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July 11, 2016 17:46 +0000  |  Family Friends Lucy Vancouver Violet 8

christina-me christina-michael dad-lucy-mom grandma-jack grandma-lucy lucyfoot lucy me-sarah-shawna mom-violet-dad shawna shawna-sarah shawna-violet-matt violet-jack

Noreen keeps asking, and as it's quite possible that she's the only regular reader of this blog, I really should do what I can for her :-)

On June 17th, my contract with the British Government ended, and the very next day Christina and I got on a plane to Vancouver to spend some well-deserved relaxation time. I hadn't seen my family in about a year at that point, and Christina hadn't been in Canada since 2013 so there was much to see and do -- so much that I thought I might see about extending my stay by a few weeks (now that I didn't have a job to go back to right away). That all went sideways after the 23rd, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Squamish

I wanted to go hiking. I figured: this is the first time Christina has been to BC in the summer, let's show her how beautiful it is! The plan was to the Grouse Grind, or hike the Chief, or some other gorgeous and brutal experience, but jetlag is a harsh mistress and neither of us were even remotely interested in anything that difficult in our first few days. Instead, my dear friend Shawna, now living in Vancouver, back from Korea (yay!) drove us up to Squamish with her husband Michael and her friend Sarah for a leisurly ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola. There, for the ridiculous-but-acceptable-when-accounting-for-jetlag price of $40 each, we had a nice ride up the side of the mountain to a plateau at the top with little "hiking" trails (more like a stroll really) and magnificent views in all directions.

I didn't take a lot of pictures on this trip, so instead I'm just going to fill this post with lots Michael's shots from this hike. He's a pro photographer and he made us all look amazing. My new profile pic is one he took actually ;-)

A Quick Visit with Friends & Family

There wasn't much time for anything else in Vancouver this year. We had one day to (try to) recover from the jetlag, one to go Squamish, and one to visit with friends & fam. For this last case, we booked some time to meet with Ruth (Jeanie's mom) over lunch at Boston Pizza where we were treated to messy, sticky (but quiet!) children and good company. Ruth bought me chocolate (yay!) and gave us bubbles to play with, and we got to catch up on what was going on in our lives. Later that evening we did it all again, but with a larger group and in a noisier setting: Quinn, Jeanie, and Michelle met us for dinner at Milestones where we watched basketball and talked about what's going on in our lives. Chris and Trish were supposed to meet us there too, but their twins had the audacity to be born just a day or so beforehand so they had their hands full.

The next day Christina, my grandmother and I hopped on a bus up to Kelowna.

A Note About Greyhound

Holy crap is this the way to travel now. They've instituted express busses, shortening the YVR/YLW trip to just over 4 hours. During the trip you get:

  • Large, comfortable seats
  • A beautiful view
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • AC Power

Why would you ever want to fly?

  • 40 minutes to the airport
  • 20 minutes to check in
  • 20 minutes through security
  • 1 hour waiting for your flight
  • 40 minutes in the air
    • Turn off your laptop "for safety"
    • Tablets are ok, but not keyboards, they're dangerous!
    • Yes, I'm bitter
  • 20 minutes to deboard and collect your bags

=~ 3.5 hours and about 3 times the price. Screw that.

Kelowna

After having our schedule feel very pressed for the first few days, I tried to slow things down a bit in Kelowna. We had lots of slow nights doing family dinners, some lounging in the sun on my parent's patio, and a few shopping trips here and there.

The Engagement Party

Things got a little crazier around the 25th, as we were doing a joint birthday party / engagement party for Christina and me. It was only family at this shindig, but it was an opportunity for the fam to get to know Christina and see us together. We're still not sure how we're going to work out you know, actually getting married yet, so there were a lot of questions as to how the actual ceremony will happen. Would we do a Greek wedding? In Athens or on an Island? What about doing one in Kelowna and another in Greece? I think I'm starting to understand why people just don't bother getting married: the stress is insane.

Still, it was nice to be able to spend time with both of my grandparents in the same room again. We even had my grand-aunt June fly in from Ottawa this time around! It's been a really long time since all three have been together. I also got to see Violet & Ried for the first time which was fun, and despite Shawna being fresh out of the hospital with my brand-new niece, she was there and looking fabulous.

Lucy

My new neice, Lucy Jane Quinn was born, 6lbs & 2oz, just a few days before we arrived. She was nearly a month early and so she had to be kept in the hospital for almost a week while she got used to being in the world. Mother and baby came out of it ok though, so all is good. Christina and I had an opportunity to visit her in hospital where tiny Lucy was bundled up in a box with tubes up her nose and down her throat. Shawna was there with a bundle of books and a laptop on hand: she was the food source so she basically had to set up shop there until the doctors let her take Lucy home.

She was released a few days after we arrived in Kelowna though, so the second time we saw her, she was at home with Mom, Dad, sis, and the dogs getting her immune system revved up.

Brexit

When I booked the flight, I joked that I might leave one country and come back to a completely different one. Like most Britons I didn't actually think that that would happen. As the votes rolled in, my family huddled around the TV, dumbfounded by the sheer idiocy of the British public on this issue. Our jaws gaped at the fall of the pound, of the considerable sum of money I had personally lost in just a few minutes. Christina was in rough shape for much of the rest of the trip, and I cancelled any plans I might have had to extend my stay in Canada.

Idiots doing idiot things because they're idiots.

Melanie

The only friend I have up in Kelowna is Melanie, who was up there finishing her contract with UBC. We went for some ice cream and then met her for lunch where I got her to take a picture with @travellingjack! Then my mom picked us up like we were still in high school to take us home. It was a nice day.

My Solar Desalinator

One project I've been toying with in my head for years now got to see the light of day for some time while I was in Kelowna. I've been working on a way to use solar power to desalinate water cheaply and pollution-free modeled after this power station in Andalucia.
Most of the progress on this front was talking to my father and brother about it, changing the model in my head, scratching bits out on napkins, and fiddling with a parabolic mirror in the backyard and almost setting the house on fire. Good times.

I've started fiddling with a proper 3d model in Blender, and now that I'm back in the UK, I've started poking around to find spaces that might be able to offer me the technical expertise I lack in this area. Something may never come of it, but you never know. For now, it's fun to think about.

Remainder

The rest of the trip was largely a series of car trips: out to Peachland and Penticton to see my aunt and then brother's family, running through sprinklers with my neice and eating fabulous homemade ice cream. Other nights we drove out to Vernon to have dinner with my grandmother and grand-aunt, and still other nights we just stayed in, ate Dairy Queen Blizzards and bemoaned the future of the UK.

Canada Day

Canada Day in Holiday Park is a big deal -- by Holiday Park standards anyway. It's a villiage of a lot of old people with a lot of golf carts, small decorating budgets, and a lot of time on their hands. Given this equation, a golf cart parade seemed fitting for Canada's birthday. It was our last day in Canada, so we got up in time to see the show, after which I drove down to the Greyhound station to send my grandmother home. For the rest of the day we relaxed in the sun (or in my case, the house) and enjoyed the peace, quiet, and family.


I'm back in the UK now, and the Brexit mess is still in full swing. I decided to come home on time because I felt like I needed to be here in case shit, but that feeling of helplessness is as thick here as it was in Kelowna. I think in retrospect I wish I'd stayed a little longer -- I really miss my family, especially now that I've got two nieces who are just starting to grow.

Being an expat is hard.

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.