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October 15, 2016 16:08 +0000  |  Cycling London Moving United Kingdom 1

We've managed to get out of London and move up to Cambridge, and it is so much nicer here. Cambridge is almost everything London isn't: clean, quiet, bike-friendly, and accessible. Where in London it will take 40min to 2 hours on the dark, disgusting Tube to get anywhere and do anything, in Cambridge you just hop on your bike and you're anywhere in town in less than 20min. There are garden festivals in the big open parks that double as cow pastures, and the air is clean. London's air quality is a toxic mess and a constant reminder of how much (nearly) everyone living there hates it.

Where our London flat was a dark, damp, rat-infested ground-floor shithole, our Cambridge home is a big, beautiful two bedroom flat in a modern building with secure bike parking. The rooms are wired for ethernet and the wifi is crazy-fast, the rooms are warm and the showers (yes, that's showers plural) are spacious and just wonderful.

OMG I don't think I can convey how much better life in Cambridge is when compared to London.

Christina has settled into her job as lecturer at the university and despite her fears, I think she's getting the hang of it. Fresh out of her PhD, she's now a lecturer at one of the most prestigious universities on the planet. I'm really proud of her.

In terms of my career, things have been a little more bumpy. I didn't want to renew my contract working for the British Government, so I moved to a company that had a London & Cambridge office hoping to take some of the pain out of the move. Then the job at Mozilla came up, and I almost got it, and now I've decided to give up on contracting altogether in order to take a job at a local start-up as lead developer. My time with my current employer ends in less than a week and then I've got a week off before I start at Money Mover. Lots of moving around, but I think in this latest stop, I've found a good company that suits me.

It sure will be nice to be doing the start-up thing again. I've really missed it.

March 06, 2016 15:17 +0000  |  Christina Free Software Grandpa London Ripe NCC Software Violet 0

I've been putting off writing this because frankly, I look back on 2015 and it really doesn't stand out too much. Especially when you compare it to previous years. In 2014 for example, I visited Australia and New Zealand. In 2013 I moved in with Christina, and in 2012 my parents came to visit me and we traveled to Paris, London, and Dublin. 2015 had its ups and downs, but honestly, I feel like a lot less happened this past year.

Two big things happened though, but you'll have to keep reading if you can't remember what they were.

Travel

As best memory serves, I only did 5 bits of significant travel this year, and only one trip was New and Exciting. I guess I can't complain though, these were all good trips.

Brussels & FOSDEM

As I do every year now, I went to FOSDEM for the annual Free conference. If you've never been, I can't recommend it enough, not the least because you get to meet the people who build the tools you use every day and thank them in person. You also get to buy all kinds of cool stuff that helps support these projects, which doesn't suck either.

Madrid & Seville

The most exciting trip of the year for me, not the least because Inga and Gerardo were getting married in Seville! I took a couple weeks off and did a solo trip to Madrid for a week before heading down to Seville where I met Christina for the actual wedding. The event was so pretty and both cities were lovely. It was a fabulous trip.

Cardiff

Another important trip was to Cardiff, not because it was Cardiff (because frankly, I didn't much care for the town), but because it was for DjangoCon Europe and I was giving my first public workshop wherein I taught a small group of people for an hour or so complete with exercises and a presentation I put together in advance.

It turns out, I really like this sort of thing. Maybe I'll be able to do it as a proper job one day.

Vienna

Max and Julia, friends of Christina's from her law school days were getting married in a little town about two hours south of Vienna, so we flew out to the land of lederhosen and beer (seriously, there was a festival in town and everyone was out in their traditional garb) for a beautiful wedding in a castle.

The ceremony was long, and Catholic, and German, but the bride was gorgeous and the reception was excellent. Everyone had a lovely time.

Vancouver

The last big trip of the year was my annual visit back home to see friends & family. Violet is getting so big, and I worry that she really has no idea who I am. Like any 3 year old girl though, she's friendly and inclusive when it comes to strangers, so we still got along fine. I hope that one day we'll be able to stay in closer contact, but that's still a ways off.

It was also my last opportunity to see my grandfather alive.

Personal

Grandpa

My Grandpa died in 2015. It was harder on me than I'd expected, especially since he had spent much of the last few years essentially waiting to die. He'd become more isolated and frustrated as his body continued to fail him, and rarely if ever left the house. Still, I'm glad I had one more opportunity to spend time with him before he died, even if an unfortunately large portion of that time was spent in disjointed arguments and yelling about cable TV signals.

I wrote a eulogy for him, and then I rewrote it because the first one wasn't right. Every once in a while I re-read them.

Proposal

Before my grandfather died though, Christina and I were able to give him the news that she and I are getting married. I proposed on a warm August day, but Christina didn't get her ring until months later because I left that part up to her ;-) We ended up getting a modest white gold ring with a manufactured diamond for ethical reasons and Christina seems very happy with it.

Unfortunately, actually setting a date has been tough thus far, but only because our professional positions are a little chaotic at the moment. More on that later.

Moving to London

The biggest news of 2015, and probably the primary reason this year didn't involve all that much travel is that Christina and I packed up our lives in Amsterdam and moved to London. The idea was that she would start at an exciting new job, and I would find work somewhere in a Big City -- something I've missed a lot since moving to Amsterdam 5 years ago.

The visa application process was completely insane:

  • £956 application fee
  • £850 NHS surcharge
  • €500 expediting fee
  • £860 visa agent fee

On top of this we had to compile a ridiculous amount of information including a complete list of every out-of-country trip I've made in the last 5 years. That one took a lot of effort, but the number came down to 53 trips -- yes, I'm rather proud of that one.

We also had to find a flat and sign a one-year lease without actually seeing the apartment. Our new home is cold, damp, small, and on the ground floor. It used to be a stable. We're stuck here 'til November.

Professional

Tweetpile

It seems that every year that goes by, I adopt a new hobby project. In In 2013 I restarted Spirithunter (turns out Nintendo is going build a game just like it), in 2014 I had my father's RxLenses site, and in 2015 I started TweetPile, a project to help me collect all the tweets about anything in particular.

It took a lot of work, and I learnt a lot about asynchronous Python, but in the end, there didn't seem to be a lot of interest in it out there. The biggest problem is that people typically don't know what they want to collect on twitter until after the tweets have gone out. Twitter doesn't have a comprehensive historical API though, so you can't get all tweets in the past about "x", only stuff Twitter thinks is relevant. Long story short, TweetPile was fun to write, still works, but sadly isn't very popular.

RIPE Atlas Tools Magellan

After years of talking about it amongst the team and with the community, we embarked on actually writing a comprehensive command line toolkit for RIPE Atlas, the project I'd been labouring on ever since I started working there back in 2012.

This project was my baby, and I took point on it, dictating structure, choosing the license (GPL3!), and writing the lion's share of the code. I also worked with Andreas to adopt a proper pull-request-and-merge methodology, which was a nice change from how we had done things until then.

The result was a solid, thriving, community project that opens RIPE Atlas up to thousands of engineers all over the world. I'm really proud of this one.

Leaving RIPE

Of course, just as I started on an exciting new project, it was time for me to leave. I'd put in more than three years at the RIPE NCC, longer than any job I'd ever held, largely because I loved working for them.

It turns out that London has a lot of opportunities for Python nerds like me, so there were no shortage of jobs available. I had been spoilt by the NCC though, and wanted to continue working for a non-profit, so this tainted my search process. In the end, I ended up choosing to work for the British government. If you want to know how that's going though, you'll have to log in and see my private post about it ;-)

Conclusion

When I wrote this post for 2014, I talked about how I had big travel plans and possibly even dance classes in mind for 2015. In retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking. I don't even remember what I was talking about then.

2016 promises to be interesting (new city, new friends, new job), but much of it is still up in the air. Christina is applying for a job in Edinburgh, and if she gets it, we're moving again -- as early as August. If she doesn't, then I have to figure out what I'm going to do about my work situation (more info in the private posts). This potential job also means that we're not likely to get married this year as there's no sense in planning a wedding in Greece when you're not even sure where you'll be living in a couple months.

I've also joined a choir here in London which is pretty awesome, and while I've managed to lose a little weight in my last year in Amsterdam, it's creeping back up living here in the land of fried and salted everything.

I have no idea which way things are going to go, and to be honest, I'm annoyed that I don't find this exciting.