Ana Balica

Hi, I'm Ana.

I'm a software developer. I mostly do Python. This blog is about my adventures with code, travel experiences and relevant life events. I try not to take myself too seriously.

Here's what I'm doing now.

Occasionally I give talks.

Please don't take my words for granted, because Internet is full of bad advice, and I might be part of it inadvertently.

A present for you, and you, and you

Not here to try to sell you best Darth Vader mugs, perfect gift for your loved ones - only $9.99! Or am I? Haha! NO. I’ll be sharing how I’m responsibly prepping for my family and friends special occasions (think mostly birthdays).

Yes, often I’ll resort to a typical birthday gift, that doesn’t require any of my time or brainpower. I console myself there’s nothing bad in gifting a birthday card, a nice body cream, a funny T-shirt, a kick scooter, a kite, right?

But there’s this whole other level of coming up with soulful presents that require a lot more effort than just clicking “Buy now” on Amazon (don’t forget to enable 1-click Ordering to skyrocket your purchasing power or even get an Echo Alexa). So here’s the list of presents that I’ve given to other people and wish I could receive myself.

Fly high

Flying Lesson

Rough estimate of consumed time: 3 hours
Resulting effect: nobody can read my boyfriend, so it’s basically hard to know
Gift specimen: experience - safe and exciting enough

This one is actually a developed-world present, but it has a nice touch to it. Since we have this whole trend of giving people experiences, rather than objects, plus my boyfriend is very minimalist with his possessions and he already has everything he needs, I decided to get him a Trial Flying Lesson in a two seater aircraft. Once in the air the pilot lets you take over the yoke and pedals and fly the plane yourself. I knew my SO never flew a plane and wanted to.

I bought the voucher online. It was too late to order the special birthday pack that comes by post, so I decided to just print the page and make a cute origami shirt + mandatory birthday card with cats, which has handwritten inside “Open the shirt”.

Jojo in the stars

Rough estimate of consumed time: 3 days
Resulting effect: ecstatic rainbows spurring out of the mouth
Gift specimen: dangerous, thrilling and very teenagy

Ok. When I was a teenager, it was “cool” to be all bummed out about everything. Don’t judge me. And so I had this friend who liked this dark short animation video Jojo in the stars (I tried rewatching it now, but meh).

Jojo has a sad fate. I decided to light up the mood by making a graffiti of Jojo (he’s geometrically shaped and easy to draw) and give him wings, so that he can fly and save himself!

The logistics were simple: one white and a couple of black spay paint cans. Grab my friend, go under the bridge near the train tracks and start being all artistic (never actually did graffiti before). Now in retrospect I wouldn’t recommend to anyone going under the bridge when you’re a 17 year old teenage girl without event mentioning it to parents or any close friends. Nevertheless it all ended well. And my friend was ecstatic to see his birthday gift.

I’ve spend one hour trying to find a picture of the graffiti: nothing on my old photosharing account, nothing on google, nothing on any of my old blogs T_T

Doodled mug

Doodled mug

Rough estimate of consumed time: 3 hours
Resulting effect: I think she liked it
Gift specimen: boring overall, but with a nice very personal touch

Mugs are a boring gift (I’ve just mentioned the Darth Vader mug at the beginning of this post). But… but this one is cute, because I covered it all in silly childish doodles. Used my acrylic paint. For a long lasting effect you can cover it in a layer of glaze.

Blossom in winter

Rough estimate of consumed time: half a day
Resulting effect: getting someone out of depression is a pretty good outcome
Gift specimen: romantic and almost environmentally friendly

It was one of those sad, cold, snowless winters. My friend used to live not far from the forest slash park. The bare trees in this time of the year look very gloomy and unwelcoming. I dragged my friend into the forest (no, I’m not a rapist), even though he kept on saying that’s going to make things worse and I kept on saying it’s going to make things better.

It made things better because I decorated a tree by the lake with pink flower-shaped post it notes. Few hours before meeting my friend I hooked the tiny pieces of paper by strings to the branches. Also scattered a few “flowers” forming a path to the tree. It looked like a little island of spring (⌒▽⌒)☆

A wave of good emotions. So good I forgot to take any pictures. Also no smartphones era.

I give you my hand

I give you my hand

Rough estimate of consumed time: half a day
Resulting effect: someone was very impressed with my doodling skills (not sure if that was actually offensive)
Gift specimen: cute, useless and doesn’t take up much space

Connecting with my creative self again. On a A4 ~200gsm sheet of paper with antique finish I outlined the shape of my hand with a pencil. Cut the hand form. One side of it is feminine: soft shapes flowing in chaos. The other side is boyish: funky, hip with video games and robots. Nothing too special, but the execution was good and I know my friend kept it for a really long time (might still have it, but we don’t keep in touch).

Post-it everywhere

Rough estimate of consumed time: 2 hours
Resulting effect: big smiles
Gift specimen: all about how much I care about you mom

When I was a kid and didn’t have money to buy mom flowers, perfume or fancy creams, I’d make cards (handmade crazy looking “Happy Birthday Mom” cards). One year I wanted to make something different, so I used my pack of post-it notes and stuck them all over the flat with various inscriptions on them, things like “You cook the most delicious meals”, “Thank you for taking care of us”, “You look beautiful every day”. My mom mentioned a few spelling mistakes I made, but I’m sure she loved it (≧◡≦)

DIY robot


Rough estimate of consumed time: 1 hour
Resulting effect: he didn’t build the robot, but is still excited about the potential thought of it
Gift specimen: guided geekiness

This is the time when first Raspberry Pi came out. So I got one for my friend. In addition to it I wanted to give him all the tools to build his first robot. I found pibot kit that has all the elements and also you a step-by-step guide how to build a robot. They changed their website ever since and also posted better instructions.

My friend fiddled with the Raspberry Pi and other components, but never build the robot. At least I tried…