It's about time that I had an update on what was going on in my life, and now
that everything has more-or-less settled down, and I'm trapped on a train full
of drunken Brits, I might as well do my best to drown them out with some Daft
Punk and spend the time blogging.
The big news of course is that Christina and I finally managed to move in
together. We spent a great deal of time and deliberation finding just the right
place, but in the end we settled on a beautiful apartment on right on the Ij,
the river that flows past Amsterdam Centraal.
The commute for each of us is 15 minutes by bike and a little more than that
by tram. The area is beautiful and the building comes with access to an indoor
pool, gym, and sauna. Honestly, it's pretty awesome.
Adapting to living with Christina hasn't been as difficult as I'd expected.
Only once before have I attempted living with someone like this, and that didn't
work out all that well, but Christina and I seem to fit into each other's habits
rather nicely. The biggest bit of friction is that she's incessantly clean, and
I'm heavy on the wires & technology everywhere. We've managed to work around
this though by developing systems and assigning chores for upkeep. She's
teaching me to be more um... orderly, and I'm introducing her to the
awesomeness that is having a fully wired home.
Speaking of "fully wired", we're set to have optic fiber installed on
Tuesday by a company called XS4All. I can expect speeds nearing
in non-nerd terms means that while in Canada you could download a 2GB movie in
an hour or two, I'll be able to fetch the same file in a few minutes. So. Very.
Honestly, I'm pretty happy with all this. Being with Christina is easy.
While every relationship needs work and dedication, we seem to manage all of
that pretty well. Communication is the big win: we talk about everything.
In that same thread, therapy is going really well too. There of course was my
not-so-minor revelation a few weeks ago, but now we're working on
the cloudiness that I've been dealing with for years. I'm seeing her
less often though, as it doesn't feel like I need it as much anymore.
At work, things are a little stagnant, but the work is still reasonably
interesting. The problem with my current situation is that there's really no
way to advance into management without someone in management packing up and
leaving -- something that's not very common with an employer like this one. I
could look elsewhere, but as I'm otherwise happy with my work, and given that
I don't want to be in the Netherlands much after Christina's PhD is complete,
moving just isn't very convenient. On the upside though, I'm volunteering with
the company OR, so I'm learning about that process.
I'm also coming home for Christmas(ish). Christina and I will be in Vancouver
and Kelowna sometime soon (drop me an email for the details if you're curious
about the details).
The only negative so far has been my former landlord. He's been a total ass
when it comes to the checkout process and is withholding my damage deposit
claiming damage that clearly wasn't there. It's partially my fault for trusting
him not to be a dick, but honestly, are there any landlords out there that
aren't assholes?. I'll never trust one again, even if they seem to be decent
human beings because clearly they will all betray you given the opportunity.
So that's about it. Once the internet connection is installed, we'll be able to
have Skype on again, so if you want to say hello, just look for me there. Also,
if anyone reading this has a viable alternative to Skype in mind, I'm happy to
entertain it :-)
In Canada, we essentially have two systems that manage the relationship between
employer and employee: unionised and exploitative. Both of these options suck
and for different reasons.
Unions tend to foster a combative relationship with management and often
result in both sides making unreasonable demands of the other. Strikes and
lockouts are common, as are attempts to undermine the right of workers to
organise, union-busting, etc.
Non-unionised workplaces are all-too-often exploitative, using the threat of
being replaced to push employees into working additional hours for free,
taking pay-cuts, or even breaking the law. Conditions are often unsafe, and
the atmosphere filled with distrust and animosity.
In a lot of European countries however, a third-way has been adopted, so much
so that when I talk about the concept of labour unions with other Europeans,
many of them don't understand the purpose of such a system.
So, what the heck is an OR? It's the Dutch dutch incarnation of this third-way,
a staff-elected council that represents employees in dealings with management.
Far from being a token voice, their position has legal standing to the point
where many key decisions: office hours, pension, health insurance, require
approval from the OR.
The relationship between management and the OR is typically more amicable than
the one you usually see between a labour unions and management in large part
because the staff have more options available to them than work stoppage. The
council is kept small, and is composed of people from the company, rather than
an external body like a union. This means that the people you're arguing with
are the same people you might eat lunch with. The same goes for the people you
The meeting minutes are distributed to all staff by email, and elections are
held every few years. The number of members is dictated by the total number of
employees in the company, and anyone who has been with the company for six
months or more may stand for election.
OR's are legally required of any company that exceeds 80 employees.
I tell you first-hand that this is the way to manage the relationship between
employer and employee. It's not perfect, but I've never seen a more
functional relationship in an office environment... and that's after working
with ten companies over 14years in 4 different cities in 2 countries.
I haven't really be posting about this so I suppose it's about time for a
catch-up entry. Because I'm lazy, I'm going to handle this with a timeline in
- Christina and I met back in mid 2011 and started dating
- I ended it a few months in because I was stupid
- We stayed friends and did New Years together at the start of 2012
- Not long after that, we got back together and have been so ever since.
- We started talking seriously about moving in together a few months ago. It was a rational decision more than anything else: I was living in Bussum and she was in Amsterdam. Since I was now working in Amsterdam too, I was spending an awful lot of time in her tiny apartment and she rarely came to my place. Moving in together just made sense.
- We started looking for an apartment in and around Amsterdam with varied success. Some of the places we viewed included:
- A really nice building with a view of the train tracks and no floor.
- A canal house in a quiet neighbourhood with a great view, but small. So small that we worried if my bed would fit in the bedroom.
- A big, modern apartment right on a canal, with a shoddy (tenant-installed) floor and an entrance facing some pretty sketchy apartments.
- A big, modern apartment right on the Ij (the river on which Amsterdam Centraal sits). It also had no floor.
Before I continue, I want to get a couple tangents out of the way:
A Note About Floors
The Dutch have a very odd way of viewing apartment rentals. Here, an
"unfurnished" apartment essentially means four walls, a ceiling, and a concrete
slab of a floor. No light fixtures, often no wall sockets, and mostly no
flooring. Typically people move into a new place, then go to Ikea and buy new
flooring, then bring it all home and cut/install it themselves. Then, when
they leave, they take the floor with them.
So there's this whole sub market of people selling their floors from previous
apartments, or buying additional flooring to make up for the extra space they
have in their new apartment.
As an outsider experiencing this for the first time, let me tell you that it
really is as nutty as it sounds. And if you ask a local why they do this, the
response (if they defend it, which not all of them do) is: "Well what if you
don't like the floor?"
A Note About "Agents"
The Netherlands, like many European countries employs a vampiric system of
rental real estate agents whose job it is to promote and show the apartments
to prospective tenants. Typically this means posting an add on a few websites
and then fielding calls and occasionally meeting people during working hours
at the suite to show it.
The fee for this "service" is usually a one-time fee of one month's rent on
top of whatever you pay the landlord. I am positively amazed that such a
system continues to exist in a free market economy.
So, back to the story. We ended up opting for the apartment on the Ij. The
process of taking possession has been long and complicated, full of forms
emailed, printed, signed, scanned, emailed, printed, signed, and scanned again
only to email to the agent, but we now have keys. The people from
XS4All will be coming by in a few days to install our new
super-awesome optic fiber internet connection (100Mb/s baby!) and our stuff
will be moved in on Saturday.
It's really all quite exciting. I'm moving in with my girlfriend. It's a
little scary, but honestly this just feels right. We mix very well,
communication is great, and we're happy together. I'll be posting the before,
during, and after shots on this site over the next few months.
It's a strange thing to be a progressive. Whilst the conservative-minded are
working to retain the Old Ways, we progressives have to fight centuries of
history and tradition to introduce changes we know to be better for us in the
long run. This kind of effort tends to beget strong opponents, and at times
even fierce enemies, the kind of people who work bitterly to block your efforts,
making this whole process all the more difficult to maintain.
In the activist world, we call it "burnout" or just "fatigue", but the result
is always the same: good people with good ideas about how to make the world
better are beaten down by "haters" (for lack of a better term), and eventually
give up and join the apathetic masses we progressives work daily to bring over
to our side.
The worst part of this, the really damning part, is that the people that bite,
and claw, and vehemently oppose many of these progressive voices are
progressives themselves, and it's time we recognise this and take a step back
to ask if we're really accomplishing what we've set out to do, or if we're
actually part of the problem.
You've probably seen this before: the executive who chooses a hybrid over a
hummer is criticised for being not a real environmentalist because she drives
at all. The people who commute by bike are criticised because their bike parts
aren't fair trade, and the fair-trade, off-grid super-hippie types are
criticised for eating meat. Nothing is good enough for us. Everyone is, at
best, a failure, at worst, a hypocrite, and this is kind of crab-barrel thinking
is knee-capping all of our efforts for a better future.
Nowhere is this sort of piety contest more prominent than in the feminist
blogosphere (yes, I just used that word unironically). Political positions are
taken in areas like motherhood, pornography, or prostitution, and people are
regularly ostracised from "the community" for holding dissenting views.
When you start considering privilege, things get even more absurd. Honest
conversations about white/cis-gendered/cis-sexual/male/whatever privilege are
all too often highjacked by people clamouring to be better than other
participants. Attacks resembling "you don't understand because you aren't X"
are far too common and undermine the whole purpose of the conversation.
This all became painfully apparent this past week with the very public mental
breakdown of Hugo Schwyzer on
Twitter. Here we had a prominent male
feminist, one of the rare few in the world flipping out because he is quite
literally mentally ill, and he was met with enthusiastic condemnation and calls
for his suicide.
This post is not a defence of Hugo Schwyzer. I think it's safe to say that he
has some serious mental problems that have both driven his career and directed
some deplorable acts. This post is about our goals as a progressive majority,
and how they're consistently thwarted by should-be allies.
Schwyzer is far from a model citizen, but his goals were (mostly) the same as
you and me: a more equal and just society. Many of his detractors though would
make completely unjustified statements about his writing because they saw what
they wanted to read in his articles. Posts about the complex process of
re-cast as "capitalising on sexually assaulting one of his partners by writing
articles about her blaming her for not saying no to him enough", and another one
about cross-cultural biases around feminism
was actually "insulting and mocking his own POC [people of colour] students".
Try reading those articles without first considering the author (if that's even
possible). You may find that your opinion of the piece will change when you
take off the hate goggles and just accept that much of what he says is worthy
This kind of thing is poison to any attempt at progress, and at the root of much
of it is pure unadulterated ego. Just watching the
about her hashtag
will tell you everything you need to know about how toxic this environment is.
The self-important aggrandising, the she-said-she-said of it all, it's
really all just petty infighting. Couple this with the remarkable
assumption that what this one person, a blogger syndicated on a few other
blogs is so important as to warrant
for directing her army of followers to berate someone having a mental breakdown,
and you have the orgy of ego and mob mentality that is the blogosphere.
This is more than just unhelpful, it's approaching a level of public
masturbation that's downright creepy. If we have any interest in actually
making progress in the areas we all claim to care about, we need to take a
moment to pause, reflect, and perhaps check our egos and possibly step away from
the keyboard for a while.
And no, comments won't be enabled on this post. I've no interest in
wading into this mess. I just felt like I needed to say my piece.
So I've been pretty sick lately. For those interested, I'll do a quick run down
of the symptoms:
- Constant fatigue
- Stiff neck
- Fainting (just once, but it was scary)
After the fainting episode, (long story, no I don't want to talk about it) I
went to the Expat Medical Centre to have a pro check me
out. The problem is that those symptoms match a lot of things, both scary and
benign. The doc figured I had
which is a scary-sounding acronym meaning my ears are out of whack and I need to
do some special exercises to make them work properly again. I did said
exercises and some of the dizziness/virtigo went away, but not all of it. The
other stuff is still around.
So, back to the doc. This time they took lots of blood and tested for a bunch
of stuff. In order of scariness:
- Sugar levels (Diabetes)
- Hemoglobin (low oxygenation)
- A thyroid condition
They also did an ECG just
to be sure my heart isn't broken somewhere. I was told to wait about a week for
all of the results to come in, and today they called, asking me to come in and
talk to the doctor. In the past, they'd always just told me that my results
came back fine, so this was kinda scary, hence my somewhat ominus tweet.
But, after freaking out over this for a few hours, I went into the office and
the doc tells me that everything came back fine... except for the mono test.
For that, the results said that I had had mono in the past, which is weird
because I've never felt like this before. The doc ordered another quick test,
this one to confirm if I do in fact have it at present, so we can rule it out or
"But Dan", you might say, "how the hell could you contract mono when you don't
cheat on your girlfriend and you don't share drinks?" Well I asked the doc the
same thing, and she said that in the Netherlands, people don't wash glasses
properly in the bars. Instead of using soap and hot water, they use a tiny
brush and cold water, for about 2 seconds on all glasses. Frankly it's disgusting. The
thinking is that if I do in fact have mono (and we don't know for sure yet),
it's likely that I got it from this nasty process, or via Christina when she
shared a drink with someone. Apparently it's common for people to get it and
not show symptoms.
There's also one thing that I keep forgetting to ask the doc to test for: West
Nile Virus/Fever. Apparently there was an outbreak in parts of Greece a few
years ago, and contrary to popular belief it's not always fatal. There are in
fact a number of subsets that just make you feel terrible. If this mono thing
doesn't pan out, I'll have to remember to ask them about that.
So, for those of you who asked, thank you for your concern, but it looks like
whatever I have isn't going to kill me.
I'll post here when I know more.
The colour is relevant you see. This is how Mac people tell their hardware apart. "Not the grey one that came out in 2010, but the silver one that was released in 2011"... or whatever.
For the sake of those who might search for something like this post, the specs of this particular MacBook are:
Serial No: W872632DYA8
EMC No: 2139
I recently acquired an older MacBook as part of an experiment and learning experience. Either that or an attempt at self-flogging. You see, I'm forced to use a Mac at work (though thankfully they let me use Linux on it), but my understanding of how to get Linux installed and working on a Mac is still pretty limited, so I picked up one of these to try to turn it into a simple file server. This post is the result of that torturous process experiment.
So here's the deal: the firmware on the white MacBooks is broken, placing it in a unique and problematic position:
Older CDs that do not support EFI
These will boot on the Macbook, but won't be able to install an EFI-aware bootloader so when you're all finished you end up with a blinking folder with a question mark on it (see image)
Newer CDs that support EFI
These will hang with the super-awesome-and-totally-useless prompt:
Select CD-ROM Boot Type:
Searching for this returns all manner of panicked mac users and clueless Windows users trying to figure out what they did wrong and very little helpful information regarding why an ISO that boots just fine on normal computers will just flake out like this on a mac.
Bootable USB sticks
These just won't boot at all.
A lot of the how-tos out there point you to rEFIt, which is now defunct, replaced by rEFInd. Both of these projects aim to allow for dual-booting, which I didn't care about, and neither solves the problem above. All you get is a a dual-boot environment with one of those environments refusing to boot.
It turns out though that if you spend enough days, and enough distributions (I started with Gentoo, then Fedora, then Gentoo again, back to Fedora), you will eventually stumble upon what you need. In my case it was the 22nd comment in a bug report to the Fedora mailing list. It explained that the Macbook firmware was broken, and the only work around is to rebuild the install cd without EFI support, which would force the MacBook to revert to BIOS mode, boot the disc, and from there do what you need to install an EFI-friendly bootloader.
In other words, the MacBook was broken, but Apple didn't care because their software works just fine on broken firmware. If you want to use it anyway, you have to break your software to play along.
That's roughly 7days of pain I've saved you. You're welcome.
The actual solution
So enough with the griping. Here's what I had to do to make this work:
# Download a Fedora ISO and mount it (as root) to somewhere convenient
mount -o loop Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1.iso /mnt/floppy
# Create a temporary place to copy the disk data
cp -a /mnt/floppy/* /tmp/image
# Create a new ISO, stripping out all of the stuff that confuses the MacBook
mkisofs -r -b isolinux/isolinux.bin -c isolinux/boot.cat -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -v Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1 -o /tmp/fedora.img /tmp/image/
# Burn that baby to a new disc
You may still run into problem where the boot process complains about not being able to find the disk labelled "Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1" or whatever you've downloaded. If this happens, you'll be dumped into an emergency shell where you can find out what the CD is calling itself these days:
# ls -l /dev/disk/by-label/
You should see the name of your CD in there, take note of it, reboot, and at the very first screen where it asks you if you'd like to install Fedora, hit
tab to edit the options, and change the relevent portion of the command to use the appropriate disk name.
And that's it. I now have Fedora running on my MacBook, which isn't ideal, since I would have preferred Gentoo, but since this is already 7days of my life I won't get back, I'm going to stop here and be happy.
The Centre for Science and Culture
Warsaw's Old City
Kraków's St. Mary's Cathedral
Kraków's Old Market
Shoes belonging to the victims of Auschwitz
I went on two rather big trips over the past few months, and with the exception of my recounting of Auschwitz, I haven't written about either yet. I'll start with Poland, and if I have time tonight or tomorrow, I'll try to fit Greece in here too.
For 2013, DjangoCon was held in Warsaw, Poland, and for the first time in my life, I was working for company willing to fund the trip. I bookended the conference with a few vacation days, and squeaked out a little over a week of time to explore the most Eastern place in Europe I've been able to see so far.
To say Warsaw is beautiful would be a little too generous, but it's not nearly as ugly as I had expected. World War II saw nearly 85% of the city demolished, and then the Soviets took over, littering the landscape with those 60s/70s era square, concrete monstrosities. Like most things communist, the architecture is efficient, and ugly as hell. Despite this though, Warsaw has managed to renew itself in this post-communist era. Big people-friendly parks with fountains dot the landscape, surrounding the historical landmarks around the city. There's an epic building at the centre of everything called "The Centre for Science and Culture" -- a gift from the Soviets to the people of Warsaw. It's an interesting to comprehend the communist view of society: what was exalted, what was suppressed.
The suburbs of Warsaw are pretty depressing. The Soviet architecture is unrelenting, and unlike the core, there hasn't been a lot of money invested here. Wide roads with no sidewalks frame collections of square concrete towers entrenched in overgrown and unmanicured grass. Sidewalks, where they exist are cracked and unmaintained, and graffiti is everywhere. Still, while I don't paint a very pretty picture, the area I was in felt quite safe: playgrounds and families with children, people walking their dogs or just sitting enjoying the sound of kids playing. While it's immediately apparent that there isn't much money here, the people seem content, even happy.
Polish is a rough language. I know I've bitched about Greek here, but let me tell you Polish is no picnic either. I managed to learn how to pronounce key words like "please", "thank you", "yes" and "no", but outside of that, I found it really difficult even to get the sound of the words to process in my brain. Thankfully, I had my phone doing a lot of the heavy lifting, using Google Translate like a boss everywhere I go. I even had it talk for me in a few tight situations. For the most part the older generation speaks no English at all, while the younger crowd, like people their age all over the world, is working hard at learning. Hollywood movies are subtitled and not dubbed as they are in Germany, which apparently helps out a lot. Still, if you're a unilingual anglophone like myself, having a semi-universal translator in your pocket is a really good idea if you're visiting here.
When the war ended and the Soviets occupied Poland, they offered to rebuild Warsaw's Old City but did so with a catch: they would rebuild the entire town, but not the Royal Castle. Not stupid, the Varsovians took the Soviets up on their offer, but rebuilt the castle after they were driven from Poland decades later. This Soviet policy of dismantling the monarchy in the hearts of minds of the Poles extended well beyond this offer, occupied Warsaw saw the Soviets deface national monuments everywhere, burning the crowns off of the Polish coat of Arms everywhere they could find it. Much like the castle, the crowns were re-attached after the Soviets left.
The monarchy wasn't the only thing the Soviets wanted to destroy and religion was high on their list, but even they weren't crazy enough to try to outlaw the church in Poland. Catholicism was, and still is, very strong in Poland, bolstered considerably by the actions of John Paul II, a Pole himself who is credited (at least in part) with the defeat of communism. There are still churches all over Warsaw and Kraków, and many of them display his likeness on the outside in paintings and sculpture.
One last note on the culture: from what I could tell, "socialism" here is an even dirtier word than it is in the US. The cab driver who took me home one night kept asking me questions about Canada (his English was pretty good) and toward the end he said something to the effect of "it must be nice to have such strong capitalism there". I tried to explain that many of us aspire to a more socialist state, but he seemed to think I was pulling his leg or something. It would seem that Poland's experience with communism has tainted the whole concept for a few generations.
Poland is one of the poorer European nations, still recovering from decades of occupation and neglect. The currency there is called the złoty (pronounced zlottee) and you can buy one for about $0.33CAD or €0.23. In real world terms, this means that a Twix chocolate bar will run you about $0.40CAD or €0.30. So long as you stay out of the tourist-targetted places (read: Hard Rock Café), you can easily get by on about €10/day.
My hostel was in the suburbs, one of those aforementioned concrete monstrosities that had been gutted and heavily renovated on the inside. My private room had a big comfortable bed, free wifi, a private bathroom and it was super-clean. I stayed there for 10days for about 1200zł or €278. This was so affordable that I just abandoned my hostel for one night and left for Kraków by high speed train (60zł) where I splurged on a 4star hotel for 232zł so I could visit Auschwitz. Honestly, if you're looking for a low-cost holiday in a country where the food is decent, and the history fascinating, Poland is the place.
Apparently, Poland is the land of pierogis, so I sampled a bunch while I was in Warsaw. Honestly, I don't see the appeal, but they weren't terrible. I'd like to experiment with making them on my own sometime though. They're pretty simple, and might be more to my liking with some bacon and feta...
They also have this ridiculous ice cream (not my photo) there that, while saturated in sugar is really fun to eat. The soups all have a flavour similar to other Eastern European styles, and the diet in general is very "meat and potatoes" friendly. Generally, my stomach had a good time in Poland.
Poland is pretty awesome. It's the birthplace of both Marie Curie and Copernicus, the seat of Auschwitz and and archive of 20th century cold war history. If you've got t the opportunity, I recommend a visit.
Photos from the trip can be found in my image gallery
This is what happens when you date a Greek girl: she takes you to Greece and she tries to help you learn Greek.
On the face of it, it sounds exciting and as simple as any other language. I picked up the basics of the Korean alphabet years ago, how tough could the Greek one possibly be? If I only knew.
The first thing you learn about the Greek alphabet is the profound overlap it has with our own Latin character set. The second thing you learn is that it's all lies and betrayal.
Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω
α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω
There's also ς, but we're not going there today.
As in tree
That's the Greek alphabet in its own order. You know the whole biblical thing of "I am the alpha and the omega"? This is where that comes from. Now, where were we? Oh yes, the betrayal and lies in the Greek alphabet. First you should note that the whole list is actually longer than it has to be. The letters ι, η, and υ are all the same sound: ee as in tree. There's also two vowel combinations that make the same sound: ει and οι. This makes it easy to guess what sound a character makes, but it's all the more frustrating when you guess wrong.
I thought I was going to end up with Bait but...
So we've covered the ee thing, now the really terrible part: the bait and switch. You may have noticed that there are a number of familiar characters in the alphabet, but that they don't seem to line up with their appropriate pair. For example, ν is not a lower-case V, but rather a lower-case Ν, which sounds like "N" as in "November". The η on the other hand sounds nothing like November but rather ee as in tree. Its upper-case? It's an Η. Ρ and ρ look an awful lot like our "P" and "p", but they are in fact prounced like an "R" rolled, like roll up the rim to win. The μ sounds like an m as in Mike, which is obvious to an English speaker from it's upper-case, but not so much from the lower, and then there's γ, which doesn't sound like a y at all, but is more of a gutteral thing, like loch in the Loch Ness Monster. The upper-case for γ is Γ, so at least there's no confusion there, save for the fact that the upper-case υ looks like Υ and is called an "Ipsilon" (Yψιλον), while the character you might think is called that, ι/Ι is called "Iota" (ιοτα), pronounced yota. It's also easy to confuse Γ/γ with Χ/χ, as they sound really similar. Honestly, I can only tell the difference when I hear them side by side. Lastly, there's two "o" sounds: Ο/ο and Ω/ω. A lowercase Omega (Ωμεγα) looks like a w though, so sometimes it's tricky.
There's also a couple brand new freaks in there: Φ/φ, and Ψ/ψ which I won't go into. Just trust me, it's scary.
It's not so bad
The truth is, Greek is actually kinda fun to learn, but oh boy is it hard on my brain. Christina has me reading this book written by this guy who fancies himself a comedian. He isn't funny at all, but his take on the language is much like my own, and you get the sense that he understands your frustration. At the moment I'm at about a four-year-old reading level. That is to say: I can sound out words very slowly but have no idea what they mean unless Christina helps me. The speed at which I'm able to comprehend a word or sentence makes it hard to read signs on the road as we drive by too. I get to the third character and the sign is already behind us.
I'm getting better though, and I'm sure Christina will keep working on me to get it all right.
It's one of the odd perks of living in a tourist destination. It's easy to be reminded that you live in an amazing place.
Every day I wake up and take the train into Amsterdam. I deboard at Amsterdam Centraal, a beautifully restored train station that's attempting to combine the nostalgia of the old with the function of the new. I hurry past the hordes of tourists and commuters to get to the office on time, and without fail, every morning, I blow past someone trying to take a photo of something: the station, the old exchange, Dam Square, a canal.
It's taken me this long to accept it: I live in a place steeped in history and beauty. This evening I strolled through Dam Square and happened upon a memorial for the massacre of 23-33 civilians two days after the armistace of WW2. Upon hearing of the Canadian advance and the inevitable liberation of the Netherlands, the people poured out into the square to celebrate -- they were gunned down by drunken German soldiers. Today street performers pose with tourists there, while the rest of us wander about eating poffertjes and buying clothes. The Vondelpark is the kind of place that would make Jane Jacobs proud, filled with benches and bike paths, gazebos and concert spaces. There's even a family of parrots, escaped from the zoo, that've taken up reisdence there.
I live here.
The Netherlands is centuries old, and with that age come its fair share of scars and beauty. I feel as though I'm just coming around to this realisation and it's had an honest effect on me.
To whomever is reading this, might I suggest the following: get up from whatever it is you're doing and go for a walk. Get to know the place you call home. Look up and take in the skyline, walk down the alleys and imagine what may have transpired there over the history of your city. We oftimes forget where we live, too easily falling into familiar patterns, but if you take a moment to look around, I promise you won't regret it.
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.