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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.

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.

April 27, 2011 08:21 +0000  |  Friends Language Moving 5

A series of good things have been happening lately, and I just wanted to share them:
  • I have an apartment in Bussum, The Netherlands. It's mine. I live there. You can now start mailing me things :-)
  • I have a bank account, and a residency card, and a residency number. I am an official person in the Netherlands. Next up is the cell phone and home internet.
  • I have a couch! And a friend who helped me put it together!
  • My computer has finally arrived at my job, so I'm no longer working on my tiny laptop. This new machine has SIX CORES and EIGHT GIGS OF RAM.
  • I made a new friend last night at my Dutch class. That makes *three* people whom I can call if I want company for a movie or something.
  • American movies here are in English with Dutch subtitles.
  • The Canucks won game 7. How is that not awesome?
  • My new apartment is a 10minute walk to work. I can now sleep in.
  • In less than 3 days, I'll be in Yeosu, Korea to watch a dear friend get married in a traditional Korean ceremony.
  • I'm learning Dutch (albeit slowly), but just the other day I actually understood a 100% Dutch conversation and joined in, (albeit in English).
  • It got distcc working on my laptop & supercomputer here at work so I can compile stuff way faster.
  • I talked to my family via Skype while they were all around the dinner table at my grandparent's place.
  • I got my tax returns from the past 5 years in, to the tune of about $7000! That'll help pay off my credit card.

In a blog that's usually plagued with negativity, I wanted to share some happy thoughts.

February 11, 2011 22:19 +0000  |  Amsterdam Employment Job Hunting Moving Netherlands Unemployment 6

For those of you who follow my life on Twitter or Facebook, I apologise for taking so long to post the details of the recent changes to my employment status. Stuff's been kinda crazy these past few weeks, so I've had other priorities that I'll talk about in other posts.

So here's the full story: On January 18th, I responded to a job ad for a web developer at MarketSims that I found on an online job posting board, possibly monster, but frankly, I don't remember. The application included my usual fun-sounding cover letter and a PDF copy of my CV along with a link to this site.

That same night, I received a response asking about my preferences for CMSs and/or frameworks and we had some good dialogue about why one CMS might be chosen over another, and why I prefer frameworks in general etc. etc. We also talked about my salary expectations, volunteer work, and outside interests as well, all over email. He thanked me for the info and said he'd get back to me.

Then he got sick for about a week so I didn't hear from him for a while. When we reconnected on the 31st, we talked about doing a Skype interview and settled on a midnight gig on the evening of the 4th.

The interview was with the CEO, CTO, and COO and covered in greater detail what they're looking for. Basically, they're looking to unify the many sites they have into a single managed solution as well as build a portal site for people in their industry. We talked about options and preferences and I made no secret regarding my preferences for Python/Django -- something I was happy to hear was positively received. The interview was largely non-technical, and when it was finished, the CEO said that they'd like to talk about me privately for a while and get back to me... in about 20minutes. A little surprised, I said thank you and we ended the call.

About 15minutes later, the CTO called me back and offered me the job. I'll start March 1st.

The pay sounds good, though it's tough to tell when you don't really know the cost of living over there. Regardless, it works out to a lot of money in Canada, so that doesn't suck. There's lots of vacation time, as European standards more or less require it, and they're accessible by transit. The CTO may even be able to hook me up with some inexpensive temporary housing with some friends while I look for a place of my own once I know the neighbourhoods better.

All-in-all, things are looking pretty good, though I try not to get too excited. Contracts etc. don't get signed until I come in for my first day and somehow, all of this doesn't feel like it will be "real" until then. I'm definitely leaving though. I've already bought my flights:

Vancouver » Kelowna Feb 21
Kelowna » Vancouver Feb 23
Vancouver » Amsterdam Feb 23

If the temporary housing doesn't work out, I'll look into Couch Surfing, then hostels, then hotels, in that order. Obviously, that's a rough route to take, but I'm not sure how else to do it. I will however endeavour to blog the process, if for no other reason to chronicle how very painful this kind of thing is.

December 24, 2010 19:34 +0000  |  Consumerism Moving 6

For those of you who haven't been privy to the ongoing developments in my life, I'll try to get you up to speed:

  • I haven't found a job yet. Well I did, but the two offers I got weren't a good fit.
  • I'm still moving out at the end of this month, and will be crashing with friends and family until I find what I need out there.
  • To that end, I've been liquidating (nearly) everything I own.

It's that last one that I thought I might talk about. I've been on my own for a long time now, and in that time, I've collected a lot of stuff. Much of it arrived in my possession in the form of a gift, the rest purchased by me, but as I'm slowly coming to realise, I use practically none of it.

My DVD collection, which I've been curating for nearly a decade has literally been collecting dust. I have actually torrented DVDs I own due to the inconvenience of the format. My stacks and stacks of books are similarly unused: read once (or not at all) and left to sit on a shelf, a testament to... what, how smart I am?

Stuffed animals, miscellaneous computer cables and hardware, toys, calendars, games, models... all of it: collecting dust. Despite the evident non-use of these things, I have paid to transport these things across the country not once, but twice. Many of the things in my home have been transported from Vancouver, to Ottawa, to Toronto, and back to Vancouver, and stopped being useful only a few days after acquiring them.

This whole process of liquidation has been as much a lesson in how not to horde stuff as it has been one in how to live simply. I've taken stock of what I actually use on a day-to-day basis, and have determined that even if I were to re-purchase only the highest-end stuff in each new place I live, the total cost would be less than $3k... and I can then store everything that matters in only three or four boxes.

I don't know where I'm going yet, that discovery comes next, but one thing is certain: wherever I'm going, it will be with less stuff in tow.

November 03, 2010 20:03 +0000  |  Moving Unemployment Work [at] Play 3

Nearly ten years ago, after a gruelling week of work and late nights trying to get a product out the door, my colleagues and I came into work, bleary eyed, but proud of the site we'd been able to finish on-time and to-spec. We were met with a group meeting, in which roughly two thirds of us were informed that we no longer had a job. It was devastating to most of us, but we all recovered, and learnt from all of this an important lesson: that the business world can be cold, and it's best to be prepared for the worst.

I've managed to benefit from that lesson a few times now. Working in IT, you get used to the often temporary nature of your work, and sometimes that of your employer. You make preparations for an abrupt exodus, establish connections within the community, and find ways to make the transition easier. It's never easy, but over the years it's become less-difficult.

Unfortunately, I've had to deal with such a situation today. My (now former) employer, Work at Play gave me the pink slip this morning, along with another coworker. They're restructuring, position is redundant, etc. etc. The end result is that I'm out of work, just two months before my planned exit and relocation to Somewhere in Europe. To their credit though, the process was respectful and not at all like my exit from Moshpit Entertainment so long ago.

I've already started branching out, looking for ways to cover bills and do some more saving before my exit, and I've been considering bumping up my timetable if that seems to work for everyone. Having never done a move of this magnitude, I'm unsure of which decisions to make on all of these new fronts. I do have some promising leads for some short-term contract work though, so money may not be a problem. We'll see.

February 11, 2008 01:04 +0000  |  Friends Moving Self Reflection

The beach at Davie & Denman

Check it out. That's why I'm here. Sure, it's not as noble as the reasons behind my exodus from this place, but it's a hell of a thing to come back to... and this is the wintertime. I can't wait 'till summer.

I had a bit of a crisis of faith this morning. For a moment, I wondered if I'd made a mistake in returning. Actually, it was considerably more than just a moment. I'm different from who I was when I left, and it would seem that the longer I'm here, the less I feel that this is the case. I'm not sure if I can remember how to be the person I want to be. The habits and connections I developed in Toronto are gone and I find myself falling into the same negative patterns I wallowed in 7 years ago -- behaviour I tried to beat out of myself in my self-imposed exile.

I can't explain it any better than I this and the people I would usually talk to about this are just too far away, either physically or socially. I miss my friends. I miss bike rides to High Park and cake at Future Bakery. I miss gyros at 2am and Farscape on Melanie's couch. I miss my friends.

It'll get better though. It has to.

December 21, 2007 11:44 +0000  |  Moving 3

I'm lying out on my bed watching National Treasure alone in my nifty new apartment. I'm freshly clean and enjoying the company of my usual technical toys as well as the killer view.

It's good to be home.

December 12, 2007 08:31 +0000  |  Moving Toronto Vancouver 3

It's hard to believe it sometimes, but I just realised it today. It's been 3months since I left Toronto. Not that I've had time to settle of course. Only one month here in Vancouver, and while I'm well on my way, I'm no where near "settled"... won't be for some time I think.

The Vancouver Public Library

Adjustments have been tough too. Sure it's still Canada but Vancouver is a very different place... at least for me. I've had to move back into the life I left, crowbar the new me into the old me's social circle. Some people still fit, others don't. And family... well we're always family, but it's taking them some time to get used to who I am now and not fixate on who I was when I left.

Living with the grandparents has been entertaining though. Aside from the fact that they're unapologetic racists, I've had pleasure of trying to explain to my grandfather that the reason his computer crashes with this program has performed an illegal action when he's looking at certain sites is not because they are trying to prevent it, but rather that his computer is running Windows 98 and is over 12years old.

I've also been able to "come out" to my grandparents with regard to my religious leanings. Until now, they were the only members of the family who didn't know that I was pagan and strangely enough, I was able to have a quiet, civilised conversation with my grandmother about it. She's Orthodox Christian, therefore she's not big on evangelism, so it was easier than one might think.

My grandfather still thinks I'm crazy for not believing in his god though, but he likes talking to the Jehovah's Witnesses so I don't take him too seriously :-)

For the most part though, I'm glad to be back. It's hard to explain, but the feeling I get when I tell someone that I'm going to the Vancouver Public Library is pretty great. It's a hell of a thing to live in a city with so much beauty. Seriously, Toronto people: come visit, see what I'm raving about.

December 07, 2007 06:25 +0000  |  Moving Vancouver 7

It's official, I now have an apartment. It's a nice one bedroom place in the core with a view of the mountains, a balcony, dishwasher AND a washer and dryer. All this for the low low cost of $1200. Trust me, that's low (how sad is that?)

Anyway, I take possession on the 15th of December but will likely not be sleeping there 'till after Christmas as I'm still not sure of how I'm going to get all my stuff from the Parent's place in the Okanogan down here. What's more, after all the money involved, I'm out of pocket roughly $2400 (half month rent + damage deposit + first month's rent) I'm going to be so poor that I can't really afford a real bed for the place. Looks like my futon will be it for a while longer.

Soon though, everything will be settled again... and I can't wait. I'm so tired.