First couple weeks at my new job

So I’ve been away from home for two weeks, and today begins the second week of my new career. Hi, I’m Cliff. You’re here because you sit close to the floor. (More details on that in a few.) For those who don’t know, I’m now employed at Skype. The first week was a blast and it couldn’t be any better. These guys I work with are the greatest and the company really looks out for its employees. I’m writing today’s post from the SwissOtel in Estonia. Arriving yesterday morning it was like a time warp since you lose a day in flight across time zones. This will probably show up on Sunday night but I assure you it is very much Monday as I type.

I met my new manager here in Estonia and we had a blast. He forgave my jet-lag (which has still got me up at 2am in the morning) and gave me a few hours recovery. We went out in town and he showed me around. I was amazed at how even though things are different they are still very much the same. I picked up on subtle differences, like the pick pocket warning sign. It’s one of those black and yellow signs similar to the Ped-X’ing signs you see in the states but it features a lady having her purse pulled by a thief. We then walked through the old town of Estonia (I hope I’m getting the details right) where there were shops setup all around. One interesting layout was the row of flower shops (about 5-8 of ’em side by side). I was told that they stay open 24-7 to service the many boozing men in the village that need apologize to their wives.

We ended up in a middle-aged themed restaurant where there were people (a group of 3 lady’s) sitting up on the ceiling playing the flute, an old fashioned drum and a banjo. Very true to its theme, we were seated at a small table in a dark corner which was lit by a single candle and offered menus that looked like they had been woven from something like deer skin and inked with a felt tip. I couldn’t pay too much attention to the menu because there were people sitting on the ceiling. The music was nice.

My buddy (formerly known as manager but now in a different setting we were like old pals), and I talked about the company and the current project. As it was our first physical introduction, we spoke about where we each came from and how we arrived at one of the best tech companies on the planet. After ordering some of the most exotic foods I’ve had the pleasure of picking from a lamb-skin coated menu the waitress eventually arrives with the dishes and an explanation. “Let me explain what is on your dishes…”, she begins. I was like, “yeah explain all of that”, because my buddy transcribed what I thought I was ordering in native tongue and I needed to know what I was getting myself into.

We ate and talked some more and people still sat on the ceiling. Because of the obvious difference in culture and the possibility that certain humor is lost in translation I tried to have constraints around my humor but I gotta be me and you know how I am. (…A nut in a soft shell surrounded by silicone don’t ask what that means. I just made it up as I was typing.) The ceiling band switched instruments and songs a few times with one of them playing the triangle. We finished the night at a bar and I got to know a lot about the country after succumbing to an evil blast of jet-lag. It’s time to freshen up now. I think I’m gonna love growing here.

(The above is an autobiographical essay representing real life events. The names of the innocent were hidden to protect the guilty. No real live ceilings were harmed during the above mental broadcasting of the event. All rights reserved in most countries except for Canada because you can’t seem to get any privileges in Canada and it’s so dry there. Skype offers unlimited calling in the US and heavily discounted rates when calling over seas. The last sentence was not intended as an advertisement and it only serves the purpose of growing the size of the current parenthesized quote with meaningless fluff. If you are looking for cool IT jobs speak now (in the square below) or forever hold your current position. If any of the above offends you remember you have the right to browse elsewhere. It’s just jokes.)

Skype Video from iPhone to Windows 7 PC

I just did my first Skype video from my iPhone to my wife’s Windows 7 PC! Lady’s and gentleman, we live in an exciting time. Not only can we do video over 3G outside of Apple’s “Wifi restricted” Facetime walled garden, but we can do video to other Skype clients running on desktops and laptops.

The other day I went out shopping, as I usually do. (Forgive the random insertion of story prose, I’m leading to an eventual point.) I usually have a list composed by my wife. Typically this list sits on the kitchen table as I shop, depending on my mental carbon copy of said list. My wife has her usual way of requiring specific items from the store, for instance a specific flavor of tea and a specific brand of makeup. For most items I can make due with my mental list copy but for “women” products like hair creams, oils, face powder, etc., I need specific item serial and/or model numbers to guarantee my return with the correct product. I know this. The wife knows this. (By the way, don’t act like its just me shopping for wife stuff! A whole lot of you are probably reading this on your phone right now in the 15 item or less aisle holding a box of pads!) My venture out into the grocery wild usually ends up in my return to the store to purchase products similar to what was already purchased but present on the gnarled list which was un-crumpled after rebounding from my head. that’s what typically happens.

Like I was saying, the other day I was out shopping as usual. My list was in the usual place and I was performing grey matter scans for random products as I travelled through the store. This time I had a plan! I would contact my wife and attempt to use my iPhone to protect my skull from flying paper upon my return home. That is I would use technology on my phone to prevent the multiple trips to the store. My plan was such that I would photograph various attempts to purchase incorrect products and send them homeward for verification. I thought hard about my idea. Maybe I could market it. “Shopping over IP” I thought. SOIP? I would make millions so long as my prototype worked without flaws.

As fate would have it, the idea had its flaws. It had holes in places I hadn’t anticipated. the first problem was time. I takes too long to photograph each item out of a list of 20 or so and compose individual emails of each one. I could try SMS, but that results in compression of photos so they could be rendered on her, then smaller Blackberry display. (We recently upgraded her to an iPhone.) Compression was unacceptable in the case of similar but vastly different in women’s eyes, products. Every detail is important and I needed to milk each pixel out of my phone’s superior camera! The other hole was that in order to see the photos my wife needed to be at her computer. Because she works literally two jobs I knew she would be in bed napping and in no mood to visit her laptop in the study to verify something she clearly identified on the list glued to the syrup stains left from the kids’ morning breakfast. Last major hole was that my wife is a cosmetologist. While I would do backflips for anything presented to me technologically, she has a certain temperament which results in little patience when things require a log in, or a mouse click, or any form of virtual-ness. I imagined our virtual conversation.

“Look honey! It’s like you’re virtually in the store next to me! Which color hair dye was that again???”

“What did I put on the damned list???!!!”

…It was’t pretty, even in the virtual sense. Alas, SOIP would probably have to wait until version 5.0 when all the kinks were worked out before it went public. I broke down that day and eventually used a traditional telephone call. We talked me through the physical aisle rather than her holding my hand next to virtual product. It sucked. If only I could Facetime with her. I thought about Apple’s recent Facetime beta that I had installed on my Mac. Maybe I could have used that instead? That would have even more holes because I wasn’t sure if my crappy router was dropping connection from the mac as it is prone to do and also I didn’t have wifi in this particular store. Also it would mean she would have to log into my mac which was in yet another room requiring her master yet another set of technical knowledge. “Where’s the start menu? What’s this weird looking blue face thing in the lower left corner? What kinda’ Facetime?? Which icon???”

Today, thanks to Skype, I have an answer! I was so excited to see the update that I have to admit something. I can’t wait to go shopping! Maybe it’s just me, but the thrill of, “No worries, dear! I’ll pick up those hair products for you!” now gives me a thrill. I can’t wait to cut on my camera in Skype and literally point to the wrong product saying, “See! Its shelved under the wrong tag! That’s why I keep picking it up!!!” (Why is it that women always assume us men are incompetent? It’s clearly the store clerks that label face cream as face powder!) With Skype I can see my SOIP prototype taking off being adopted by the masses! remember where you heard it first and I will expect an interview from Matt Lauer on the Today Show sometime in the near future.

(The above prose is merely a fictitious example of random shopping experimentation. Any similarity with these stories and real life examples from the author is purely coincidental. No trees have been harmed in the making of this story though one husband may have received minor paper cuts. As always, the examples posted here are done so in humor. don’t take anything too seriously! however, the author does retain any and all claims of originality of the SOIP concept!)