompeii was ahead of its time

- They invented rebar 

- They used laser projectors in their ampitheatres

- They used Arabic numbers

The best real fact that we learned was that one of the conspirators of Caesar's murder lived in Pompeii. Naturally, we inferred that Pompeii was an inside job so that he could cover his tracks.

Italy - Florence

Our time in Florence was a walking and pizza bonanza. This was when we took second dinner to stride and it was well worth it. We visited (although not necessarily went inside) a lot of the major landmarks in Florence, took a nap in the Boboli Gardens, met other Pittsburghers (guy studying at the university there and his mom who was visiting), and at lots of pizza. We did so much the first day, we actually used the second day to just walk around a little bit and just relax (in between eating of course). Florence was a blast with these two jokers. We laughed, we shared stories, we walked, we ate until we couldn't eat anymore, and we laughed some more. 

Italy - Milan

Our last Italian stop was Milan. In fact, Sean was going to stay for all of like 6 hours before going to the airport. So we spent the rest of that day walking around a bit, grabbing our last dinner together, and saying good bye. Nee left the next morning and I spent the rest of my day just relaxing and trying to recharge. I love those guys but I get emotionally/mentally drained easily when being with people for an extended period of time so I needed a day of rest and Netflix (Watched a few episodes of The Get Down and it's been super fun. Check it out!). 


And that finally brings up to today! This morning, I took a train from Milan > Tirano and then took the Bernina Express through the Alps to Chur, Switzerland where I am right now. And wouldn't you know it, the other person that's renting out this apartment is from Philadelphia who's been living in Switzerland the past 2 years doing architecture work. With the rest of my night, I'm going to figure out what I'm going to do tomorrow and then get ready for bed. Until the next post!

Trying to get over my jet lag


Right now, I'm writing this blog post on a train from Salerno -> Naples and then transferring to a train that will take us to Florence! Let's have our first update, shall we?

Netherlands - Amsterdam

My first day in Amsterdam was pretty much non-existent. I had a couple short naps on the flight and it landed at 8:45 AM. Feeling the jet lag, I figured out how to get into the city and started my trek toward my AirBnb. While planning, I thought that I could just wander the city until my 2PM check-in. Unfortunately, I didn't anticipate how annoying it was to carry a backpack, a duffel, and a garment bag (for my suit) around so I kind of meandered a bit, found a bench to sit at, and just people watched for an hour at a time. 

After I got adjusted into my AirBnB, I ended up taking a 2 hour nap that was supposed to only last a half hour (thanks for turning off my alarm, tired Vince). Determined to not sleep the rest of the day and wreck my sleep schedule, I got out of bed, took a shower, and walked around to eat dinner and explore my surroundings. The neighborhood ended up being super close to the city center and everything was pretty much within 10 minutes of walking which was great. 

The next day had an extremely early start at about 6AM but gave me a rare glimpse into the city when it isn't filled with people walking around. Unfortunately, it was also the day or the time when the trash was being collected so the smell wasn't as pleasant. After breakfast, I walked over to a little cafe my sister recommended to me for their apple pie and oh man, was it a good suggestion. Perfectly soft apple with an excellent crust and topped with a not-to-sweet whipped cream. Since I had done most of the must-visit parts of the city the last time I visited, I spent the rest of the day walking around through the not-so-touristy parts and just taking in calm parts of the city. 

That night I got to enjoy my first Michelin-starred restaurant by the name of Yamazato. The restaurant has a no-phone policy so I wasn't able to take any pictures but it was a beautiful restaurant that served equally delicious food. I did their seasonal dinner menu which was a full 7 course meal and lasted over 4 hours. An absolute treat.

Yamazato's September Seasonal Menu

Yamazato's September Seasonal Menu

Tune in next time when I write about my time in Salerno, Italy!

Off on a journey

I'm writing this as I'm seated on a flight to PHL before getting on another plane to AMS where I start my start my two-month vacation. I've been working for 3 and a half years and have only taken small trips so when I got an invitation to a friend's wedding in Italy then another invitation to another friends wedding on the East coast the month after, I saw an opportunity. "Why don't I go to that Italy wedding then stay in Europe until the next wedding?" I asked myself. After some musing, I decided to take the plunge. I mean, c'mon, how often will an opportunity like this pop up?

En route to Philadelphia

En route to Philadelphia

This will also be my first trip that I'm doing by myself. My first Eurotrip was done with my friend Karin and my previous vacations were always with family or friends so this is an exciting time for me! Here is what my itinerary looks like:

 - Netherlands [Amsterdam]

- Italy [Salerno, Florence, Milan]

- Switzerland [Chur, Zurich]

- Finland [Helsinki]

- Denmark [Copenhagen]

- Belgium [Bruges]

- France [Paris]

- United Kingdom [London]

All within about a month! Phew!  From London, I'll be flying to the East coast to my hometown of Bensalem to attend a wedding and visit my family (my sisters who live in California are also planning to visit during that time). After a week and a half of that, I'll finally be flying back to Seattle where I will rest and relax for the remaining 2 weeks before going back to work. 

Next time I post, I'll be in Amsterdam so expect that :) In the meantime:

The time I nearly peed my pants in a Dutch train

I don't know how it came up but I was just reminded of when I was traveling with my good friend, Karin, in the Netherlands. We were boarding a train that was pretty packed. Because of that and the fact that we were carrying our luggage, we got separated. It wasn't until i sat down did I realize that she was holding our train tickets. Oh and, by the way, even though we were in the same car, there was a separate door that was fully transparent that split the car in half. So I couldn't awkwardly, in my loud American voice, ask if I should get my tickets from her.

But then when the doors close and I see the guys that check your tickets walking around, I immediately panic. I was tired, I didn't speak the language, and I just can't deal with situations like that. I poke my head up to look for Karin and we finally see each other. She gives me an adorable little smile and gives me a thumbs up. I smile back to be polite but I have no idea what she meant by it so I nervously await my turn.

The doors open and the passenger start showing their tickets. The guy finally gets to me and I start to stutter. He quickly realizes that I'm the guy that Karin was talking about when she explained the situation and reassures me. He gave me a big ole smile and went on with his business.

We had a good laugh about it when we met up at our train journey's end but holy crap, was that an emotionally draining 5 minutes for me...


Karin's side:

"I tried to describe you as 'the guy with the black hair' before realizing you were wearing a hat and made my own fool of myself. Then I corrected myself with 'the guy up there that looks scared and doesn't understand Dutch."

Yup... that was me!

Textspansion v2

So as the preview hinted the other day, I've been working on a v2 of Textspansion. I actually started work on it almost immediately after the Hackathon at work which was last Friday to Sunday. Naturally, I thought to myself, "I just spent the last 3 days coding... let's code some more!" That Hackathon was exactly what I needed. 3 days hacking away at someone else's Android code base wanted me to revive that pile of goop code that was snuggled away in a corner and make it beautiful.

Oh dear lord what is this

The original Textspansion was written in approximately 3 months way back in 2011. Back then, design was an afterthought. I think the biggest UI element that I really wanted was the ActionBar because that was the hot new Android UI element at the time. Since we (Sean Barag and I) were aiming for Android 2.3 at the time and ActionBarSherlock wasn't a thing back then, we used some other 3rd party ActionBar-like library.  

When I looked at this screenshot last week, I almost wanted to cry. Where are the margins?! Gingerbread UI elements!? What is this, 2011!? But hey, at least the ActionBar looks great (I still do think that). 

Since the very first iteration, we made small incremental changes to it. We added the ongoing notification in the notification shade because some device manufacturers thought it was a good idea not to have a Search button, thereby ruining our main use-case. Then Ice Cream Sandwich was announced and the Search button was removed completely! Thanks, Google! We added string tokens for dynamic data such as the date or the time (I laugh now because the code for this is absolutely butt ugly. Then I cry.). Finally, I added some tutorial screenshots to replace the list that you see on the left. 

Development slowed down as we couldn't think of anything new to implement while we were in school. We continued to maintain it through support emails and bug fixes. I was totally surprised when we got an email last year from one person telling us the app was crashing when she was trying to import a list of over 500 snippets. First of all, we didn't expect anyone to use it when we first launched it. When it was picked up by Lifehacker, I nearly wet my pants. Then I find out there we have an actual power user using our app? I was super stoked. 

So why am I rewriting Textspansion from scratch? I won't sugarcoat it; I was a TERRIBLE programmer 2 years ago. The main Activity was 897 lines of code. 897! For barely anything complicated! In those 2 years, I like to think I've become a slightly better programmer. I want to take what I've learned in those two years and write better code. Also, Android has changed significantly in those 2 years. Our original backend is almost completely deprecated and is pretty inefficient. The past few days trying to utilize the modern APIs have been really exciting. Finally, something something phoenix analogy.

Enough rambling, here's a screenshot of Textspansion 2.

Seriously, I'm pretty hungry.