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January 08, 2017 17:19 +0000  |  Employment Family Greece Holy Places Homelessness Moving Programming Racism Spain The United States Travel United Kingdom 0

This was a big year, bigger than I had remembered when I sat down to write this thing. Somehow, I'd forgotten about half of this stuff, and rolled the other half into 2015 in my head. But 2016 wasn't all terrible. Here are the highlights:

Personal

2016 was a big deal on the where-to-live front. I finally got my wish and we moved away from the Netherlands and into a real city: London: The Centre of the World.

It turns out however that London is a rat infested toilet drowning in social inequality in a country rife with xenophobia, nationalism, and a dangerous mix of pride and ignorance.

Yes, you can quote me on that.

Our flat was a dark, damp, rat infested hellhole with a ground-floor view of a wall (the British love walls and fences almost as much as they love classism). The Tube is a remarkable feat of marketing that has managed to brand a hobbit tunnel of loud, stinky, smoggy, dampness as "modern" and "cultured". And absolutely everywhere you go, there are homeless people, stepped over and ignored: immediately by the public, and systemically by the government. They even have a quaint British term for them so it doesn't sound so tragic: rough sleepers.

London is amazing if you're a tourist, but once you live in its decaying buildings, commute on its antiquated transport, or are forced to breathe its toxic air for more than a few days, you recognise it for what it is: a terrible place to live.

...which is why we moved to Cambridge

The air is cleaner here, the roads more bike-friendly (though it has a long way to go before achieving Amsterdam-level cycling support) and nearly everything is walkable. It's a town more-or-less built for people, as opposed to London, which is built for plebs.

Our flat here is in a lovely modern building with proper ventilation and underfloor-heating. It's cool & quiet in the summer, warm & dry in the winter, and my commute is 30 minutes by bike along the river. Christina rides her bike through town in about 12 minutes.

Come visit us in Cambridge. You'll wonder what the hell everyone is doing in London.

Travel

As with every year I've lived in Europe, I did a reasonable amount of travelling this year, and once again, it feels as though I didn't travel enough.

Amsterdam

We may have left town, but Christina still had to return to defend her PhD in a process that's part ceremonial (you should see the Wizagamot-esque robes) and part academic (she literally had to defend her PhD against questions from academic rivals and friends). Unsurprisingly, she dominated the event, and walked out with a shiny new piece of paper attesting how brilliant she is.

Αθήνα & Μετέωρα

Right after Amsterdam, we hopped on a plane to Greece for Orthodox Easter where I once again ate far too much food and enjoyed the sunshine. This holiday included a road trip out to Μετέωρα where we did a little hiking and sightseeing around the monasteries in the area.

Copenhagen

The bi-annual RIPE Meeting was held in Copenhagen and as they had a hackathon for monitoring software, I signed up to play -- and my team won! Our project was called HALO, a heads-up display for your network, and the source code is here if you're curious.

Sesimbra

Christina's friend Ana got married in Sesimbra, Portugal this year and I'm so glad that I was able to attend. The wedding was lovely, and the country, beautiful. The food was good, the people friendly, and the view from our hotel room was awesome. Twitter has a few pictures.

Vancouver & Kelowna

The biggest news of the year is of course that my niece, Lucy was born! I was careful to time our trip home to coincide for her birth, but she had the indecency to be born a couple weeks premature, so when we finally showed up, we got to visit her in the hospital.

The trip home was also an opportunity to introduce Christina to Vancouver in the summer time. We also had an engagement party there so my family that can't make the trip to Greece would have an opportunity to spend some time with Christina. There's a great big blog post about it if you're curious.

Brussels

I was in Brussels twice in 2016. Once for my annual trip to FOSDEM, and later for Freedom not Fear, a series of meetings & workshops around freedom, surveillance, and politics in the EU. The former was great (it always is), and the latter, combined with my experience at Mozfest this year has given me some serious insight into the nature of EU politics. I want to do a separate post about that later though.

Madrid

There was another RIPE Meeting in 2016, and I showed up for that hackathon too. We didn't win though -- I think -- I had to leave before the announcements, but I don't think we did. The project was called "Pinder" or, Tinder for peering and the presentation is here, the code here, and an explanation over at peer.sexy.

Αθήνα, Again

One last trip back to Greece this year to make up for all the time Christina lost while working on her PhD. This was primarily a Christmas trip, so it was all just meeting with family, eating far too much, and exchanging presents. I also used some of the down time to work on my own family project that I mentioned in a previous post: my grandpa's video archive. There are some photos here if you're curious.

Professional

This was a big year for me professionally. I started contracting, started working for government, and took on a lead role at another company. I also almost got a job I desperately wanted, so I'm including that here too.

UKTI

The move to the UK started with my first (and likely last) government job ever. This was big money and a big title combined with everything you've heard about government work and more. I have never been more angry and frustrated on the job than I was there, but I probably would have stuck it out were it not for the fact that they were selling weapons to people what shouldn't have them.

Gynii-Me

In parallel to my work at UKTI, I started helping out a brand-new start up with occasional technical advice in what their options were for building a women's fertility web platform. I don't get paid, but I do help out where I can, vetting agency proposals and explaining complex technical topics to the company CEO. It's a fun side gig, and they're good people so I'm happy to help where I can.

Cyan

I moved from UKTI to a company called Cyan/Connode who were super-convenient, as they had a London and Cambridge office and we were moving up there in a few months. I helped them out on the technical front, and helped management understand a little about why they were having retention problems, but was terribly unhappy, so I got out of there after a few months.

Mozilla

In my quest to get out of Cyan, I applied to Mozilla for what would have been a pretty amazing position: engineer on the incredibly popular Mozilla Developer Network. Unfortunately, while I made it to the very last round, I didn't get the job, which sucked, but it was an honour to make it that far anyway.

Money Mover

I ended up moving on to a fintech company that has an office just outside of Cambridge and wonderful staff of truly friendly and engaged people. Seriously, best work environment ever. It's a small team right now, but we'll be growing in 2017. My role is Lead Developer which is pretty fabulous, and my current Big Job is picking up the code left from an agency that did the bulk of the work for the company over the last few years and making it ours. Having worked at a few agencies in the past, I suppose I deserve this :-/

Projects

Like every year, I overextended myself on New Projects as well as building on the old.

Paperless

Early in the year, I suddenly lost interest in my super-popular project, Paperless when I discovered that there was an eerily-similar project out there doing things better than I had. I didn't really do much more than field pull requests for much of the year, but toward the end, there seems to be a lot more interest all of a sudden, and I've started doing a little more work on it.

There seems to be a "market" for a project like Paperless which is much less complicated and capable of running on lighter hardware.

Korra

Working for government introduced me to the clusterfuck that is "security" in large office environments. I wrote something fun & easy to self-host and it got a reasonable amount of attention on Reddit and at the London Django meetup.

Basically, Korra lets you share files easily, without special software, and securely so that you don't have to do insane things like email people's passports or private government documents around.

Spirithunter

When I started commuting longer distances (to Cambridge from London for while) I started back in on Spirithunter, trying out Django's new Channels support (OMG it's awesome). However, when my commute shrunk to a 30min bike ride, all of that development stopped. I might pick it up again when I'm bored one day, or if Mihnea decides he wants to hack on it with me.

Global

I know that this is a personal blog, so it seems kind of silly to reflect on global events here, but these things affect me, so I thought it relevant.

#Brexit

What a disaster. After living here only a year, I'm not surprised at all that this country voted to Leave the EU, but I'm still saddened by it. It will take generations for this country to recover from this mistake, and knowing what I now know about British culture, I'm sure they'll find a way to look back on all of this as some sort of Trial they all had to go through, that they survived because Britain Prevails or some doublespeaking-fluff like that.

I'm more concerned about the rise in hate-crime here though, and the remarkable tendency people here have to blame immigrants for everything wrong with the country -- especially when it's plainly obvious that the current government's malevolent domestic policy is really what's at fault.

Trump

I called it and now it's going to happen. As an outsider, I kind of want to sit down and watch everything burn with a bowl of popcorn; this is after all what the public voted for. He, along with the Republican House and Senate are going to hollow out the US and give people everything they asked for. I can only hope that they serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us.

Deaths

A lot of important people died this year: Bowie, Prince, and Castro to name a few. For me though, this will always be the year Leonard Cohen died. The world is diminished without him in it.

Of course Rob Ford and Antonin Scalia died this year too. I'm really not all that bothered by that. I suppose that's one of the greatest things about the Reaper: he doesn't care who you are. When it's your time, that's it.

Conclusion

So that was 2016. Hopefully at this time next year I'll be posting about how in 2017 I finally got Romanian citizenship, and how Christina and I finally have a date & location for our wedding.

I'd like to do some more travelling to undiscovered (by me) places this year. At the very least, I'd like to see more of Scotland and maybe even Romania and the Czech Republic. None of that is booked yet though.

Here's hoping fewer of our heroes than villains die in 2017.

March 05, 2010 01:45 +0000  |  Activism Homelessness Olympics Vancouver 0

Ask anyone in this town and most of them will tell you that the primary problems in Vancouver are homelessness, and the high cost of living. It's so bad that over the Olympics, the Pivot, an activist group based in the Lower East Side, held a sit-in protest in the form of a field of red tents surrounded by placards and signs with slogans like "homes not games" and "homes for everyone". (Flickr, Now Public) There were staged protests downtown and even a riot -- all for good reason: here in Vancouver, the disparity between the rich and poor is out of control.

So what do we do about this? Obviously the current tactics aren't working. The world came to Vancouver and no one cared to really do anything about our most desperate citizens. For the most part, that whole area was ignored and tourists were advised not to go there. What good is a protest if no one cares about what you're saying? A riot? That only fuels the opposition. No, what's needed is to move counter to the gentrifying forces in this city.

The problem is the location. Everyone in Vancouver knows that the poorest people live in the Lower East Side. We also know that that neighbourhood is something we want to avoid if we don't fancy the stench of human urine, or the sight of public drunkenness and dirty needles. The richest, most powerful people in Vancouver never go there. They don't even drive through Hastings if they can help it. What good is a protest if the only people who see it, are affected by it, are those who already support you? No, if you want action to be taken, you need to inconvenience people, you need to make people see what's going on and remind them that just because they've managed to ignore the problem, the problem hasn't solved itself.

The red tent protest was held near Abbot & Cordova in an empty lot opposite an Army & Navy frequented only by people who live in the neighbourhood. Given that fixing the homelessness problem will require action by a considerable number of people outside of this demographic, this is not a good choice for action. Instead, I think that the homeless population needs to get the held somewhere, anywhere that isn't the Lower East Side. Hold tent-city protests in David Lam Park (Yaletown has one of the highest per-capita incomes in Vancouver) or in any open (public) spaces south of 16th... you know, where all the rich folks who own most of this city live?

Sleeping in the street is an accepted norm at Hastings and Main, but about Granville and Broadway? Generally speaking, cities (especially Vancouver) like to corral their poorest citizens and then gradually push them from neighbourhood to neighbourhood through gentrification, never solving the problem. Therefore, the answer to newer, more expensive buildings moving into the Lower East Side shouldn't be to move East (as the powers that be are hoping), but instead to relocate to Kits and Point Grey so those responsible for the gentrification can experience the fruit of their labours.

The problem in Vancouver isn't homelessness and the high cost of living, it's not even that nobody cares about these issues, because thousands of people do. No, the problem in Vancouver is that the right people don't care about these issues because they don't have to. Fix that, and I'm sure something useful will be done.

March 27, 2008 03:21 +0000  |  Homelessness Moments In Time Vancouver 6

I met a friendly young woman today while waiting for the #4 bus at the corner of Gore and Pender. Standing there, music blasting in my ears, I could barely make out the voice of a girl behind me yelling "HELLO!", but once I realised what was going on, I tugged the buds out of my ears and put on my cordial face: "Hello".

"Those are some really trippy glasses" she said, moving in a little closer than I'd like.

I smiled, "Thanks, my Dad made them for me. He owns an optical store up in Kelowna."

"Really?" she gasped, "I grew up in Kelowna! Had a nice job there too, worked in the bush." She then went on to list the names of a number of suburbs, none of which I recognised and I just stared blankly back at her.

"Sorry," I said, "I just go up there every couple of months to see the parents. The town is too white bread for me to want to get to know it in such detail".

"That's funny! I grew up there and ate rye" she laughed. It took me a minute to get it, but while the smile was delayed, it seemed to be appreciated.

"It's welfare day!" she bubbled again. "But you're not on welfare are you?"

"No," I motioned behind her, "I work just over there."

"Really? What do you do?"

"I'm a software developer."

Now she was the one with the blank stare.

"I write code for websites" I said, making a typing motion with my fingers. "It's not that hard, anyone can do it. You should try."

She smiled uncomfortably, and went on to talk about how she wanted a laptop. We talked about my job a bit more, how easy it was to get wireless in this city etc. She seemed interested, and I was just waiting for the bus, so I just kept talking. At one point though she interjected:

"I do crystal meth!" She pointed to the building behind her. Apparently her friends were upstairs securing her some in celebration of her new found Wednesday wealth.

I grimaced, "Ew, that stuff'll kill you you know".

"Yeah, but just a little bit" her tone was no different from one anyone else might take when chatting about the weather.

"Well, I don't know, I kinda like my life" I said and she smiled, shrugged it off. Just then, a voice comes from the door and her friend hands over a little bag. She bounces over, picks up a little bag and returns to me: "Wanna see it?"

I agree, and she extends her hands toward me, but not letting go of the clear plastic. The crystals are a translucent yellow, As if someone had crystallised urine and sugar into 3mm cubes. "Humph, how much was that?" I ask.

"Twenty bucks" she smiles at me again. I search my head for a suggestion for something else she might have spent that money on, but my mind blanks and she turns to leave. "Goodbye stranger!" she squeals and she teeters down the street. She's in a great mood, and my bus is minutes away.

January 23, 2008 18:37 +0000  |  Homelessness Nifty Links 0

I know I haven't blogged publically for a while, so here's a couple things worth reading if you have some time:

In an effort to end the lies, NoMoreLOL.com has been created. Standing on the front lines between honest communication and disingenuous emoting, NoMoreLOL is fighting back with a new acronym: LOI. I think I'm gonna buy a tshirt.

On a more serious note however, knitnut has been nominated for best blog post in the Canadian Blog Awards. Frankly, I'd not heard of the site before the awards, but the post is both relevent and factual, covering something most people reading blogs really don't understand: homelessness.

March 31, 2007 16:48 +0000  |  Activism Homelessness 1

This was a bloody-brilliant idea and they're popping up all over the city.

If anyone has any ideas as to who's behind them, lemme know eh?

March 29, 2007 03:16 +0000  |  Homelessness Toronto 2

On our way out of Metro Hall tonight after a long TEV meeting, Melanie and I stopped in on a rather large town hall-style gathering in the rotunda. Apparently, the city wants to build a homeless shelter in the Entertainment District and they were getting an earfull from the residence and business owners of the area.

It was maddening to listen to these people try to mask their prejudices with claims of property value decreases and (a favourite) "hooliganism" from the homeless. Some people even tried to claim that there were no homeless there, and that this centre would "draw them in". I got so mad that I shouted out at one idiot: "Why don't we just put 'em all in a truck and ship them up to North Bay?", only to have one woman respond: "Why not?"

Seriously, these are the kinds of people who would prefer to build a wall and moat around their neighbourhoods if they could.

But despite all of the chaos and stupidity, Adam Vaughn was up there, fielding questions on top of accusations and slander... and he took it. Not only did he stand there and take it, but he responded with eloquence, civility and a solid understanding of the situation along with what needed to be done. He was amazing.

He may be a fan of CCTV, but even despite that, I'd still vote for him if I lived in his ward.