My Bucketlist item #185 was seeing a proper rodeo.
I had a chance to do that in Houston and boy, was it an adventure! It turned out that our friend had a backstage pass to VIP lounge in Houston Rodeo and Livestock show.
That was a blast!
This was number 164 on my bucketlist.
I love swimming in various weird places, so swimming in a Cenote was a dream of mine ever since I swam in “Blue Hole” in Jamaica.
In Mexico, Yucatan peninsula is made of porous limestone. That means, that water just sinks through rock and all the water bodies (lakes, rivers) are underwater. It also means that sinkholes are very common there. Cenotes are just that – sinkoles filled with water.
And so – in the autumn of 2016 I found myself in Mexico. So I swam!
In March 2016, while helping to organize TEDxWarsaw, I had a great pleasure of working with James Briscione on his amazing talk “Secret Patterns of flavour”. This fulfilled my Bucketlist item #4.
James is a head of Institute of Culinary Education in New York and together with IBM created “Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson” book and app. He explores the science of flavour and how different chemicals come together to create a symphony of taste we all enjoy and crave. Since I call myself a Cognitive Engineer and am a foodie, Cognitive Cooking seemed like something extremely interesting and I jumped at first opportunity to help.
Finally, we have a recording to show James’s amazing work:
For me personally, it was an amazing journey and a great privilege. James lives on the bleeding edge of cuisine innovation and it was inspiring to meet him and see the final talk and learn a lot!
[ #182 in Bucketlist ] While choosing my bike, I wanted something good for a trip. I was asking myself
Is this something I could cycle through loire valley on?
This was few years ago and I had no concrete plan to really go and cycle in France. Only a certainty that I would get around to doing that.
And so it happened:
This actually turned out to be much easier then I expected. I decided to fly with Wizzair and with them, you can fly your bike for 130 PLN ( ~32 USD ). The conditions are:
Of course I used this occasion to put a bunch of my stuff with the bike. As long as you are under 32 KG, you should be fine. (I was close on the way back because of all Foie Gras I was bringing back).
People were looking at me pretty funny while I was putting my bike back together at the airport.
Chateau de Chambord started as a humble hunting lodge, but as projects often do, spiraled out of control and ended up as a huge Renaissance castle with 440 fireplaces and 84 staircases. Pretty tricked-out for a hunting lodge.
Chateau de Cheverny is considered the “best proportioned” castle of the whole Loire valley (whatever that means). It was inspiration for the castle in the adventures of TinTin, but honestly it does not meet my standards for a castle, which require a military function.
Well, THAT is a proper castle! Pointy towers, positioned on the cliff overlooking the Loire and hard to attack! Whats interesting is that now it serves as an art gallery and pretty interesting one. I found it very charming!
Clos-Luce is the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. It was gifted to him by king Francis I, who had a special relationship with the Maestro. Leonardo was buried in the courtyard of castle and his remains were later transferred to the crypt.
His grave is unusually humble and not-crowded, contrary to Mona Lisa in Louvre, which is hard to see between legions of tourists and their tablets.
In the last 3 years of Leonardo’s life, Francis paid him a steady salary just for the opportunity of listening to his conversations and having a chats with da Vinci. I would gladly pay everything I have for the same privilege.
Now, THAT’s a castle! Properly situated across the river, it looks straight out of Tarrantino movie and has a history to match! (Hear me Quentin? You can have this idea pretty cheap):
I highly recommend strolling on the other side, where you can get for free by using the bridge nearby.
Fortress of Chinon is another proper castle. Important for me because of my obsession with Knights Templar, was the place where the last Templar grand master, Jacob the Mollay was imprisoned with his advisors. You can see a graffiti they made in the stones of the tower.
You may have heard of this one. It’s ridiculously beautiful and crowded.
A long time ago, I stumbled upon photos of this incredible phenomenon in the vastness of interwebz. In Northern Ireland, there’s collection of these weird hexagonal bazalt pillars. As you can imagine, there are competing explanations for this incredible natural phenomenon.
One includes a Giant, Finn McCool (name almost as good as McLovin’) building a bridge to scotland, to fight another giant.
Another, completely bonkers explanation suggests that while basalt was cooling, cracks formed at the top and then penetrated lower and lower while the mass was cooling.
To me, one with the giant sounds more believable.
Its pretty easy – and totally worth it to get there from Belfast. For 12 pounds you can get on route 252 from Belfast to Bushmills and then you can walk or take a city bus to “Giants Causeway – The nook” stop. That stop is right beside the causeway. You can consult schedule on Translink site.
Alternatively, there’s plenty of tours going there from almost any part of Ireland.
This is a stunning place with a lot to offer. I highly recommend taking the Causeway Coast walking trail which is part if the “Ulster Way” . Its about 5 hour walk and its definitely worth the effort. On the way you can see:
It is out of this world!
One of the things you have to know about me is, that I fit right in with the whole `Tim Ferriss fanclub` type of crowd. It is not religious in any way, I just like the content he exposes me to and I enjoy tips, tricks and `weird shit from the world of esoteric he digs up`, as he himself puts it so eloquently. Some of my friends don’t share this enthusiasm, but it’s beside the point 🙂
Tim Ferriss in the 4-hour workweek introduced me to this idea of “Geo-arbitrage”. Basically, he says: for Americans it is extremely easy to travel, because the money they make in US can go a long way in other, cheaper spots on the map, so it would be a good idea to become a remote employee, travel the world, all while living a good life abroad.
Awesome! Work that allows you to travel AND save compared to your usual expenses? Where do I sign up?
Except, there’s one problem with that: I live in Poland. The only place that our salaries let you live on a decent level is Romania. And cheaper parts of Poland.
Nevertheless, I tried to make this happen. With one of my friends I started an e-marketing agency (Netivo) which I helped run while studying in Sweden. Turns out it’s pretty hard to travel, run a business and make enough money in Poland to live decently in Sweden (that plan is an example of reverse geoarbitrage and is generally a
challenge stupid idea). But in that line of business I had to work A LOT with WordPress and became quite fascinated with it to be honest. I decided to become kind of an “WordPress” expert since.
I was quite happy, but in 2015 I started to crave greater things in life. I felt that world is moving forward, all these startups are sprouting all over and people get to change the world. In Silicon Valley, or even in Western Europe people could be proud of the stuff they build, all while working with the newest technologies or programming paradygms. In Poland, it felt like an “IT Callcenter”. We are good, reliable and cheap, but we were not on the bleeding edge of the innovation razor.
Then, I stumbled upon Automattic job offer.
Well, you probably got pretty annoyed by the long lead-in. But this is my blog, my rules and I can write here whatever I want :).
But here comes the meaty part:
I was determined to do it right, so I dug up everything I could on Automattic and their hiring process:
At this point I knew they must be getting a lot of resumes, so I decided to make mine one-page and make every word count. I reviewed it over and over, asked friends to review it and obsessed about it a lot.
Since I did my reading right, I threw in some “nice touches” about my core competence constituting off-the-charts-sandwich making ability and one of my hobbies being barbecue. All true. Putting that in a resume felt good.
After sending that resume I waited. And waited. And waited some more, all while questioning myself.
After 1,5 months I needed to do something constructive. So I booked a ticket to “WordCamp Europe” in Seville, where I was sure I’ll find an Automattician. That was the extent of my plan.
I actually met a bunch of them and they turned out to be very cool people. I even “pinged” them to get my resume reviewed and got back home.
Just after WordCamp Europe, a lot of Automatticians went to React Europe where they ran a coding competition for the attendees. They made a mistake of tweeting the URL, so I promptly joined in.
As you can see, I came in second, after “Moarhaus”, who (despite me trying really hard) had a huge advantage over me.
I have no idea who he is. I only have a vague notion as to where his soul may reside.
Artur, can you please get to the point? This story is becoming longer and more convoluted that “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” plot and we didn’t get to the hiring process description yet!
I hear ya, but to be honest, Pirates of the Caribbean IV plot is just /dev/random…
First, I was invited to a text-based Skype chat. It lasted about an hour and was quite fun. It was way less technical than I expected.
The instructions were very open – ended, without any deadline and only with vague description of problems to solve. I assume my drive and ability to self-direct my work were also tested.
I later learned that it was designed to take 6-8 hours of my time.
I devoted about 35 to that project making sure it was perfect.
I may have taken it too far.
It took 40 minutes.
I am in for a trial! Wohoo!
Turns out, that the best way to see how an employee would perform is to well, employ them.
This is how trial works. I was working on my trial project, communicating with other coworkers just how I would If I was already working there.
You can do trial “after hours”, keeping your previous job. I decided to throw everything at it and take no chances. For me, it felt more risky to approach this opportunity tired, after hours of my usual work than to quit my safe spot at a huge company. I quit my previous position at Samsung and decided to do the trial full time.
I got paid 25$/hr, which was way more than I was actually making before.
The project was similarly open-ended as the previous one, just much, much bigger. I had to research proper technologies, communicate my progress and design my tasks.
The trial took me ~1,5 months.
The final stage of the process is a chat with CEO, Matt Mullenweg. It is a unusual opportunity, as he is a “celebrity” in IT world and frequents the Forbes and other such magazines.
The chat itself also isn’t a mere formality – mine lasted 4-5 hours and I felt that Matt wanted to know me at a personal level. He seems to take this hiring thing very seriously. It is great!
Because of his schedule, sometimes you have to wait quite a bit until he finds time. He caught me in a movie theater, but fortunately I had a good excuse to postpone the chat.
I was watching “The Martian”. It was pretty neat.
I started my job 2 days after that. It was my 30th birthday.
Most awesome gift ever!
GM is a yearly event where all employes meet in person. Because our company is completely distributed, we don’t see each other face-to-face. During this one week a year, we get to shake hands, do some awesome activities, party, geek out, eat together, hug, have a meal, have a walk, eat together, try Polish vodka I brought from home and eat some more.
Naturally, being a relentless badger as I am, during my trial I tracked down other Polish Automatticians and pumped them for information when the Grand Meetup may be.
Knowing the date, I tried to expedite my hiring process so I can “make it” to this years GM. 9 days after my “Matt chat” I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to meet the rest of my new coworkers.
It was a whirlwind!
My team is bunch of the coolest, funniest, most awesome people around!
And that’s me, Cognitive Engineer, Artur Piszek. One of the cool kids.
Who would have thought.
PS: Working in Silicon Valley company was my Bucketlist #26
This is my bucketlist item #180
I have always dreamt of seeing a space launch.
When I was just a small kid, my dad bought me a model of a Space Shuttle and we glued it together and later hanged it over my bed.
I was falling asleep staring at it and dreaming of endless possibilities and adventures aboard a Space Shuttle.
Sadly, the Space Shuttle program is cancelled. But my space dream still lives on, and during my visit to Florida, I was able to attend a launch.
Sadly, it was too late to buy bleacher tickets, but it turned out, that Playlinda Beach is the closest you can get to the launchpad.
And very early in the morning, I saw launch of Atlas V rocket.