So I hope you've noticed by now, but this site has been completely rewritten.
Would you believe that this site is almost 10 years old? I've been running a personal blog since December of 2003. The first few incarnations were written in PHP, and the most recent two were both written in Python, using Django as the framework.
Some notes about this version:
- Complete markdown support in blog posts and comments. Honestly, I got tired of writing HTML blog posts. The text was getting to be illegible so I wrote this version to make my life easier. Then I added markdown support to the comments so you can make prettier comments. Go ahead, give it a shot :-)
- A prettier image gallery - The layout is prettier, with larger thumbnails, and some fun layout tricks too. It might be a bit buggy with non-standard image sizes, but I'll work those out.
- A smarter image gallery - Now supporting multi-upload, and it'll auto-generate the various sizes... but only if it has to. If I want to photoshop some images before I post them, this makes it so much easier.
- Prettier interface and shiny icons!
- Expanded projects pages
...and that's about it. You'd think that given the fact that it took me so long to write, that there'd be more to it, but this is it. Well, that and the code is just... better :-) For those who might be interested, here's a list of some of the packages this site is using:
And sadly, I have yet to add a Django Pony anywhere yet. I'll do that soon though. There's also a few kinks to work out with the image uploader, hence the delay in posting my Warsaw/Krakow shots. I'll get to them soon enough though.
Anyway, if you haven't already, please poke through the site and let me know if you run into any problems. Now that I've made it (slightly) easier to post, I hope to be writing more in the future.
It's been a few days, but I really should write something about it. I visited Auschwitz on Tuesday.
I don't think that any reasonable human being can be fully prepared for a trip like that. We've all grown up with the stories of the gas chambers and crematoriums, the Hollywood films referencing the "death camps", and the 1940s Soviet footage of the camp liberation. We all know what went on there, but being there, standing on the very spot where children were executed... it's something else.
Every person's experience with that place is personal, and for me, what struck me the most was the astounding industrial nature of the whole operation. In the beginning, Auschwitz was simply an industrialist's wet dream: unlimited free labour. People were shipped in by cattle car, worked until they couldn't, and then replaced like chipped cogs in a machine. But as time passed, new ideas were rolled into the process and the nature of the facility changed from simply slave labour to extermination.
What was hardest for me is that I've come to accept that bad things happen and people die... all the time. Sometimes those bad things are just unlucky street crossings or unfortunate genetics, and sometimes we're talking about random shootings and nuclear bombs. I understand these because the human factor, the nature of those killed, is never questioned. Jews may hate Arabs and Arabs may hate Jews, but one never questions that the other isn't truly human. Our media fed us all sorts of lies about the Japanese during WW2, but I don't think that Truman ever stopped thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being populated by anything other than people. What I saw in Auschwitz... was something completely different.
The Nazis had decided that the population of Poland had to be eradicated. Additionally, they wanted to exterminate every Jew on the planet. We know that these were not empty words, as they did manage to murder six million Jews and six million Poles during their campaign of only a few years. But for me, the truly astonishing question is: what exactly does it mean to attempt to exterminate a people?
We often glaze over the fact that the world is Very Big, and that there are a lot of people living on it. We like to frame wars as if one nation invades another, like single entities poking at other entities and changing colour. But take a moment to absorb the fact that before the Nazis invaded, there were roughly 24million Poles in Poland. To put that in a scale that's easier to understand, Hitler wanted to eradicate roughly 10 Torontos worth of people. This was a job that needed meticulous planning and industrial solutions.
When you're dealing with a problem this big, you can't simply march an army across the country. Poland is really big, too big for any army to eradicate a so many. Instead they invented the SS, and compelled people to relocate to concentration camps, where they were put to work building more camps for more of their own people so they could get all of their kills in one place.
They had another problem: simply shooting them was inefficient and messy. They couldn't be wasting ammunition on Poles and Jews of all things, and they needed their clothing for use in Germany -- it'd be no good with holes and blood stains. They needed a gas that was relatively fast-acting, that could be pumped into a closed space for a maximum kill ratio, and then vented over the camp without killing any Germans. They enlisted the help of IG Farben to design such a gas, and they used Auschwitz prisoners to test it:
- Put ten men in a sealed room, and pump in x amount of gas.
- Wait 20 minutes
- Check if anyone is still alive.
- If yes, increase the amount of gas.
- Repeat until everyone is dead.
Once the formula was perfected, they began killing people, but suddenly a new problem: they were killing people twice as fast as they could cremate them.
Imagine what that conversation must have been like:
- "Sir, we've killed 400 -people- Jews today, but we're only burning the bodies at a rate of 200 per day. What do we do now?"
- "Damnit do I have to think of everything? Just have the workers build two crematoriums for every gas chamber, and until they're ready just have the prisoners dump the bodies in a mass grave um.... over there".
Everything in the death camp was logged and counted:
- Prisoners were forced to walk in rows of 5, and other prisoners had to play music while the work crews moved from their barracks to their "jobs". The music wasn't for morale, but an effort to keep the prisoners walking in time... to make counting them easier.
- Those destined for the gas chambers (typically women and children, as they were the least "useful"), were stripped of their hair and clothing before execution. The hair would be used for clothing like socks for Germans, their personal possessions: glasses, shoes, even chamber pots, shipped back to Germany for sale and reuse.
- One group of Roma were spared the chambers for a full 17 months, permitted to remain with their families as a sort of anthropological experiment. When Himmler tired of them however, they were all gassed.
To operate Auschwitz was to industrialise the process of liquifying a people that weren't a threat to anyone. Their lands and fortunes were all taken, there was no rational reason to do what the Nazis did unless we accept that to the Nazis, the Poles, Jews, Roma, and homosexuals weren't people, but simply numbers that needed to be re-allocated on a balance sheet.
After all this, I was actually considering the whole concept of Europe, and what it would mean for Poland to be a part. It's one thing for the British to have close relations with the Germans post-WW2, but Poland? The Germans didn't simply attack Poland, they attempted to erase them from history. They set up hundreds of camps designed to streamline the process of murder throughout Poland and Germany, and over the course of a few years gassed millions of men, women, and children as if they were action items on a project planner. Now I understand the grand purpose of the European experiment, and I support it completely, but I honestly don't understand the Polish restraint, and am not confident that I would be able to do the same in their place.
Auschwitz is not a place you should want to visit, but it's a place that everyone should see. The Nazis weren't special, they were humans doing some of the most evil things in the history of our species, and it's important that we all learn from it what we can, lest it be allowed to happen again.
The Salisbury Crags
The Scottish Parliament
The Streets of Edinburgh
Christina is in love with Edinburgh. From the day we met, she's been gushing about the place, and so when we were mapping out where we were going to travel this Spring, Edinburgh floated to the top of the list. We decided to book our trip over Queen's Day, since that's a total nightmare in this country anyway, and ended up with four nights in Christina's favourite town.
It's hard to describe Edinburgh to someone who's never been there. The town is built on plot of land riddled with old volcanos, and over the centuries, the land has been twisted into a tiny mountain range. Some of the hills, like Arthur's Seat, are taller than the Eiffel Tower, and others, just a few storeys up. Regardless, "flat" is not a word you can safely associate with Edinburgh.
Now there are a lot of cities in the world that have managed to grow in such vertically diverse geography. San Francisco is a fine example, even Vancouver if you stretch the definition. But I've never seen a city adapt to hilly terrain like this place. Like many old cities, Edinburgh has, over the centuries, built on top of itself: hotels built upon hovels, bridges built over alleys. What's really fascinating in this case though is that in Edinburgh, the bridges have become streets. Go in the front door of a building on one street, go down a few flights of stairs, and come out on a totally different street. Edinburgh has become a city nested in amongst the hills. You have to see it to belive it.
We rented a beautiful apartment in a relatively central area, and spent most of our trip walking... everywhere. Criss-crossing the city, soaking up all the touristy stuff we could get our hands on. Christina had lived here for a year back in 2006, so she felt right at home directing us to the next stop on a Very Long List of next stops. We visited the old castle (worth the trip, though pretty pricey), Mary King's Close (so lame, but our tour guide may very well have been high for the duration), the Scottish Parliament (beautiful, and I learnt a lot about their electoral system & internal politics), and of course the Salisbury Crags & Arthur's Seat.
Those last two are the names of the epic hills at the centre of Edinburgh. Volcanic outcroppings created millions of years ago that have become a sort of central parkin Edinburgh... you know, if central park took three hours to climb and two to cross. I took some amazing photos from the summit and got some desperately needed exercise too. That girl is in so much better shape than I am.
We also found some time to see an evening show for a local cultural event, where there was traditional Scottish dancing, choral music, and a Gaelic band as well. Those first two weren't very good, the Gaelic group was really quite impressive. Fluent in both English and Gaelic, they introduced each set in both languages. A fascinating experience to say the least.
And that about rounds out the trip. Given Christina's love for the place, We're bound to return one day, and honestly, I wouldn't mind. It's a pretty town, full of friendly people... who understand what cheddar cheese should taste like. They also have deep fried Mars bars, which are gross by the way. Anyway, I've posted a full compilation of images up on Google+ if you're interested. If you like what you see, you should book a trip sometime.
I've had an interesting learning experience over the past few days in the area of planning for my future and I thought it worth sharing. It turns out, without my informed consent, I've been investing in some truly unethical companies lately. More to the point, it's entirely possible that you are too, so this may be worth a read.
My employer, the RIPE NCC, is a pretty awesome company. Ignoring for the moment the really cool stuff we do for the internet in general, the my company goes out of its way to care for its employees. I'm reimbursed for my transit expenses, I get a free bike, a free tablet, and for people coming to work for us from out of town, they even subsidise living expenses for up to a year. There's a subsidised yoga class twice per week, subsidised in-house massages, and they also cover a gym membership. It's a pretty amazing place to work, so I don't want to give the impression that I don't think they're fabulous but there's one hitch: they also supply a private pension.
The Netherlands, like most civilised countries, has a national pension plan into which all employed persons must contribute. Some companies will pay this amount for you, while others will simply take it off the top of your paycheuqe. Either way, everyone pays and there's no getting out of it.
However some companies (like mine) go a step further and contribute to a private pension scheme in your name that provides benefits over and above the basic pension. This is largely considered a benefit when your employer does this but after I did some digging I found out where that private pension money is being invested: it goes into the war chests of companies like Exxon, Pfizer, Shell, and HSBC.
Put another way, I've been working for my employer for just over eight months now, and every month, I've been helping evil companies do evil... without even knowing it.
This is the Big Secret when it comes to the mega corporations out there. The warchests they use to buy legislation and fund bogus studies denying climate change... that money comes from us: our mutual funds, our pensions. These funds are often managed by people lacking even a rudimentary moral compass, making their decisions on (financial) risk and profit alone.
In other words, all of that effort we're putting into building a cleaner world is being erased by the companies we fund with our pensions.
I'll be talking with HR this week and will be asking them to specifically exempt me from this policy. If possible, I'll request that they move my plan into a more sustainable model, or barring that, remove it altogether. I'd rather lose the pension than let Exxon make a penny off of me.
Now you may feel different about all this, and that's fine -- well it's not fine, but I can't control what you do with your money. However, on the off chance that there are others out there who enjoy such benefits from their employer, I thought I might point out that you and your employer may not see eye-to-eye on what makes for an ethical investment. It only takes a few mintues to talk to HR and get things cleared up, and your grandkids may thank you for it.
The "Golden Circle", Iceland
The Vimy Ridge Memorial
Melanie on the Millenium Bridge
The Millenium Bridge
Douglas Adams' resting place
A former church turned book store in Maastricht
The most delightful waffles I've ever had. These were in Luxembourg.
The cathedral in Cologne
My parents in the Sacre Cour
My parents at the Keukenhoff
My new employer
Me and Violet
For a moment there, I thought that I might actually skip this one. We are, after all, 29 days into 2013 and I'm only now getting to the 2012 recap. I'd been putting it off, mostly because in my looking back over the year, I couldn't really remember much. This is to say that 2012 itself didn't feel all that memorable: what had I achieved this past year? How have I grown, and what did I learn in 2012?
The truth is that 2012 wasn't a year of epic change like 2011. Rather it was a year of "settling in" and getting comfortable with the life I have here. I'm not sure that that's actually a positive thing, but, there it is.
Objectively speaking though, 2012 has been pretty awesome for me in the three key areas of Personal, Professional, and Travel. It wasn't until I sat down and went over my year via G+ that I realised how busy I've been.
I always said that 2012 would be for travel in and around Europe. I didn't manage to do as much as I initially wanted, but then again, Europe is really big and there's a lot of things to see & do here.
The year started out early with a weekend trip to Bad Bentheim with my friend Hannah where we enjoyed a lovely train ride, a castle tour, and a fabulous steak. It's really not a very interesting town, but so far it was the best steak I've had in mainland Europe.
Lara's birthday was at the end of January, so I decided to hop a plane to York to say hello and see how life there was treating her. It's a lovely little town, and I was offered a tour through the older parts of the city. Her apartment was pretty cool too, though also in the literal sense, it was pretty damned cold :-)
March saw Christina and I visit Iceland thanks to some amazing discount rates from IcelandAir. I saw the Northern Lights you guys. It's really as awe-inspiring as people say it is.
Not long after Iceland, Hannah invited me to go for a drive to Cologne, which turned into a trip to Luxembourg when we were faced with the red-tape of driving a car in Germany. The trip took all day and most of the night, but we had a really good time just touring.
In April, my parents made the trip across the Atlantic and spent three weeks here: One week with me in Amsterdam, another in Barcelona without me, and the three of us spread the final week across Paris, London, and Dublin. It was quite the experience, intoducing my parents to the life I'd started to make for myself on the other side of the world. They were happy to see me adapting so well, and I hope they come back again soon.
In May, my friend Sue and I took a weekend trip to Cologne. The only reason I could come up with for going was that my father wanted a fridge magnet there, but when we arrived, Sue pointed out the Lindt Chocolate Factory, and suddenly our trip had new purpose.
In June, Melanie came to visit me and we spent a week in London & Belfast. We got a cab tour of the "Troubles" neighbourhoods in Belfast, ate steak in London, wandered through Highgate Cemetery, saw the Elgin Marbles (give them back!), a Shakesperean play at the Globe Theatre, and even chatted with a cosplay flash mob. It was a crazy week.
In July, I finally made time to visit The Vimy Ridge Memorial near Arras, France. Experiences like that help you come to terms with how insane war really is.
Apparently, a lack of travel in August made me a little stir-crazy, so I took two separate trips with Stephanie in September: one to Bristol & Bath, and another to Antwerp. The Antwerp trip turned out to be a bit of a bust, since the tour of the sewers we signed up for (so awesome!) turned out to be available only to Dutch-speakers, but the Bristol & Bath trip was nice. Bristol especially is a lovely little town that doesn't get nearly enough credit.
With the exception of my trip home for Christmas, the last trip of the year was a weekender in Hamburg, to meet Christina after she'd spent a week working in a special library for her PhD. We took the opportunity to sample some of the local Glu Wine, and visit the super-awesome Miniatur Wunderland! Also, I bought a hat :-)
It turns out that after actually sitting down and counting it all out, 2012 was a crazy travel year for me. I guess that the key for 2013 for me, will be to direct some of that travel energy to the East. DjangoCon is in Warsaw this year, I'd like to revisit Berlin, and maybe Zurich on a weekend trip. If my mom is interested, I'd also like to do Romania, but probably not this year. Christina and I are definitely planning a trip to Greece in the summer (gods help me), and hopefully a reciprocal trip to Toronto in the Fall. I'll be sure to post here when things are more solid.
This was kind of a big year for me professionally.
While working at Oxyor, I launched a major site that manages the learning experiences of thousands of users. The site features streaming two-way video communication, user groups, trading simulators, multiple themes and feature sets dictated by the domain, and a complete internal economy. I handled pretty much everything for the site, with the exception of the external trading simulators, and it was a massive undertaking. I learnt a lot, wrote a lot of reusable code that I'm proud of, and did so while often working with a team of 1: just me.
This process of working alone really got to me over time though. I felt like I was falling behind the curve, not learning anything new because there was no one from which to learn. After a while, I decided to start looking, and after a number of interviews with companies like Google (wow!) and big-time trading firms, I finally found my current employer, the RIPE NCC.
At RIPE I'm now working on an exciting project called Atlas, that's attempting to literally measure the effecitveness of the Internet's infrastructure. We're building tools to help the people that build networks actually build networks better and it's pretty exciting stuff. At the moment, I'm working to try to make the site more user-friendly and make the data accessible, so keep an eye on the site for changes if this is the sort of thing that turns your crank.
I think it's also worth noting here that this is the first time I've worked for a company that isn't a purely profit-driven organisation, and it feels really good. Non-profit work is different though, and I'm finding the internal politics often difficult to deal with. Compared to my previous work though: financial investment, advertising, porn, gambling, and spam, at least this is a product I'm happy to produce for the world.
I also gave my first official developers talk on How Not to Code, at the Utrecht Designers and Developers Meetup. As a first experience in this sort of thing, it was pretty awesome, and I've been thinking about maintaining a site (or just section of this site?) with a list of do's & don't's in this vein. At the very least it might help as therapy :-)
One last note on the "professional" front. I've been feeling very out of the loop wrt politics since I left Canada. It's hard to get involved in the politics of a country where you (a) don't speak the language, and (b) don't really care about most of the issues the locals face since you're not a permanent resident yourself. I tried joining the Dutch Pirates, but found the language barrier to be too much, and I've shown up to a few Amnesty International socials, but nothing has really "stuck" yet. I'm not sure where I need to go on this.
The big deal in my personal life this past year has been Christina. We got back together in January, and she has put up with me for an entire year, even after I dragged her to Iceland to trapse through the cold and dark. She has been so supportive and patient with me, as I try to manage my emotional handicap, ours has evolved into an actual adult relationship. It's not perfect, these things never are, but for the first time things actually feel "solid" in my life.
Another big part of that "solid"-ness is the fact that I started therapy this year. It started back in October and it's been really good for my own sense of self-understanding. Some days we just talk about the things that are making me crazy right now, and other days we go backward to figure out how who I was then affects who I am now.
To my friends who have been suggesting I go for years, thank you, it helped. To those who pushed for it: that didn't help so much. And to those who think that it might be right for you, I can't recommend it enough. You've got nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain.
2012 was also a big year for the Quinn family because we grew for the first time in a long while. My family (and extended family for that matter) has always been small, so when Violet was born, it was kind of a big deal for everyone. I managed to fly home to see her for Christmas which was pretty great, and one day I hope she'll be able to do the same for me, maybe come hang out at Uncle Dan's place for a week in Toronto, Zurich, or London... Time will tell.
And that was 2012. I got my head shunk, managed to keep a girl, and travelled all over the place (again). Also, the world didn't end, so that's pretty awesome. In the coming year, I hope to finally rebuild this site (it's been like this a long time and it's due), so keep checking back over the next month or so and you'll see.
I'd like you to imagine a centuries-long war. For the sake of this exercise, let us assume that we're talking about a Red team and a Blue team. In this world, the Blue team is dominating the Red in terms of battles won. The devotees of the Red team are both patient and determined though, and thus, over the most recent decades, we've finally begun to see the tide move in their favour, albeit very slowly.
But contrary to what you might think, the Blue team is not the men of this world, and the Red team is not the women. In fact, the Blue team is composed of the patriarchy, and those who passively participate in it, and the Red team is the handful of people fighting against it. Most importantly: there are men and women on both sides of this war.
Now since I was raised by feminists, I have, for most of my adult life been on the Red Team. I don't pretend to be an authority on gender issues, but I can assert that I am unequivocally on the side of smashing any system that treats men like violent, abusive savages, and women like property.
Now I'd like you to imagine what it must be like to be on the front lines of a war and have your allies constantly shooting you in the back. Men, regardless of their support or opposition to the patriarchy, are constantly attacked for being men, lumped in with the rapists, harassers, and other violent offenders, and I'm done with it. I don't need to take this from people claiming to oppose patriarchy -- especially when their behaviour outright supports it by painting us with the same violent, depraved brush properly reserved for rapists and other savages.
Men are not the enemy. The patriarchy is the enemy and men and women have to stand against it together. Because just as they're hurting women by stating that they are made to be raped, they're are hurting men by claiming they were made to rape. And if you believe that men are indeed made to rape, then you are the patriarchy and therefore part of the problem.
Why You Should Care
Wars are won and lost through the selection of proper allies, and given the state of the fight against the patriarchy, we need all the allies we can get. It's no longer acceptable to make your point at the expense of 50% of the world's population. All you're doing is alienating would-be allies and supporting raging assholes like this guy.
This problem isn't going to be solved by all the women of the world getting together and attacking the men collectively. We're going to solve it by working together to make the world better for everyone. That means coming around to the idea that men don't rape, but rather, rapists rape.
It seems an almost insignificant nitpick though doesn't it? I mean, if most of the violence against women is in fact perpetrated by men, then why not just use "men" for the shorthand?
The problem with this line of thinking is the generalisation. Lets turn the genders around: if someone uses sex to their advantage, be it to get out of a parking ticket or to get a promotion, it's typically a woman doing it. Is it fair then to say that women manipulate men with sex? Of course not. In fact, I'm willing to bet that just suggesting this comparison got my female readers pretty riled up.
You simply can't attack an entire demographic and not expect some blow back. Use your words: rapists rape, and cat-callers harass. Yes, the perpretrators of these crimes are almost entirely male, but that's no excuse for your laziness to be used to attack good people.
I'm done being a punching bag for those too lazy to aim at the enemy more carefully. If you're going to make statements painting men as the enemy, don't expect me to let it slide. I'm a feminist, and I oppose the patriarchy. I am also a man, and I won't put up with this anymore.
I never knew Aaron Swartz. We'd never met in person, or even traded emails. In fact, I didn't even know his name until I read about his death today on Reddit.
You know that site that pushes billions of pages per month out to the entire world? The one that lead the charge in the fight against SOPA, and other toxic legislation like it? Yeah Reddit. He co-founded it.
But Reddit wasn't the end, it wasn't even the beginning. His first world-changing achievement came when he was only 14 years old and helped write the spec for RSS 1.0 -- You know how you can keep tabs on dozens of news sites and blogs with Google Reader? Aaron Swartz did that. RSS was an enabling technology that helped build the collaborative web we know today.
He co-authored Markdown, a markup engine that, among other things, powers this site and millions of others, and he developed web.py a Python-based web framework whose code has made its way into projects everywhere... including many of the ones I've developed.
He also founded Demand Progress an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of civil rights, civil liberties, and government reform, and staged an act of epic civil disobedience in his uh, liberation of gigabytes of data locked up by academia. All of this before he was 26.
And that's all we'll ever see from him now, because on January 11th, he hanged himself.
Now I don't want to comment on his suicide or the tragedy of it all. That's between him and whatever gods he worshiped. But I do want to suggest that we all think about this for a second: In the span of 12 years, Aaron contributed more to the betterment of the world than most people do in a lifetime. He built useful tools that made communication easier, and fought the Good fight, enlisting literally millions of people to join him. It's his work that we all stand on when we attempt to do things both great and simple. What have the rest of us done in the last 12 years? The last 24?
Reading about Aaron today hit me harder than I thought something like this would. It's made me think back to the conscious decision I made a few years ago about being more selfish... at least for a while. I opted to do the things I wanted to do, rather than the things I felt needed doing, and honestly, the time between that decision and today has evaporated from my memory. It's the selfish days that blur together, while the hours of conflict and doing right are burned into you. I need to do better, be better.
Aaron was just a kid, and yet he managed so much. His life, while short, should be a lesson to all of us regarding our vast potential.
In an effort to meet new people and make some friends here in the Netherlands, I joined a Meetup group a few months ago. This group is pretty simple: we meet once per month, and each time one of us brings a quiz to help grease the wheels of communication. It's fun, and the people are pretty awesome.
Anyway last month was my turn to come up with a quiz, and with Christina's help to write it, and Melanie vetting it, I put together a big one. Everyone had a good time, and I thought it might be nice to post here for others to play with.
Click here to try it out.
Last night (well, "night" for me at least), my niece, Violet Aurora Quinn was born. I don't have any pictures yet, but you can bet that there will be some soon. I just wanted to post about it here, and congratulate my brother and sister-in-law publicly.
As I understand it, this is the easy part kids. Now comes the sleep depravation, the screaming, the chewing, the oozing... I wish you luck, and I know you're up for it.
And to Violet, if this post survives to a day where you might be able to read it. Know that while I haven't met you yet, and wasn't there when you were born (I did try, but you were impatient), I already love you.
This is one I've been wanting to write for a long time now. So, as part of my series on what it's like to live, work, and socialise here in the Netherlands, I thought I'd tackle one of my most grating subjects so far: stinky people.
Now let me be clear on this: Dutch people, on a personal level, are no more or less stinky than people from anywhere else. However, I have come to understand that in this country, for some people personal odour is just somehow not a priority. More importantly, and the reason why this observation is worthy of note, there appear to be more people here oblivious to their BO than anywhere else I've been.
Lets frame this up for you. You've spent the past week or so packing up your apartment in preparation to move all of your worldly possessions to another home some distance away. For the actual moving job, you've hired a few strapping young men to come to your house and do the heavy lifting. The men in question do a fine job of lifting and hauling for a few hours and when it's all over the driver comes over to you to have you sign a few papers and you get a whiff of a cloud of overpowering man stink. You're stunned for a second, and then you accept it as part of the business of lifting heavy objects for a living. You sign the papers, say thank you, and open a window for a bit when they leave.
Now imagine walking into a cloud like that on a near-daily basis. Most people you meet enter and leave your life without notice, but about once per day, you're kicked in the face by someone's armpit stink. Strangely enough, this has never happened to me on public transit, but rather it's people who sit next to you at the theatre, or stand in line with you at the grocery store. Often these are the same people who are covered in dandruff, and are wearing pants that clearly don't fit, and they have so far, without exception always appeared to be Dutch nationals who work office jobs for a living. These people spend their day lifting pens and paper, not couches or soil.
Now I don't pretend to understand it, and like I said, the vast majority of people I've met here have been non-stinky, but my experience (and those of others I've talked to) has been consistent: the ratio of stinky-to-not-stinky people in this country is markedly higher than in other cities I've lived in and visited. Admittedly, the deoderant here is pretty terrible, but that can't explain everything.