Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pitt Story

This is a story I just submitted to Pitt (The University of Pittsburgh) for it's 225 year anniversary.

Back in 2001 when I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college, I thought I had it all figured out.  I wanted to go to Penn State (of all places!)  I was set on going there and happened to come across something somewhere online that said if you come to visit Pitt and check out the college, they would give you free tickets to a football game after, so of course I signed up!  After driving up to the campus which was right smack in the heart of Pittsburgh, I knew this place was going to be for me.  I remember walking around int he little tour group that we were in being amazed at how great everything was, how cool the old buildings were, and that it would be so easy to get to just about anywhere interesting in the city.  After about half way through the tour, I knew this was the place for me, I was hooked and the tour was not even over at that point.  We went to the game, and honestly, I can't even tell you if Pitt won that day or not, I was too busy thinking about going to school at Pitt and living in Oakland.

When application time came around, I only applied at Pitt because I just knew it was the place for me.  When I got accepted, I was so excited, I could not wait to start.  Seeing that ad online turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I ended up having the best four years of my life at Pitt and I would not trade it for anything.  I met so many interesting people, made a lot a great friends, learned so many interesting things, and really grew into the man that I am today.  And just think, it is all because I just happened to see an ad one random day while surfing the Internet.

The picture if of us at the tour back in 2001.  I am on the left followed by my friend Dave, brother Mike, and his friend Brian.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Friday after my second try (first in December), I passed my CCNA exam.  It was nice to finally have my CCNA certification, but I really don't think that it was necessary or worth all of the trouble and time/money it took.  The test covers a wide variety of network topics including some that are out of date and some that are Cisco proprietary that only organizations will all Cisco equipment can use...

The test is also totally unrealistic, and does not reflect the way a person in real life works.  Although I can now do it, your expected to work out all math on a dry-erase board...WTF?  like people do not have a basic calculator always available on their computer not to mention subnet calculators being available pretty much everywhere.  Who is going to make major changes/additions to a network without first consulting a subnet calculator just to make sure?

Then the list of acronyms they have is just ridiculous.  Sometimes the questions just gives you a laundry list of acronyms to pick from...really?  Just spell out what your talking about not everyone wants to memorize every single one of you over 100 acronyms...  It's bull shit.

And then there is the fact that the test costs about €250 to take...are you serious?  It is a computer given test, this is almost 100% profit for Cisco.  I am not someone who is real big on having these sort of "trophies" I just like to learn what I need to know and or think is interesting and do my job.  There is no need to memorize trivial points and useless information like I am still in high school.  Cisco is just a money hungry corporation like any other, and to top it all off, the certification last for three years and then you have to pay again to take another test if you want to keep it up.  Maybe they should use some of that money they are making to better their user interface because to be frank, it sucks.  It breaks almost every user interface rule I learn while doing my master's degree and it disgusts me every time I use a Cisco device that they can get away with having such a shitty interface.  But that is an entirely different story (maybe even a future job opportunity????)  Ironically even with all that I said above, I think it would actually be cool to have a job a Cisco working on their user interface.  It would be a challenging project that a lot of people could benefit from.  Cisco does make some good hardware, but I think it is time that their UI catches up.

At any rate, I now have my certification so the managers at work can be happy.  Does this really change anything for me?  No.  I already know what I needed to know to do my job and have for some time now.  Basically I will now just get a card and certificate in the mail "certifying" that I can...big deal, if I know I can do it, that is enough for me.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Ferrara, CCNA

Haarlem from the Ice!

Saturday I finally had some time to walk around my frozen city and explore.  It was cold but the sun was out so it was not really all that bad.  The picture above is Het Spaarne which is a RIVER in Haarlem.  Yes all the canals are frozen too, but this was just amazing to me.  I walked up and down and took a lot of pictures.  The ice was very slippery, I almost fell a bunch of times and once, almost lost my camera, good thing it was strapped to my wrist or else it would have been totally gone!

Walking around you see people skating (mostly) walking, walking their dogs, and even riding bikes on the frozen river.  It was really surreal.  There were even places with makeshift caf├ęs setup advertizing "Koek en Zopie" which is actually a term used only during ice-skating and people sell food and drink directly on the ice.  I'm not kidding, there were even tables and chairs!

Every once in a while I would pass a space on the river that the birds kept from freezing, it was crazy because there were so many of them in one place hanging out in the freezing water.  I think the most interesting part was getting to walk under old bridges and get to see a view that most people never see.  I did go on some canals as well, but the river I think was the best.

As always, to see all of my pictures from Saturday along with the rest of my Holland pictures, you can check out my Holland album on Picasa:
Holland Sites

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bruges (Brugge)

Took my first short trip of the year this past weekend.  Novita, Matt, and I all headed to Bruges (or Brugge as you would say it in the Flemish part of Belgium where it is located).  It was a nice trip, but very, very cold!

It snowed Friday night, and of course the trains were all messed up on Saturday when we were going.  Our first train out of Haarlem was canceled, so we had to wait for the next one.  When we got to Rotterdam, the train there that we needed to catch beforehand was delayed 25 minutes, so we made it on that one anyway.  When we got on that train they were in the middle of an announcement and we heard "so if you don't have to go to Belgium today, you may consider staying in the Netherlands."  We were like WTF?  So we got to the very next station and they said they did not know when we would be able to leave, after about 10 minutes, we left for the next station.  At that station, they said the same, not sure when we could leave.  Then 10 minutes later they made an announcement saying they had no idea when we would be able to leave, be we could take a bus to the next station if we wanted to or wait until who knows when.  So we took the bus.  The bus took us to Roosendaal where we quickly discovered there was a train just about to leave for Antwerp.  We jumped on and we commenting on how much nicer than expected the train was.  When we got to Antwerp, we got out and realized we were in first class...woops, good thing no one checked.  In Antwerp we had a bit of time (due to the delays) until our train was ready so we went into the city to drink our first Belgian beer of the trip.  Finally we got on the last train and then arrived in Bruges.  We walked to our hostel and after some confusion with finding our room, we unpacked our things and when out to explore.

The city itself was nice.  We walked around and got some fries, this time I tried pepper sauce (like black pepper) was good!  Then we happen to notice a sign for a Belgian beer festival...this would explain why all the hotels and hostels were sold out in February!  Of course we went in, it was €10 each, we got a glass we were allowed to keep and five beers of our choice.  They literally had everything there.  There were thousands of people in the place and you could not move, but in the end it was cool, we each tried each others beer so got to end up tasting 15 beers.  Not too bad.

Next we had a nice dinner and then went to a bar for one more drink.  We were all really tired so we headed back to the hostel but picked up 4 more beers to try for back in the room.

The next day we went to the chocolate museum and the fry museum, both were alright, but not as cool as I expected them to be.  We had a nice lunch and then bought some chocolate and beer to bring home.

The ride back was not as crazy as the ride there, but, when we were in Antwerp and the train came that we going to bring us to Rotterdam, it was packed, and there were hundreds more people waiting to get on.  When we finally fought through the crowd to get in, there was absolutely no where to go.  Finally one lady was like "this is crazy I'm sitting in first class" Novita said that we would do the same, so we sat in first class the whole time and no one came to check.  Definitely not the normal first class experience, it was packed and people were being loud as hell.  Thanks NS for cancelling all of your trains, WTF, it is only a little bit of snow that happened days ago!

So first trip of the year is complete, now to plan the next ones.  Thanks to Matt and Novita for coming with me.  You can find more pictures here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Resolution Checkup

Ok, so it's been about a month since I set my resolutions.  Lets see where I stand.
  • Travel more:
    • I am going to take this one seriously.  I my going tomorrow with Matt and Novita for a weekend in Bruges and am looking forward to that.  I am going to try to not let more than a month or two pass without me going somewhere new.
  • French
    • I started.  It's going to be a long road, but at least I've begun.
  • Make new friend
    • This one is on hold at the moment, so far this year has been pretty busy and I am happy about that.  I will however re-evaluate this one later just in case.
  • Better Diet
    • Yes!  This one is working out well.  I am actually eating breakfast (almost) every morning.  It is really hard to do.  Although I am always hungry, the one time that I am not is right after waking up.  Lunch is still difficult because the food selection at work is so unhealthy, but today was the last day for the cafeteria, it will be away for a month or two, and then they say they are going to have more healthy items when they re-open, I hope so.  Dinners have been good.  I do not really buy frozen stuff at all, always fresh meat and a ton of fresh vegetables.  Protein shakes now include fruit and sometimes spinach.  I've already noticed the difference and I like it.  Although with all this good eating, I am definitely spending more money on food, but I think that it is money well spent.  Also started taking fish oil pills as well.
  • Stop biting my nails
    • Yes, still going strong.  I hope it lasts this time, but I'm not sure.  I was so sure of it last time, it lasted for months, then I slipped back into it.  Will try very hard not to let that happen again.
Special Dutch update bonus:
I've been helping this one guy at work with this issue he's been having and will always have to be on the phone with someone in America while I am working with him.  He speaks the whole time in English to the guy on the phone (obviously) and most of the time, when when Dutch people are already speaking English to someone else they will with me too if I'm there at the same time.  This time it was different, English to the guy in America, and Dutch to me, back and forth between the two languages, not really sure how to explain the fealing to someone who hasn't tried to learn a new language before, but this made me feel really accomplished.