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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 head-sup 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.

June 24, 2016 17:52 +0000  |  Europe United Kingdom 3

I'm in Canada right now, so we had to watch the carnage unfold in real time on a BBC live stream. As soon as Newcastle reported in with its weak Remain results, the pit of my stomach began to sink and things never recovered.

The United Kingdom has made what historians will refer to as the greatest and last mistake in its long history. Scotland and Northern Ireland are already talking about leaving the UK to join the EU. The pound has dropped to the lowest point in 31 years and France has now surpassed them as the world's 5th largest economy. They've lost more money in a few hours than they contributed to the EU in 43 years.

I woke this morning to a sense of surreal dread. One thing is certain: the UK is undone. The only question that concerns me is how much of their self-destructive behaviour will rub off on the rest of us.

The UK economy has already started to contract. Major banking institutions are likely to follow through with their promise to relocate to Dublin and Frankfurt. That will undoubtedly increase unemployment, driving the country further into recession. For Christina and I, there are dangerous times ahead.

Three Paths

The real danger though is how far this madness will spread. Given the likelihood of a Scottish (and potentially Northern Irish) exit from the UK, England must be considered lost, but what of the rest of Europe? I can only see this going one of three ways:

Special Status

The worst possible scenario for all involved would be if the EU is so fearful of instability that it caves to the UK's demands to (a) remain part of the European Economic Area (single market) while (b) not being beholden to the four freedoms. For the non Europeans, this would mean that the UK would have free trade with EU nations but not have to allow free movement of people, goods, etc. They might even try to get away with not paying into the EU at all.

This would be catastrophic as it would signal to the other EU nations that they too could have all of the benefits of the EU without the responsibility. It would embolden the weak separatist voices in France, Norway, Greece, and the Netherlands and spur similar moves to exit as well. It would effectively end the European Union.

Remain Part of the EEA

This is the most likely (however ironic) outcome. The UK would negotiate a Norway-like deal wherein they remain part of the EEA while still being responsible for the four freedoms. Effectively, this would mean that the UK would keep all of the responsibilities the Leave campaign said they wanted no part of, (free movement, financial contributions) but give up its right to have any say in how those responsibilities are determined. As a bonus, Nigel Farage's party would no longer have any seats in the European Parliament.

This isn't as dangerous as the "special status" option above, but it runs the risk of separatist parties declaring this a victory (this is post-factual democracy after all). If other nations follow suit, this could have crippling effects on the EU.

Out in the Cold

In this scenario, the EU recognises this for the opportunity that it is and cuts the UK loose. Over the following years, as the rest of Europe watches the UK economy wither, and the country fracture from Great Britain into Little England, the UK becomes a cautionary tale for would-be separatists: "Leave the EU, are you nuts? Don't you remember what it was like for the English?"

"Better together" would no longer be a campaign slogan but a statement of fact and it would embolden Europe as a Union.

The obstructionist English voice in the European project would disappear completely, allowing for the agenda of an ever closer union to progress. Dreams like a fiscal union and a unified military would become more feasible.

My Preference

I tweeted about this last night and it was not appreciated by a couple of my followers, but I stand by it. The "out in the cold" option is the best case for Europe, the worst for the UK -- but they've made their bed. The European Union is the single most ambitious project humanity has ever undertaken and if it's going to survive, it has to cut the UK loose. They've voted to leave, let them serve as an example of just what leaving means.

I say this of course as someone who lives in the UK. Christina has her job at Cambridge, so we're stuck there for at least a year, but when that's finished, we'll be looking to return to Europe -- this in itself is a risk, as it means waiting an entire year while anyone with a degree of mobility works to get out of the UK.

I don't know what we're going to do when Christina's contract is up. We want to move back to the Netherlands, but by then the EU will likely be awash in unilingual anglophones with marketable skills. This could be Very Bad for us.

But if it's good for the EU, we're ok with it.