On route to the mecca: Chicago – Lake Geneva

After spending most of the morning writing and recharging device, and have one of the best warm shower ever (a very small bathroom, but with the perfect bathtub and shower hose). We are ready to go to Lake Geneva for an 1h and half drive.

But! Before than that I need to describe the house of my friend. He lives on a flat on a 2nd floor in an actually building house. All the houses looks like real American big houses made of wood (or alternative the neighborhood had plenty of nice red brick houses). They look all bigger than the usual houses of where I use to live in Plymouth, Britain. As the british, each house has his own front garden and backgarden, a patch of land that everyone seem to use differently. The front garden is normally bare (apart from some festivity decoration) while the back garden has more things like a trampoline jump, or some classic park toys like a slide, or some hoops for the kids to play with.

In my case my friend shared the garage with the other person living on the 1st floor, and funny enough the other car was running on electrical, and it was charging safely in the garage. So happy to see that electrical car a thing in USA. Fuel here it is incredibly cheap, like 3.9 $ per I guess gallon (or whatever metric system they use).

The house of my friend decorative entrance, is a mix of a weapon shop of many katana blades, few bowie knives and an amazing fighting axe, a collection on fighting books, comics, manga and RPG games, an amazing amount of miniatures, 3d printing resin device, and original boxes of more than 40 years ago about D&D and other games, and obviously various tools for training (many kettles, training bag and training matte).

The house is very long, a 3 room bedroom (for himself, his partner and the two daughters), a nice big living room (doubling up as nursery, because the partner take care of kids, I saw a little nice 3 year old boy called Larson and he was so shy and adorable).

The daughter of Keith, Val, she get up at 7 am and go to work with first light of the day, taking 2 buses and a 40 minute drive to go to a school where they teach her playing after the normal hours of learnings. That’s dedication (for the coldness and the distance), the normal school it would be otherwise 3 minutes walking from this neighborhood.

Anyway, I was saying before, we are ready to take a drive. We hop to a quick sandwich place, and here I had my first CUBANO sandwich (not original obviously but closest thing that I could get) and I tell you, for the rest of the day I wasn’t thinking anything else on how damn delicious was the sandwich with a nice mustard and meat. Again I noticed that the price are a little bit steeper than Barcelona and again I am sure it is because quality in USA it is paid. Until know the food is never too much out of proportion, but for sure it is always a good dish to fill you up. Funny enough the orange juice was already juiced with ice in it (why all beverage are iced?), and I enjoyed myself so much that food that I licked my fingers.

We are fed and ready to pick up another man living in nearby in Chicago to share the ride. Mike, is going ahead of his family to Lake Geneva (to play as well), he is a legal lawyer and the family will reach him few days later so that they can enjoy the SPA and the various entertaining facilities while he is gonna have fun at the gaming tables. He is on his 50s and he is very well mannered and we all keep each other company during the drive talking about games, experiences and difficulties to find groups.

The driving it is very easy, the road are very big (5 ways lanes), and the transition from normal road to interstate road is about seemless with no really stopping points. They use the wireless device attached to cars to I guess pay whatever invisible tall that some motorway reader is picking up.

As we make way upstate, the surrounding becomes more green, and more rural. So much that everytime that I see a barn, I cannot stop to think about all the movies where Superman grew up. Again the deja-vu of nowing america but without really knowing it kicking in. We see dairy farms, but I don’t see any cattle or horses by the motorway. I see the classic buildings that make me think of South park style of life of a small America and again, everything feel familiar. The banks being just simple red brick building (exactly like any robberies movies in the USA countryside of Bonnie & Clyde), the churches with theirs letter sign to go and find god this sunday “and everyone is welcome”, and some nice parks where kids from school are playing and training.

As we drop Mike, we go first to our hotel, to drop our stuff called The Ridge which it is an amazing resort. I never being in anything so luxurious (and we pay good bucks), and let me say. Hospitality is done very well and efficiently around here. It looks that this area it is full of these resort, where people come for winter or summer for leisure e, between water pools, outdoor activities, SPA and much more. This area was (I am guessing) a millionaire relaxing ground of the rich people of Chicago, and from here I understand why the Lake Geneva resort was a playboy mansion. Anyway, the place is amazing and the room are essential and amazingly comfy. In less than 10 minutes we are already inside the room, and drop everything and than go to Lake Geneva.

Even so, we decide that a tour around is needed before checking in at the convention. We go to the original house of Gary Gygax, we hit the 1st historical shop of TSR (where the game was sold) and it was converted in a small museum with lot of amazing and in perfect condition books of the 70s. We get welcomed, my friend buy some stuff, I take a small miniature of a Drow (a black/blue elf of the underdark). Than we hit the local library that had the view on the lake (this absolutely looks and feel like a place of the relaxation of the rich, even if very small and cute town), and than the house of Gary Gygax where we roll our die on the porch for good luck. (There is a crew actually shooting, we guess a documentary or maybe it is something related to a future tv series that we think is gonna come out about D&D).

We ride to our final awaited destination and let me tell you if The Ridge was an amazing place, the Lake Geneva it is an OVER THE TOP place around here. With a small horse riding center nearby, a golf course by the Lake, and a super huge filled with restaurants and carpeted amazing floor that makes the event of gaming feel so small in comparison of whatever other event around here.

As we enter, it absolutely smell of Nerds & Geeks, (nothing smell, but the atmosphere r is of the one of gamers all around talking and grouping and find their way the day before the main event.) People with very long beard (some really with amazing white wizard beards), long black coats (cowboy style with hat included), big massive people that I look slim in comparison, geeky t-shirts of all kind of jokes, sci-fi & fantasy known to human, or from various great gaming USA conventions.

We explore the grounds, and this place is MASSIVE. Now we have an idea of the lay of the land, and where the various gaming rooms take places. We find the headquarters, we have a quick lunch (in the amazing gigantic gathering room) with a very attentive and very young and beautiful staff serving us and than we make our way to the big queue to get our badges that identify us for the games.

The queue is long, but we make chit chat with a lot of people along the way making friends and sharing gaming stories, there are professional photographers making photos all around. We are on the end of the line, and they offer us a free local beer called The Spotted Cow. It is a simple lager and I take it without hesitation to kill some time.

We take the badges, and I almost cry a teardrop to see my name and the conference badge in my name. It means a lot. A fantasy that actually become reality. An impossibility of a very improbable thing to do in life, but at the end I am really really here. As gamer, gaming with gamers that helped the biggest game be what it is.

Than we go to a welcome party (not really a party, but more some free food and some drinks) to just talk with other peoples. We got some casual chat, and I get to meet a chemist for medical and a master sommelier. D&D is for everyone really and that is amazing, so much that the I am actually on the younger side of the people attending over here. So many people with incredible long white beards, all wizard in disguise obviously. I meet and talk with some more people, some people recognized me ahead of a post that I made saying that I was coming from Europe, and I must say it was fun to have italian-descent or related ancestry coming to me and speaking about their families and traditions, it make me feel and I am guess even them more connected.

Arriving the late evening, we look for some random games in-promptu (nothing scheduled just improvised), and we find one organised by people called “the Order of the Owl”, a certain Mark Hull friend of the past G. Gygax, and he is gonna run a 1st edition D&D one shot about “Killin a Dragon”. We are all lvl 10, we have full on magic items, we are 10 of us (which normally it is a very huge group), and he tell us, we all gonna die anyway, the dragon is gonna be played OLD SKOOL, which it means, with no hope, no kindness and barely any surviving like old time sake. Like G. Gygax was playing… this is literally a passing rod of tradition from Gygax to Mark, and to Mark into us, until he dies for decades to come.

Mark guide us, help us making characters, and we don’t make it really anywhere, but I absolutely have my love crush for this stranger. He is the best Game Master that I ever met, he knows his stuff, he has no hesitation, he is concise and very well descriptive and gets to the point. I am in awe. I am pumped and I don’t feel at all the lack of sleep of the last days, but it is 1 AM, and we need to get up at 8 AM for the next day and for a full day of games.

Reluctantly and very very tired we go back to the car, driving into the night, in a super desert Lake Geneva and eerie with a bit of mist, to our Ridge hotel. It was an amazing day, and one even more amazing is coming ahead.

Arriving in America

This is a first post of many in the following few days about my first experience in America as European. Some of the photo will be missing, because on my main Camera. You will see it later on, on my flickr account once back, but in mainwhile you can have all the photos taken with my phone.

The main reason of this trip is to go to a Convention called Garycon a special event in celebration and remembering of one of the co-authors of what made Dungeon & Dragons (a role playing game, if not the main role playing game that thrive from ‘74 till today with a big hollywood movie with even Hugh Grant & Chris Pine).

We all be remembering him by playing, making friends, sharing stories and passions. Many of the original people of TSR (the company that made D&D) there will be there. This trip is literally the trip to the Mecca of role playing games. Where the game was made, grew and it become famous.

The diabolical screen that froze midflight

My holiday started very very early at 4:30 am in Barcelona, preparing the last few things before leaving my home, and taking the taxi at 6:30 for the airport. The following 14 hours of the trip involve just 2 airplanes (Barcelona -> Madrid -> Chicago), no sleeping, and increase of caffeine in my body, and meeting a super friendly spanish woman from Valladolid head of department Maria Jesus, with which we had very fun and friendly conversation. So much that we exchanged contacts, and she was so happily tell me about her job, going to Huston for work, some funny situations, and her passion for Ballet fitness.

Above the white sky

Of this part of trip I can only say that I was more anxious than anything about losing the flight, having tons of papers with me for any potential situation and control for the USA Boarding control (notorious to be a tough nut), and than everything was quite smoothly. Maybe even for this reason I couldn’t sleep, together with the excitement of traveling and everything else going in my head.

Regardless even if the transit is not the main topic, I wanted to highlight few things.

The movies during the flight

Before my screen froze and abandoned me mid flight to Chicago (of total of 8h flight it was 3.30 still left to go and they felt very very long hours… and coffee despite my adversity for it, it was a burning disgusting blessing).

I was surprise of the great range of movies and even recent ones… discarded immediately the whole Fast and Furious WHOLE series, or any other american or spanish stuff, and gone for choosing international ones.

A japanese movie and a chinese to be exact, for which I suggest everyone to see.

Offbeat Cops

Offbeat Cops start with a very tough crime story with a detective of Crime investigation completely in style of classic Takeshi Kitano old 80’ to than develop his comedic route and light emotional drama and light hearted sensitivity, by pushing the main actor to become part of the Police Band learning to play drums.

This movie show at his perfection, how Japanese way of living has such contrast between rules, and what need to be get done, the incapability of being empathic, and at the same time the need to that human contact that come from such unexpected events, and the hardworking people that they are losing any concept of boundaries between balance of work and family time. I give it a 7/10 just because I love foreign movies.

Chilli Laugh Story

Chilli Laugh Story, instead was a pure comedy gem that it will be forever in my collection of movies! YOU MUST WATCH IT. There are a lot of talented actors and the direction was quite snappy with a lot of classical exaggerated classical Chinese cultural situations that made it absolutely precious.

The plot is about a family during the Pandemic, starting at home an homemade business of making spicy Chili and selling it into the streets. This bring success, unexpected problems, but the focus here of the story it is the family. How important it is, and how frail can be when everyone is self-obsessed with their own life desires.

At the end you see a lot of young actors appearing doing silly gags, for sure this movie is made by a new generation of Chinese comedy people. Something for me to look forward and to track down for more interesting comedy and movies that it will be interesting with time.

Snow and even more snow across North America

The Border Control & The taxi Drive

America asks you, just before landing, if you bring any food that need to be declared. And it looks like that not declaring and if they do inspection, they will bill you with a hefty sum. So as proper good boy scout, I wrote everything to avoid any trouble.

Gift for my host

It looks like that, writing everything, it what took the border control the highlight, and therefore because of Swine Flue in Africa (and obviously being Africa next to Spain or Europe), they decided to throw everything away. Even the careful made sandwich that I was gonna eat made at 4 am. What a waste.

But this highlight something that I discover later, American are used to trash food, like it was nothing. So the cheese and choccolate and wine pass, but any pork/meat will not.

With already my heart broken in pieces because of a nice Salami that I lost going into the trash bin, I get out in just 50 minutes total from the airport to my next mission. Taking a SIM card to have internet.

Luckily until I was in the airport I could connect to some free wifi, but I couldn’t use my new Spanish internet connection because of expensive costs of roaming. But at the airport the choices were very very expensive (from 60$ per 1 month), and nothing less than that. Therefore I decide to just wing it, and make the sim card later.

The free market of taxi drivers

This mean taking a cab/taxi and with my incredible horror, realising a bit too late that I will depend completely on the taxi to take me where I need to go, and that there is not a really regulated taxi of the city (the beauty of free american market), and every taxi looks different, with people of all kind of ethnicity.

So I end up with an Albanian guy, which car was a mess, with a classic Albanian flag attached to the car (americans or people living there for decades are proud about their own origins), no belt, and driving like a very aggressive italian (I felt like home, I must say!). The price was steeper than expected 88$ (but it was a 50min drive), but I thought that on a taxi it would have been less dangerous to move around than taking the Metro/Train system (which Chicago is famous to be an elevated train connection).

I wasn’t nervous, but I decided to go with the flow. Next time I’ll probably experiment with the public transportation (the important is not to have bags with me, which it makes more troublesome to travel), but after seen the movie The Warriors for years I have no idea what to expect, other than gangs fighting me at every stop! 😀

Chicago Elevated Trains

So for the moment Europe 1, America 0 on transportation, even the metro looked very thin and long like the British metro are.

Looking at the streets everywhere felt like some part of the america that I am used to see into movies and tv series. Civilised with alternative wooden houses and brick houses (reminding me Britain, but with more space to expand).

Everyone is driving, and only few people are on the street with the occasional cyclist, and no scooter or motorbike whatsoever.

I pass churches with the classic letter signposts

An example of a church signpost

I pass VOTE for X for Mayor signs hanging all around. The classic lawn pitches signs of retailers. The few houses with easter decorations on the door of their house, and even some with actually bulb lights (the one for Christmas) just hanging around their building.

Arriving at destination

[Images to insert here of the gym]

Arriving at the gym where my contact and online friend Keith Jennings, with which we have played mostly every week for the last 1 year and 3/4 to the toughest and scariest of the adventures, the Curse of Strahd – For people that are not into RPG, understand that this is an adventure that we are playing as we were the main characters of some big TV show like Games of Thrones. It is a big deal, it is very difficult to go on with a same game for more than 1 month, imagine after 1 year.

[Images to insert here of the gym]

Keith welcome me, he is training few people, and I finally can relax in a corner of the big gym organising myself and recharging few things. He is super nice, and I talk with him and as well with his own client that is training about the geekest of stuff while the person that is being trained is taking a moment of relaxing between workout sessions. I would absolutely would train here with gusto. Huge space, lot of tools, a personal trainer motivating and guiding and nice rock music.

[Insert photo here]

If I need to describe Keith, he is very relaxed like American are, and as well in Italy between friends he would be labelled a Metalhead. Absolutely crazy fan of Metallica, and like me crazy fan of role playing games that he discovered during his youth during boy scout.

I finally take out my good camera and start to do a couple of photos around. It is chilly, but inside doesn’t seem to be any heating and it is much more bearable than in my house in Barcelona. Score for America than, we are on 1-1.

It is about 1 am BCN time, and here it is just 6 pm, I go to get caffeinated and this is my first walk into the neighborhood of Chicago. It doesn’t feel like a city at all, it is all pure suburb. I go to a Starbuck, and it feel so weird that Starbuck it is the same, and at the same time it is not. It feels a bit more lived and less perfect than the one in europe.

[Insert photo here]

The biggest female waiter that I ever seen with red air, and the tinest one with brown skin works together and serve me (a terrible) cappuccino and warm cookie chip. Yes america, it taste better in europe.

The smaller size coffee, already is the big drink that I was expecting, and the people that are there only few wear masks and they work on their computer, a couple of people practicing french, and various other people just walking in taking the order and not even saying any other word than the strict necessary to get the coffee and be on the go because busy with their hearphones and texting. Quite disconnected america while being connected.

There are boxes of few used books at the entrance, I am guessing they are for anyone that want to read, but I see no one inside picking any. And being about 7 pm here, the waiter start to throw away all the food on display in the trash. All decent good food that I could have order and eaten, just thrown completely away in my absolutely shock and disdain. And here hit me, how much everything in the way of thinking is use and throw away, especially food.

I go back, the training will soon finish, and we are heading straight to eat with the lovely and sweet teenager daughter of Keith (she goes to a school which teach her to play guitar and bass, and she would like to become a rockstar).

We eat at his favourite burger place (I asked to wanted to try a real American burger), and the place was called Kuma.

Saying hi to our other Internet friends

We have nice big burgers, which they are incredibly tasty. Like in Japan, free refill of water (ice cold water! brrrr….) and the music in the place it is all heavy metal, LOUD heavy metal like in a concert. His daughter order a Mac & Cheese (finally I could see what actually is in person a classic italian recipe very americanised, of Maccheroni al forno gratinati) which I know being a classic in USA.

Keith is so kind to offer dinner, I am more surprised about the price of a burger respect to european standard. So I am guessing that proper meat place cost more, than chain places, which it means you pay for quality. Infact I had to lick completely my fingers, and all the burgers were called after Metal Bands, with a lot of metal posters around, and somehow some old tv series playing in loop (think here the Curtain Red room of Twin Peaks showing in silent with subtitles in background).

I could see the kitchen smoking of hot hot food served as fast as possible, the waiter were very kind and attentive and ready to refill your water. And it was even very normal to just take away all the food leftover to be easily taken back at home (you literally package yourself the food to bring back at home of what you want to bring). I would say that the quantity was a decent portion with a buckload of chips.

Before going home, one last stop (at this moment I was 22h awake straight) to the Mall!!!! And it was amazing how strange and familiar all felt. All those movies about Clerks, The Dawn of the dead, Mallrats, Stranger things… all was there. Familiar and different. The huge parking lots multi-floor. Heated alley with electrical heaters warming no one (or just the people that would wait there for whatever reason). The huge space that occupies the Mall with all the different brands each part with each specialization. We entered Target.

The Mall was huge inside super illuminated, and barely any people were there, or working there. It was a big empty space filled with stuff. I could find even Magic Cards or Pokemon cards which normally in europe they sell only at specialised gaming shops. I didn’t wonder too much (I was low energy), just grab a back of Ritz (which the smallest was extra large, and the others had extra flavours) and checking for Sim cards (all expensive for what I intend to use), and only available were self-checkout machine. No cashiere there. Only one supervising. I must say that technology looked cheaper and very affordable than at home (huge plasma screen at least 100 or 200€ cheaper).

[Insert image of the house from outside]

We go back home. I enter the classic wooden garage with side door that lead to an alley that lead to the front garden and front porch of a wooden house with 2 floors. The top floor is were Keith family lives. Outside is cold and dark. Inside no visible heating system and it is actually a very decent temperature.

Classic super huge double door fridge, an amazing collection of RPG materials, swords, and training gears, poster of all kinds about Metallica, and I stay in this front living room because the rest of the family is already in bed and sleeping.

He prepares me an inflated bed, he add some extra tape to stop an hole, but I fall at sleep faster than this huge air bed, while a constant louder and louder “shhhhh” of the air running out, get all out and I find myself on the floor. I could this as win!

I woke up at 3:30 am in the night. Having slept aproximally 4 hours and something, and try to sleep a bit more, but cannot really catch any deep sleep the fault is for sure of my biological clock used to get up in the morning for work. I am ok with roughing it up. It is what you do when you travel, you get out of your comfort zone, and even today I will survive on Caffeine and pure will and excitement ment of something new out there.

And is in this moment while recharging my device that I write this post, resting while the sun rises on the horizon. And later on today I will write of the new experiences, of an american house, eating probably some deep Chicago Pizza dish, and going to Lake Geneva by car and getting all the sightseeing where D&D was made.

Good design is good business

Most of the business in the world do not really understand how to make good business online. The reason is pretty simple, they do not understand the triangle that connects the internet to the people via the wonder of technology, because this understanding is not in the hand of any one single person. It requires years to acquire the ability to reach a vision of the online business, or a lot of talented people at your disposal.

The most common way to reach the understanding is normally achieved using a shared pool of knowledge taken from different people expertise. Put them together via a delicate balance or pros and cons, ready to deliver to you the best service ever. 

The internet at the end is the mother of all the media: it contains principles of Press, the directness of the Telephone, and the visual impact of the Tv/Cinema as media; and nowadays we have Virtual Reality to add to the mix.

As you can now glimpse to understand the internet is a pretty big thing. How do we simplify this complex monster of medias, to a more reasonable way to communicate? Simply acknowledging his most important power and at the same time, his weakness:

Anyone can publish anything on the web.

The strength of be able to communicate with the world is incredible, you just need a little bit of time, and you are just a click away from anyone else, even competing directly with the biggest industries online like Amazon, or the famous newspapers in the world like the New York Time. You can publish anything and say your piece.

At the same time, being able to publish, does not mean that what you are communicating is visually good, what you are saying make any sense or being remotely interesting, or that you are able to understand the complexity of technology to be able to upload a feature that you want because there is a lot of programming behind the curtains. This point is crucial to understand the problem itself.

Anyone can publish, but not everyone is able to communicate efficiently.

It is easy to fall in the trap of taking bad decision to communicate on the web based more on subjective feelings, or buy cheap and fast solution available rather than take objective decision based on data analysis, proper development methodology or getting to study from other useful case studies examples of successful website business. My opinion is that technology need to be invisible, or so subtle but at the same time easy to understand without a need to use a manual. Any web need to be self explanatory on how to use it, and what can you do with it by simply reading his content. The only way to be sure about it, is data.

Take decision based on data, not on personal preference.

Every single thing on the web is traceable, every click, every second spent on the page, every decision made, for this reason it is easier to improve a website if we tweak it constantly with various improvement to help the users to see better or understand better on how to use our services. I keep noticing years after years how much being essential, clear and simple helps the business in more revenue, because users understand better what you are offering. Speaking via the web with a clear tone, more than a convoluted jargon to impress, is really the way to make successful business. Even so, analysing data has his limits, sometimes you need to go further than just analysis of clicks and navigation. You need to reach that vision of what user needs by making a proper research. Why people choose a brand respect to another? is it price convenience? or product quality? is it status quo of associating with the branding? or is just the fast shipment?

To entangle every single need, you need a lot of trial and error via a/b testing, but most importantly, you need to get to know for real the need of your audience and listen to it, to get the best “take away”.

Do regular test with real people to get great insights.

Unfortunately in my 20 years, I can count on the finger of one hand, the times that a business owner wanted by their own initiative to make usability test or even basic user testing to make their website easier to use, because they do not really care. Clearly this lack of caring is more related to the lack of comprehension on the basic problems of miscommunication. People have different way to approach and interact with technology, because of different needs, because of age, because of previous experiences or because of social interpretation of simple things like colours.

Without a simple user test, it will be difficult to surpass your most common hurdle of your own website. Because just being online, it is not enough anymore. You need to change your prospective and see your customers point of view, and anticipate their needs when possible by proposing ready solutions (like the one click buy Amazon). People do not want to think, they just want to get what they want and go with their lives.

This problem of educating yours business owner in being more user focused before being business focused, it is part of the job, and it is difficult one as much as understanding the user need. 

Last but not least it is the great chimera that is understanding technology, and it can be divided in two main subjects, design & speed:

Build designs that can adapt like water.

The pixel perfect doctrine, it is one of the biggest misconception that project manager or recruiters that do not understand the web talks constantly about. The device that we are using every day to access the web, have different size, different code, different input tools, different brightness and different pixel resolution. It is impossible or just very waste of manpower resource trying to make all the website pixel perfect identical. Technology keep evolving, code keep evolving and standard as well keep changing. 

We need to build things that can adapt to all this new tech that is coming out, so we need to think about not only flexibility of mobile/desktop design, but as well of retro and future compatibility of what we build. A text can be seen on different size on one device or another, the important is not the size, it is the coherence of the design itself across the various pages, that need to be kept constant. If a symbol is shown as circle somewhere, and somewhere else is instead a square, does not really matter, what matters more is, if the functionality or visual purpose for which was created changed, like for example attract attention.

Design need to be thought as an ever changing content, where languages can be easily swapped for another, and titles of articles can be easily swapped for other lengthy one. It is common sense obviously to set an agreed standard across the various layout, so I always suggest to think in terms of Atomic design. Build everything atom by atom, and component by component until you reach to design whole pages based on a specific layout strategy coherent with everything else.

Write as little code as possible, reuse as much as possible.

Speed is the new key for a website success, with mobiles that act as less efficient mini computers, and connection on the go, speed is the constant for frustration for the user in trying to achieve anything. No one will wait for 20 minutes to access your website, everything need to be optimised for to be fast and ready to download. Everything compressed, and everything need to be request at the right time so that the browser can load the most important element first to show content above the fold first, and than the rest just to reduce time to access the content for the users.

The curve of abandonment of website is directly correlated with his speed of load his actual content. This information is proved and proved again. An easy way to optimised, it is to think on reusing as much content like icons, fonts and graphics multiple time in a creative way. As well you can decide to lazy load content, because most of the time not everything needed to be seen at the first view of the web page.

The most important tip about speed, keep a tracking budget of your performance in KB and load time, of your most important pages. Keep tracking because you want always to keep that value as low as possible with every subsequent development or feature addition. Make it an important point and culture in your tech team, and if you are able to push it further, make it as a main marketing point, be the fastest business in respect to your competitors.

Osaka, walking every step of the way.

We woke up very early at 6:30 am, getting slowly ready (but still very very excitedly) and thinking where we would get breakfast. We were very happy to drop all our bags and just brought with the us essentials like tablets to orientate and water. We decided to go to Namba station, the underground and commercial center was so big that even so early I was sure that we would have found something.

While walking to the metro around 7:30 am, we saw an old guy playing golf inside his own messy car garage with a could see at least 20 balls of golf. It is so incredible to see random unexpected things in Japan like a man with his doggy walking around, both with sun glasses on, human and dog alike!!!!

Unfortunately the metro confused us again, and instead of getting out at Namba we got out at Umeda, but we realized well after breakfast in a “Japanese Bakery” in the underground metro. The Bakery had so many weird and unknown products, and an incredible and delicious smell of garlic all around, the girl at the counter didn’t speak one word of English and the funny thing was that she wasn’t understanding the word “milk” but she got perfectly right the word “latte”. So when in Japan and talking about coffee stuff, just speak Italian!!!! (Figen disappointedly got one coffee without latte, but she got the best bakery piece of the unknown food).

In here I wrote the post about yesterday, we were the only people seated in the place, and everyone was incredibly on the rush in the shop, on the metro corridors. You could compare it exactly to underwater life, where everyone is in movement, never stopping and going everywhere crossing each other paths without slowing down too much.

Other details that I forgot to mention about Japanese life is:

  • When at the table they always serve water or amazing warm green tea without even asking or paying (It is a very kind touch).
  • Even if winter, the water served is filled from a jug full of ice (I guess they don’t like ambience temperature water or maybe they are used to have refrigerated water from the thousands vending machines).
  • Speakers with automatic girl voices are everywhere, so much that one time that we entered an elevator and pushing random buttons trying to understand how to go up, we got scared thinking that the voice was a person actually speaking to us to don’t be rude.
  • There are so many bicycles everywhere that Amsterdam is beaten badly 3:1 ratio, and the wonderful thing is that 90% of those bicycles are not locked whatsoever.
  • Same thing with the umbrella (you can choose the color of white or black, didn’t see any other type so far), hanging around everywhere, for anyone to use.
  • Cars are very narrow in length and a bit higher than normal, it literally feels like a metal box moving on the road.
  • There is no common building structure, you see many different houses from small multi apartments buildings and old style wooden roofed or clay roofed two level houses, just next to each other, and than a super small area with payment parking space for just 4 car. In the outskirts we even saw small patches of cultivable terrains in between the houses, literally growing their own vegetables, and adding a very nice note of nature in between the sad city buildings.
  • People bending to say bye to the older co-working people multiple and multiple time.
  • People sleeping a bit everywhere, from trains, public seats in parks and even into coffee shops. Life must be very hard for them.
  • And last but not least a lot of old people barely walking, but still on their foot and moving slowly like turtles with incredible determination, men and women alike.

So after our stomach were full, Figen decided that our first step would be Osaka Castle and his park. After going up a bit, and the sun finally shining and warming us up, we enjoyed to see how the fortification were built in serpentine matter, and the golden decoration on the castle itself surrounded by a river and a top of the hill, and that touch of nature that was all nearby. We saw a couple of wondering cats, and huge very intelligent black crows that were following us around while we were eating onigiri (small rice triangles filled with variety of stuff).
We didn’t enter the castle we had a tight schedule, but we spent time trying to make successfully contacts with lovely tiny birds by feeding them a bit of rice. The moment we stepped away from the feeding ground to make some photos, our bags were surrounded by the clever two crows. They weren’t menacing, just damn big to not be taken a bit aback.

Next step, DenDen town! The place where electronic of all kind are sold. Only destiny decided to trip our hand by detouring and completely deviated to go to the nearby Tsuntekasku tower and area. Everything was quite slow in the morning, this was clearly a night district, because full of SPA and night entertainments, you get my meaning.

The tower was amazing, a clear symbol with the Glico man of Osaka outline of the city. We go to some stores nearby and we couldn’t resist to buy some kit-kat in offer with orange flavor and tea. Fucking delicious. Something that they don’t sell at all in the western countries of the world and you can find only in Japan. We stopped briefly to a arcade gaming with super retro games like Mario Bros Donkey Kong, Street fighter 1 and tons of others arcade game that I remember clearly like yesterday I played on my Commodore or at Coin op when I was little.

We entered in a renting shop for yukata and kimonos and we made little friend with a very sweet lady, we bought a couple of souvenir and made some funny photos. We stopped at a coffee bar (coffee could be quite expensive here) to recharge ourselves and literally our tablets, to get oriented and realize where the DenDen town is.

GPS confused us again, and we entered successfully DenDen town (the crazy text advertise full of kanji letters and no graphics, in multi store level shops of electronic it is quite daunting). We bought an expensive tablet cover + keyboard so that we could tell properly the story of our trip, and obviously we got in the completely wrong direction and we crossed the line from electronics to manga/anime/games/adult only dvd area. I felt like at home! (A part for the adult only area… obviously!).

This detour was perfect, we saw crazy stuff, crazy Otaku people, crazy dvd and manga, and adult only dolls, super mega advertises of games, like it was the most important next movie show at the same level of Star Wars. I am talking 5 store level of ads of manga or super building wide gaming ad. My people, my area!!! If this was the small and ugly version of Akhibara in Tokyo, I am completely blown away. I am talking of 9 streets x time 3 on the wide streets of stuff. Retro gaming in perfect conditions, new PS4 stuff with tambourine extension to play drums on your PS4, floor after floor of hentai of all kind, stores of beautiful t-shirts of manga and graphic design, maidens bar, cosplay color coded wigs store occupying the whole wall of different lengths (they were selling even props and colored eyes).

Our credit card was shaking of fear, because we would have broken the whole bank account if we weren’t limited by physical space of carrying all stuff with us. Therefore we limited to few small souvenirs (some of Ghibli Studio) to take with us.

We recharged again our energy to a wonderful noodle place around 14:30, and I must tell you if it wasn’t for the excitement we would have dropped dead right there. We carried on, but we stopped again because lost, need of toilette, need of coffee and need of still more resting, in a chain style Starbucks but much more refined called Tully’s. I think that the place was so good that looked incredibly expensive/classy and it wasn’t, comfy and decent coffee, that we will only go again to this chain to take the proper caffeine required to push on this hard days.

Tully’s interesting facts: a tons of students come here to study (amazing school uniforms, I wanted to grab a photo of everyone but I am sure that I would be arrested, lol); they have literally sealed ear ethically smoking room on where you stare at a blank wall to enjoy your cigarette; and even if the place was big it was just an unisex toilette. Obviously free wi-if and plenty of sockets to recharge your devices. I truly believe that in Japan people stare much more to a screen than not to an human face.

It was 16:30 and the aquarium needed to be seen. We were above overwhelmed, and we wanted to rest more at home, but I knew that if we stopped, we would never move out anymore. So we carried on, painfully towards the next destination. Towards one of the biggest aquarium in the world.

I have plenty of pictures, but unfortunately I cannot show because tablets don’t have attachments on where I can download photos from my camera. Needed to be known that, we saw plenty of crazy Mother Nature animals, from tropical to antarctic. We saw Otters try to fuck for minutes unsuccessfully because the male was there hooked very still at the female, and the female couldn’t find the way to plug herself into the proper place (even because of the huge tail), looking forward and backward like crazy, I think that I will never seen Otters with the same kind again… We saw dolphins!!!!! So many of them!!!! A whale shark!!!!!!!! (No teeth I think that they eat plankton) In one of the biggest tanks that I have ever seen full of other sharks and big manta rays. Penguins! Huge mustached Seals! Figen touched the manta ray, while I was completely creeped out from other creatures that I never seen before from the deep. CREEPED OUT!!!! Plenty of beautiful and colorful tropical fish (yes, I am talking finding Nemo and his friends…).

After barely walking, we eat at the close marketplace (by the way, I was so tired at this point that I could barely make any photos, but the whole area had amazing decorative night light, a giant LEGO Giraffe, and a huge multicolored wheel to shame the London Eye). I finally got my Okonomiyaki, and it was amazing, and Figen some more justifiably craving tempura with noodles.

I don’t know how I got home. I fall a sleep hitting the bed, and putting anti blister patches on my feet with the help of my wife. She got to try the Japanese bath, while I was literally dying in bed. I woke up at 5:00 AM current time, and I am writing for more than an hour in the darkness of the room, because I didn’t want to forget this experience. Everything hurts. Figen back as well (she is sweetly sleeping), so I guess the trip of today to Nara & Kyoto will be a more slowed down and relaxed one.

Why Taxi have to be so expensive in Japan!!!! Why?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

A long long flight in an island far away

Per quelli che non comprenderanno l’inglese vi suggerisco do usare google translate.

I am writing from my tablet and it is quite difficult to write long sentences, so god bless suggestion tool. Let’s start.

The trip took the whole day of the 20th to arrive to Japan. We spend it running late to the exchange gate because of thick fog in Amsterdam (we barely saw landing). With us a young Japanese student from Kobe and her mother running across 25 minutes walking path + passport control. I regretted very deeply to be so fat. Anyway we make it on time, all flights were delayed, and after 2 movies and barely sleepless night on the plane (impossible to sleep on uncomfortable seats) we arrive in the morning of 21th at 09.00 (only that for us was 01.00 am in the morning of the day).

Thanks to adrenaline and excitement we rushed through the day until 16:00 Japan time (around 7-8 am Spanish time). We exchanged money, booked all the important trains tickets, got a portable WiFi that already saved our us multiple times on which direction we were going, and explored the area around Namba main train Station of Osaka (a really labyrinthic experience between metro, multilevel underground shopping mall, and rushing crowd), and got safely at our incredibly tiny Airbnb apartment in Kujo. Than we literally collapsed for 4 hours, because those backpacks don’t carry themselves.

We already had an initial taste of Japan when we woke up and we were fascinated by many little details. The incredible amount of places where to eat (highly specialised in a set kind of food), the clean streets regardless that it was impossible to find a single public trashing can (I think that people carry their trash with themselves), the cuteness of men, women and kids alike, and the busy stores of pachinko, gaming Taito buildings, small alley marketplaces with everything for the kitchen (fake plastic food, pottery, knives and swords), and even so impossible to find a place that sold an international electric adapter.

So we decided that the few hours at night needed to be spent in Dotonbori streets lights where we had one of the best tempura of my life (crab tempura!!! Gnammy!!!). The night was very cold while during the day was incredibly sunny. Even so we carried on and wondered about in those busy night streets with no direction or clear objective other than feel lost and be basked in nightlights.

And so we came back early at home to have proper rest (counting as well the usual misdirection that metro thrown at our senses). Shopping in a very late convenience store the small funny things that inspired us like the meat fried stick translated incorrectly by the special photo app in “taste as heaven”, and obviously some Asahi beer. We watch some weird Japanese TV, and than we passed out again, hoping to lose definetly the last remain of jetlag.


La notte prima del sol levante

Tutto è pronto. Fotocamera ricaricata e lenti pulite. Zaino pieno di roba super invernale che non ho mai indossato prima, perchè lí nevica di brutto e qui a Barcellona il tempo è sembre abbastanza decente. Kindle pieno con le informazioni di dove, come e cuando fare le cose in posti sconosciuti con gente che parla lingue incomprensibili ed impossibili da tradurre. Vari accessori caricati ed un paio di libri elettronici pronti da leggere. Visto una montagna di video di come comportarsi, di come seguire la propria etiquette giapponese ai ristoranti, come utilizzare i gabinetti ultramoderni che ti puliscono tutto, come lavarsi nei bagni pubblici e privati, ed anche come aprire luccheti con chiavi speciali per accedere ai vari appartamenti affitati (perchè non incontrari nessuno a darti le chiavi di casa in mano in Giappone). La playlist di musiche da viaggio è stata fatta di fretta con canzoni terribilmente diverse, alcune giapponesi ed alcune semplicemente nuove e ribelli. Come al solito tutto è pronto anche se quasi all’ultimo minuto, piú o meno tra le 12 e 15 ore di viaggio davanti a me domani mattina dopo 6 ore potenziali di sonno da poter utilizzare.

Potenziali, perchè l’eccitamento, le paure e la voglia di non tornare sapendo di dover tornare, sono cose difficili da mettere giú su un cuscino e lasciarle lí a perdersi nell’oblio dei sogni che non ricordi.

Quindi scrivo prima che mi dimentichi, ed un’altro giorno passi uguale a quello di prima perchè dimenticato e senza traccia (se non quella elettronica su un calendario gmail di eventi alquanto anonimo).

Domani vado dove il signor Tiziano Terzani è giá stato. Dove questo non è mai stato? La luna direi. Lui con la fascinazione dell’oriente, ed io anche, ma con il vantaggio di internet e con lo svantaggio di non aver ancora il coraggio di uscire permanentemente dal continente europeo. Eppure è lí che si agita dentro di me, la voglia di andare e tirarmi in luoghi inaspettati, piena di gente diversa con pensieri diversi vivendo paure e speranze diverse.

Il Giappone. Cresciuto ed educato moralmente con i cartoni giapponesi, con le storie di manga ed avventure di videogiochi di eroi sconosciuti se non a pochi nerd come me, mi rendo conto che ne sono terribilmente attratto ed influenzato da quest’isola che tratta le persone come automi robotici senza personalitá, dove la comunitá viene prima dell’individualitá e dove la dicotomia di moderno e tradizione vive in parallelo. Un paese di giungle fatte di cemento  terribilmente sovrappopolate e pieni di posti con natura incontaminata dove il cambio delle stagioni sono momenti di celebrazione e gioia.

Non credo che riusciró a dormire. Quando sono andato in Tailandia ridevo istericamente di piacere con me stesso, letteralmente come un matto. Nessuno se ne era accorto sull’aereo, e tutto questo era perchè ero terribilmente adrenalinico dall’idea di me, dall’altra parte de mondo, con un mondo a mia disposizione da navigare, manipolare e da interactuare. L’ignoto piú che spaventare mi affascina, come le vertigini di un burrone che ti paralizzano per il terrore ma che allo stesso tempo ti fanno sentire vivo. Non ne vedo il lato oscuro, ma solo il lato del possibile con pensieri come “tutto quello che potrei fare” e “tutti gli angoli di strade sconosciute da girare e da scoprire” ed ancora “tutti i sapori ed odori che non ho ancora assaggiato”. Ed il Giappone per me è molto piú radicato in me che non la Tailandia. Sono giorni e giorni che nella mia testa mi sto esaltando ed una voce dentro di me che mi dice senza interrompersi “non voglio tornare”, “non voglio tornare”, “non voglio tornare”. È una ossessione di piacere nella mia testa. Una ossessione, di sua natura, per nulla positiva, ma è lí che si agita e muove dentro di me, nello stomaco, nei miei pensieri, nel farmi sentire ancora voglia di qualcosa dalla vita.

Ecco credo di essere innamorato dell’idea. Stesso tipo di ossessione dell’amore, non puoi smetterne di pensare, non puoi smetterne di volerlo, dove tutto quello che vedi e senti ti ricorda di quella persona che non vorresti pensare. Non oso immaginare il dolore che proveró ad andarmene da lí. Eppure só logicamente di tutte le difficoltá che il Giappone rappresenta, dalla incredibile chiusura verso gli stranieri che i giapponesi hanno, alle ore folli di lavoro che fanno per vivere in posti piccolissimi vivendo sempre in transito e nascondendo le proprie emozioni fino addiriturra suicidarsi perchè incapaci di esprimersi anche alle persone vicine, perchè il Giappone è un mondo che solo i giapponesi possono capire.  Eppure la logica non ha assolutamente potere quando hai una emozione cosí forte dentro di te.

Perchè io lo voglio, fortissimamente volli. E non ho assolutamente idea ancora di come ottenerlo. Credo che improvviseró.

Inoltre immagino che dovró darmi a qualcosa che normalmente odio ed evito come la peste, la meditazione. Io non posso stare fermo, con la mia mente, nonostante sia capace di stare incredibilmente fermo con il mio corpo per settimane. Immagino che anche non usare il proprio corpo per sfogare certe emozioni non aiuti. Comunque sia, vedró di meditare quei 10 minuti necessari per trovare l’equilibrio interiore per mantenermi meno ossessionato di quello che dovrei. Cercheró dei parchi in Giappone o dei posti dove chiudere gli occhi e sentire lo scorrere del tempo, ed io immobile nel centro di quel flusso. Quello stare fermo è come un movimento controcorrente in un mondo dove andare sempre avanti vero obiettivi senza fine, sará la mia pace di vivere e stabilizzarmi nell’adesso.

Musiche come quella di Ryuichi Sakamoto, mi aiuteranno a rilassarmi e toccarmi il cuore. Alle volte bisogna dover soffrire per imparare a lasciare andare le cose, ed il piano “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” è perfetta per questo scopo. Specialmente perchè sono sempre stato nel mio interiore un tipo alquanto malinconico quando solo con me stesso. E mi rendo conto solo adesso che è anche per questo adoro Debussy, malinconico ed armonioso, tranquillo e controllatamente tumultuoso, terribilmente dolce ed amaro come una rottura di speranze.

Il giappone. Sará uno schock. Sará un “Lost in translation” totale. Sará una mancanza incredibile di olio d’oliva e formaggi, di sentirsi incapace di leggere un testo ed esprimersi comprensibilmente, di sentirsi sempre piú isolato nonostante nel centro di una folla. Sará un elettroshock riuscire a fare amicizie di minuti con altre persone che cercano anche loro un contatto. Sará un terremoto orientarsi in un posto dove non comprendi le regole. Sará perció tutto eccitante e nuovo. Credo di essere un junkie (dipendente) dell’inaspettato, “voglio ogni giorno mezzo etto di inaspettato grazie buon’uomo”. E non voglio farne a meno, voglio quel mezzo etto direttamente dalla fonte della miglior qualitá possibile.

Non andró nei posti super turistici, odio le folle e le file è tempo perso che non si recupera. Alcune cose ovvie le faró, peró quello che voglio di piú è perdermi per i vicoli ed incontrare per via di esperienze gli angoli da fare miei. Angoli che per me saranno speciali perchè avró percorso centinaia di metri in direzioni sconosciute prima di scoprirli. L’arrivare non è l’obiettivo, è il perennemente andare a trovare che ci rende felici. O forse mi sbaglio perchè alla fine saremmo una roccia che rotola che non si ferma piú. Ho voglia di incontrare gente e farne parte della loro vita per quei pochi minuti e chiedere “e tu come stai? dove vai?” e spendere poi ore a pensare se quella vita mi calzerebbe.

Viaggiare, volare ed atterrare ma giusto per il momento di riprendere le forze per buttarsi di nuovo tra le nuvole. Credo que in questi ultimi anni sono stato troppo con i piedi a terra, e con la testa tra le gambe. Si predica e pensa sempre meglio di quello che si fá. Per questo meditare credo che aiuti, non credo che esisti una app. che ti obbliga a stare a faccia a faccia per dialogare con se stesso.

Uno dei miei desideri è scrivere piú spesso. E perció scriveró e voleró con la mia mente piú spesso per me stesso, nonostante la mia grammatica ed il mio italiano sia sempre pessimo. Non ho tempo ne pazienza di rileggermi e corregermi quando il flusso delle emozioni e delle idee sono sulla punta delle mie dita.

Quindi andiamo suvvia a viaggiare. Buona notte per alcuni e buon giorno per altri. E come diceva Tolkien prima che Bilbo esca dalla porta di quella casa verso luoghi sulla strada ignota di un’avventura senza tempo:

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”