Thoughts of a geek

17 May 2013

4/7: No blues

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 10:18 am

(Day 4 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Nothing terribly exciting. Let’s see.

Oh, the weather was relatively nice today. Still a bit cold, but nice and clear. I think this morning was my first time for the year eating breakfast outside in the sun on the balcony. I ate lunch outside as well. The weather not being so warm did have the advantage that there were still seats available outside.

Food Revolution Week continues at work. This afternoon there was another cooking demo, with four different types of stir fries based on chicken, tofu, beef, and some sort of seafood, with all sorts of vegetables, rice, and various different sorts of noodles. They were all tasty (except for the seafood, which I do not like). A fair bit of work to do.

My bike ride home is quite scenic, if I can take the time to look up from the road. On my 15 minute ride, at around 9:30 pm this evening, I could see the MI6 building, Westminster Palace, the London Eye, the Shard and the Imperial War Museum, all nicely lit up.

No blues dancing this evening sadly, as the night I usually go to was moved to Wednesday this week, so I could not go.

Starting to organise having friends over for dinner next week sometime. And making muffins with other friends. I got some photos for my passport today, so I need to pick one and crop it, then measure my height so I can put in the online application at some point soon. And I still need to sort out my Boris bike account, which for some reason I cannot login online to update my debit card details.

Perhaps I will get to bed before midnight tonight. (Hah.)

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16 May 2013

3/7: Rosemary, lemon, and the GRand Unified Bootloader

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 11:21 am

(Day 3 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

There was a cooking demo at work this afternoon as part of Food Revolution Week. Apparently it is only a day in the outside world, but all week at Google. Anyway, some celebrity-ish chef showed us how to cook 5 recipes from her cookbook, and we got to try some of the results. The only one I am likely to make, if I get the details, was a dessert made from double cream, lemon juice, sugar and rosemary, and served in shot glasses with a raspberry on top. A quick search suggests that this is called a posset. The rosemary seemed like a strange addition, but it actually worked really well, adding an interesting flavour. I might have to try it myself sometime.

I watched the first part of the Google I/O keynote at work before heading to Springboard, a course I am doing at church on Wednesday evenings. Biking through Hyde Park in the light is really quite a different experience than when it is dark and rainy. Last week was my first time doing so, not having biked that route in the previous month (since BST started) as I was away in New Zealand. The ride home was a bit slow due to various roadworks, and trucks stopping in bad places.

I spent the rest of the evening in a G+ Hangout with my mum again, this time trying to fix bootloader issues so she could boot of her new hard drive successfully. We got there in the end, but it would have been much quicker if I had been in the same room; remotely diagnosing problems when I cannot very easily see what is happening or type directly is rather fiddly.

And now it is too late again. Goodnight.

15 May 2013

2/7: Serial ATA

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — qwandor @ 11:58 am

(Day 2 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Work much the same as yesterday, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Making some progress.

Flatmates did not have any of the leftover dessert from last night in the end. Nor did I.

Spent most of the evening in a G+ hangout with my mum back in Wellington walking her through how to install her new SATA hard drive in her computer, copy the data from the old IDE drive across, so that she can then put the new drive into my old desktop (which is slightly better than hers, and hopefully significantly less noisy). Slightly tricky explaining how to do everything without actually being there, but she did well. I am proud of my mum. (-:

Did not get to catch up with Rachel after all, sadly.

Watched last Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who. It had some interesting bits, but I am still not very impressed with this season. Oh well. The Doctor Who prom this summer should be fun though! Hopefully I can get a good group of people together with whom to queue. I should see what plays are on at the Globe this summer too, that is always fun.

Setting up a Facebook page to promote the monthly contra dance in London. Not quite ready yet.

I really should be trying to sleep, it is almost 1:00 am.

14 May 2013

1/7: Desserts came very quickly after agriculture

Filed under: Me, The Blog Roll — Tags: — qwandor @ 11:35 am

(Day 1 of an effort to blog every day for a week, alongside a bunch of blogging friends.)

Work was busy in a stop-start way. We have a launch coming up soon of something I have been working on for some time so need to get everything ready, but I am often blocked on other people. This has been more or less my usual state of being for some time though, so nothing is all that new.

I need to get on with applying for a new passport soon, which will require getting a passport photo taken. And measuring my height. I have vague memories of having a tape measure somewhere. I also need to help my mum back up her computer, and copy everything on her old small IDE hard drive to a new bigger SATA hard drive, so she can then migrate to my old desktop (which is at least slightly newer than her current machine, and hopefully noticeably quieter). Attempts to catch up with Rachel in the weekend failed, so need to find a time to see her before she leaves on Wednesday. Hmm, what am I forgetting?

As usual, not much time to think.

Had Aga, Luca and Luca’s flatmate Emily over for dinner this evening, my first London dinner party since before Easter. Aga is a Googler, Luca is a blues dancing friend. There was some confusion about the meaning of the expression “+1”. They all seemed to enjoy trying feijoas. We made a couple of pizzas: one vegetable pizza with capsicum, mushroom and fresh basil, and one with sausages, salami, pineapple and more basil. I had forgotten that salami contains pork, and that they were pork sausages (Luca does not eat pork, sadly). I did not get the ratio quite right for the dough (or something) and the texture was completely wrong at first, but I managed to fix it passably in the end. They were both pretty tasty, especially the basil. Fresh basil always smells amazing too. Oh, and we had smoothies too; banana, peach, strawberry yoghurt and orange juice. Luca decided to compliment me each time she sees me.

Dessert was microwave steamed pudding, now that I can finally make it again over here. My microwave ring pan went missing many months ago and I could not find anywhere to buy a new one over here, but while I was back in NZ my mum found one so I brought it back with me. It still did not work out quite right; despite adding extra flour I still had the problem I always seem to have over here of it not rising enough and not cooking through properly at the bottom (the top when it is tipped out). I am not sure what is to blame — it always used to work very reliably back in NZ. I can only assume the flour is different somehow, but I would have thought adding more to make the batter match in consistency would have fixed that. The golden syrup is different here too. Lighter.

Aga took lots of photos, so I guess they will be up on G+ shortly. Quote of the day was from Luca: “I bet desserts came very quickly after agriculture”. There was much hilarity all round. And some tomato paste. Luca and Emily (mostly Luca) decided they would buy muffins tins and a blender and start making muffins and smoothies. Apparently I am to come over and teach Luca to bake muffins as her parents neglected to show her this vital life skill. Should be fun.

We had some interesting conversations about gender roles, discrimination, hugs, muffins, haptic technology, robot cats, people, and accents.

My attempt at kidnapping was ultimately unsuccessful.

I should be trying to sleep.

Goodnight!

Oh, I should see if anyone wants to go up to St. Albans with me for a contra this Saturday.

[Edit 2013-05-14: Added links]

12 May 2013

Visiting home

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 3:02 am

Back in London! (Well okay, I got back almost a week ago now, but I started writing this post on the flight from Sydney to Dubai.) That was an eventful visit back to Wellington: rain, sun, an indoor picnic, dancing, a couple of walks, various dinners, chats and catch-ups, playing in a playground in the middle of the night, star-gazing, painting a horse-jump to look like a sailboat, several attempts at geocaching with mixed success, and wandering around Sydney.

Before you get bored with the wall of text, here are some photos (or on Facebook if you prefer). Follow along if you like.

I spent just under 3 weeks in NZ, so a bit over 3 weeks away from London. My flight out, rather depressingly, left London on Sunday night to arrive in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon. I did not visit Auckland this time around, as I did not have quite so many people up there to see any more, so my only trip outside of Wellington was a day in and around Palmerston North. I went up with my mum to have lunch with my grandparents, one of my cousins and an aunt in Feilding, and saw the house my grandparents recently moved into in a retirement village there. They seem to be settling in well, though it is a bit smaller than their old house. I then spent some time with my friends Daniel and Sharon, whose wedding I went back for last year. Daniel has spent the last few months working as a grounds keeper at an equestrian centre just out of Palmerston North, and I ended up helping him with a few things he wanted to get finished before going home. In particular, he was repainting the stands for a horse jump to look like a sailing boat on the sea, so I painted part of that. I then headed to a family dinner with a different set of cousins and aunt, and my grandparents again. My cousin Lisa, who works as a chef, made us a very tasty dinner. I was then back down to Wellington first thing the next morning and back to work.

On Friday night some friends who blog together on common topics from time to time had organised a dinner to get together and chat, so as I was conveniently in town I was able to join them. I think there were about 14 of us who made it to the dinner, including a few hangers-on, and we had some good conversations over Chinese food at Cha. After dinner some of us went for hot chocolate and coffee somewhere else, and then I continued on to my friend Emma’s birthday party. She lives in a bit of a hippy flat in Mount Vic full of vegetarians and green activists, which suits her rather well. As well as a couple of other friends, there also happened to be a guy there with whom I had been friends in primary school, and probably not seen since, so we caught up a bit and he told me about his radio play. Wellington is full of connections like that!

On Saturday I had hoped to go for a walk, but the weather was not at all up for it, so instead a few friends came over to play card games and catch up, and then we made pizza together for dinner. I went back to my old church, The Street City Church, on Sunday morning, but did not see many people I knew there any more. Afterwards I had planned to have a picnic at Freyberg Beach to catch up with lots of people, but again it was raining so we had an indoor picnic at my parents’ house instead. Though not quite as good as the beach I think we did a decent job, with picnic rugs out on the carpet and even a stone turtle. It was good to catch up with everyone all the same, though as always at big gatherings it was hard to have many long conversations with people coming and going all the time.

Monday night I caught up with some friends from Memphis (the old compsci graduate lab at Victoria University) and Innaworks for pizza, Tuesday was dinner with the Hornblows (aunt/uncle/cousins on my mum’s side of the family), and Wednesday dinner with my old flatmate Richard and his wife Sarah. It was great to catch up with Richard about what he has been up to, and his plans to perhaps start a small local brewery with some friends following his recent success with a home brewed beer of his winning an NZ-wide competition.

Thursday was ANZAC day, so I took a day’s leave from work and got some friends together for a walk. 4 people came in the end: Cat, Gael, Jill and my brother Tim. We started at Aro Park, in Aro Valley, and walked up through Polhill Reserve to the Brooklyn wind turbine. From there we continued along the fenceline of the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (aka. Zealandia) for a little, before continuing off along the ridgeline to Red Rocks, then back along the coastline past Owhiro Bay to Island Bay, from where we caught a bus home (except Cat, who decided to walk the whole way). I made a map of our route, or as near as I could get it. We stopped to look for a couple of geocaches along the way, though only found one of them. The weather started out rather rainy, for the first couple of hours, but cleared up beautifully in the afternoon. Cat managed the first hour or two of the walk (uphill, on gravel and mud) without shoes, but eventually gave up and put his shoes on.

NZ visit 2013: A curious sign along the way to Red Rocks

Thursday evening was dinner with some of the Walbran side of the family.

Friday night I went out for some swing dancing to see how the Wellington scene was doing, though sadly was not able to convince any friends to join me. It was pretty small, only about 10–20 people I think. After a couple of hours of swing they had a woman named Elizabeth Wise who was over from the US to sing and play some blues for us to dance to. By this point there were only about 10 people and not many dancing, but it was good music, and I had a few nice dances before I headed home.

My second Saturday in Wellington had much nicer weather than the previous one. We started the day with brunch at a local café to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My little brother Mark was down from Auckland for a few days as well, so it was cool to have all 5 of us together in the same place. After that, my friend Michael organised a walk at Otari-Wilton’s Bush, and I invited some more friends to join us. There were 8 of us in the end, which was an excellent number: me, Michael, Melissa, Isabel, Matthew Kiernan, Enoch, Josh Baker and Polly. This was a much shorter and easier walk than the previous one, and the weather was great all day. We took a few silly photos at the end, and after a little car trouble all headed our different ways.

I went to the Makertorium exhibition at Te Papa, a one-day showcase of all sorts of creations from people, clubs and companies around NZ. It was pretty cool. There were a lot of 3D printers and quadcopters, but all sorts of other things as well. I took a few photos, though they do not really do it justice.

After that I went to a friend’s house-cooling party in Mount Victoria, then Richard’s beer launch party. The prize for the homebrew competition he won was to have a brewery in Auckland make a batch of his beer, and so he organised a bit of a celebration at the Kelburn Village Pub, which had it on tap. Most of the people I knew had unfortunately gone by the time I arrived, but I did see a few on their ways home as I made my way up, and also got to see a couple of people I knew still there. I then got a last-minute invite to another friend’s flatwarming party up in the far reaches of Brooklyn, so walked all the way there to hang around for a bit, then all the way back home to Hataitai.

Sunday morning I visited the local Elim church where a number of my friends go, then caught up with a few friends in the afternoon, walking around the waterfront and then meeting some others in the Botanic Gardens. Emily, Beth and Teresa were all in Wellington for a few days, in a happy coincidence, so I was able to catch up with them to varying degrees.

The next Monday night I was invited to a party which was partly to celebrate my friend Josh Thompson getting back to Wellington, so it was good to catch up with him and my other friend Daniel. Tuesday night was dinner at the Greenhaus flat in Newtown with Peter and Elaine. Peter, being his usual self, had ended up double-booking himself so was not able to join us for dinner after all, but I made some dessert for us to share when he got back a bit later in the evening and before he had to go out again. And I had a great long chat with Elaine, catching up on and discussing all sorts of things. Peter, Elaine and I (plus a bunch of others) all used to flat together in 2008, my last year of university, and Peter and I were also friends from college.

Wednesday night I was able to join in a regular ribs night that some of the ex-Memphis crowd have, trying out different restaurants around the place. This time was Uncle Mike’s Kansas City BBQ in Petone, which was good. Thursday night I was originally planning to do some night geocaching with a few friends, but it was all a bit disorganised and then it ended up raining so we decided not to go after all. My friend Jill dragged me along to a ballroom dance class instead, which was interesting.

Friday afternoon I went to the Xero drinks for a bit to catch up with Will and Donald. Will was a colleague of mine at Google London, who recently moved back to Wellington with his wife and young kids after having lived in London for many years. He seems to be enjoying being back. Afterwards I was catching up with Talitha, as I had not yet seen her by that point. As we were looking for somewhere to eat we happened to run into my friend Tim Best, so he joined us for dinner at a nice Korean Barbecue place. That certainly does happen a lot more in Wellington than it does in London! Even in the less than three weeks I was back, there were at least 6 times I randomly bumped into people I knew around town.

On Saturday I had a wander around my old university, VUW, to see what had changed. They have built a new building where the quad used to be, with several levels of space with seats, desks, shops and so on connecting to the library. It all feels rather different to how it used to. I met up with Felix and Tim for lunch in town; Felix had been back in China for a while so I had not been able to see him earlier. I then met up with Emma for a bit.

On Saturday night I dragged a bunch of my friends along to a contra dance, which was good fun in the end despite a few problems. There has been a monthly contra in Wellington for about 10 years, with a band called Chilli Jam. I had only been a couple of times, years ago, but wanted to see what it was like compared to London, and to dance with as many of my friends as possible, so invited a bunch to go with me. The numbers had always been fairly small, but little did I know it had been declining recently, and they were planning to stop this year after the April dance (i.e. just before I got back). Fortunately they got an excellent turnout in April, and a friend of mine happened to be there and told them that they should keep on going at least a bit longer as I was organising a group to come to the next dance, so they decided to keep running them for the time being. Anyway, so I had about 10 friends or maybe even a couple more who came along, which was great. There were only about 30 people dancing in total I think, so I knew almost half the people there. However, we turned up on the night, and the band and caller were there, but the church hall where we were supposed to be dancing was locked and we could not get in. Apparently it was also full of junk for some reason. Fortunately it was a nice calm mild night, and we were able to get some power for the band and caller, so after sorting ourselves out we formed up in a longways set on the footpath outside and had our dance there, to the bemusement of all the passersby walking and driving through Kelburn village that night. The combination of uneven footpath, background noise, about 3/4 of the people never having done any contra before and people walking through made for a rather chaotic few dances, but they were good fun nonetheless, and quite a unique experience. We even managed to get a few passersby to join in which was cool. Perhaps this is something to do more often! I have danced Lindy Hop and blues outside a few times in London last summer, but not contra before. Oh, someone took some photos of us dancing. And one of my friends says we were mentioned in the local newspaper, though I have yet to see this.

Afterwards Polly had the excellent idea of organising a bunch of us to hang out for a while, so we headed down to Freyberg Beach in various cars to play on the climbing frame there for a bit and watch the stars, before heading to Enigma for some late night coffee and gelato. All in all, an excellent last night out in Wellington!

Sunday I went to church in the morning, then joined some people for lunch from the Chaffers market in Waitangi Park, then throwing a frisbee around for a bit. Great weather again. I then headed home to pack and get an early night, before getting up at 4:00 am on Monday to get to the airport and catch my flight out. By this point it had started to rain quite heavily, and apparently there was quite a bit of flooding in town on Monday, along with thunder, lightening and even an earthquake. It seems I got out just in time!

I spent the better part of Monday in Sydney, as I had a stopover there from 8:10 am until 4:05 pm. I had a walk around Centennial Park, as I had not been there before, then went for lunch at Google to catch up with Arya (a friend from university) and stretch (who used to be on my team at Google London). It was good to see them both, though I lost track of time a bit and ended up leaving at about 2:30 pm, only just in time to get to the airport and catch my flight. I had not meant to cut things quite so close. Anyway, the rest of the journey home was fairly uneventful, some minor delays due to mechanical problems and air traffic control meant I arrived in London about an hour late, but otherwise everything was fine and I managed to nap a bit on the flights. I arrived in London around 7:30 am, headed to work, and did a fairly decent job of staying awake all day. And now here I am!

Starting this Monday I am going to try blogging every day for a week, as something I am trying with some blogging friends. I may find this a struggle.

23 March 2013

NZ visit and miscellany

Filed under: Me, Travel — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 8:54 am

Firstly, for those of you in NZ who do not pay attention to Facebook, I am going back for a visit in a few weeks. I fly out of London on 14th April and arrive in Wellington at 2:45 pm on Tuesday 16th April, and stay until Monday 6th May. I plan to spend most of my time in Wellington, other than a trip up to Palmerston North for a few days at some point. If you are keen to catch up, let me know and we can organise a time! I am keen to organise a few picnics (weather permitting), walks, dinner parties and so on, as well as dragging people out dancing. I should probably get on with that soon, I have just been too busy with other things.

In the meantime, I have a friend coming to stay next week, which I am looking forward to, and then am off to Marseille (and hopefully some of the surrounding countryside and towns) for 4 nights over Easter, flying out there on Easter Saturday and then back to London on Wednesday 3rd April.

At the start of this year I decided to make an effort to have people over for dinner more often, and that has been working out so far. I have had lots of different groups of people over for dinner over the last few months, and Rachel and Matthew have returned the favour several times to have me over for dinner at theirs. I think I have averaged about one night a week (or perhaps even a bit more) of either having people over to my place for dinner or visiting others. So definitely a success so far! Lots of tasty food, interesting conversations, some music, dancing in kitchens, and all sorts of fun.

On the topic of dancing and fun, I went up to IVFDF in Sheffield a few weeks ago, which was good fun. Learnt some new dances (there were an enormous range of workshops), got to see what folk dancers make of blues, heard lots of great music, and did not sleep or eat all that much. Definitely well worth it.

18 February 2013

String colouring

Filed under: Maths — Tags: , — qwandor @ 8:08 am

One of my colleagues has an interesting combinatorial problem, perhaps the mathematically-minded among you might be interested to think trying to find a solution:

“I’m trying to work out the minimum size of a colouring of strings on a finite ordered alphabet, as follows.

Let Q be the set of integers from 1 to q, {1,…,q}

We consider all strings of length n on Q represented as path graphs with labelled edges:

Let G be the set of all qn path graphs consisting of n+1 nodes and n edges where there is an edge between node ni and ni+1 for each i = {1,…,n} and each edge is labelled with a integer from Q.

For any two nodes e and g on a graph in G, let max(e,g) be the highest label on the path between e and g.

Each node x in each graph in G is assigned a colour colour(x) from a set of colours C such that the following constraint holds:

For any pair of colours (a,b) from C, there is an integer f(a,b) in Q, such that whenever a and b appear on a graph in G, say colour(x) = a and colour(y) = b, then max(x,y) = f(a,b).

Question:

  • If q is constant, what is the minimum size of C?
  • What is the minimum number of colours I need to colour there graphs so that the maximum label between a pair of colours is always the same?

So far, I’ve manage to bound the minimum size of C between O(nq) and Ω(n logn). ie. O(nq) colours are sufficient but it can’t be done with fewer than Ω(n logn) colours.

Can you

  1. Show that there is a colouring of size O(n logn) or
  2. Come up with a higher lower bound? For example, show that a colouring has to be at least say 0.5n0.5q to respect this constraint

This problem has ratifications on unsolved problems in complexity theory related to the complexity of parity games and modal mu.”

Any thoughts? It has been far too long since I have done any real maths.

9 February 2013

2012 in review

Filed under: Lists, Me — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:47 am

At the start of last year I wrote out some objectives for the year. This is a bit late being February already, but now that it is 2013 it is time to review how they worked out over the year. So going through the list from that post:

  • See some more of the world: I did see some more of the world. I did the east coast trip, and caught up with Teresa, Jordan and Kirsten. Unfortunately I did not manage to see Dave or Carlton, or various other people further away. It was enjoyable, I saw some new things (Niagara Falls, museums in DC, Boston…), met some new people, and had some fun dances. I went to Poland and Hungary, which ticks off the two more European countries. Though I think my intent with this was to take two trips, so I did not quite do that. I toured around Scotland for 9 days with my parents, which was excellent (apart from the rain), and we saw lots of beautiful scenery and castles. The only new place I went in the UK other than that was down to the Isle of Wight with some interns and other Googlers, which was pleasant enough.
    • Visit the east coast of the US / Canada, and see at least 3 of the 5 friends I know over that way: 0.9
    • Visit at least 2 more European countries: 0.8
    • Visit Scotland: 1.0
    • Visit 2 more places in the UK: 0.5

    Overall: 0.8

  • Improve my dancing (and enjoy it): Dance-wise, I did a couple of workshops and a few classes in Balboa, but then did not keep it up or get practice much. I have not really done any in the last six months or so. I have done a fair bit of Lindy and blues though, including going to several weekend festivals (Blues Shakedown, Berlin Blues Explosion, Blues Baby Blues). I went to LSF again as well, though did not find it as good as 2011. I did a bit of Lindy in Wellington while I was back, and it made it along to one night of NZX up in Auckland as well. Getting friends along proved a bit more difficult. Oh, and I managed to find some Lindy or blues in Toronto, Krakow, and of course New York City when I was there (which were variable, but interesting nonetheless), plus a great contra in Princeton.
    • Learn at least one new dance this year (probably Balboa): 0.3
    • Go out for social swing (Lindy Hop) dancing regularly: 1.0
    • Take some classes / workshops to improve my blues: 1.0
    • Do some swing and/or blues with friends while I am back in NZ visiting: 0.8
    • Go to the London Swing Festival again: 1.0

    Overall: 0.8

  • Work out where I stand with God, and what that means: No progress on this one really.
    • Discuss more with some friends. Not sure exactly what: 0.2
    • Finish reading some of the books that are on my shelf, and write up some responses to them: 0.1

    Overall: 0.1

  • Improve my social life, and build and maintain a good group of friends with whom I regularly do things: I had a people over for a barbecue for my birthday. I cannot remember what else, maybe that was all?
    • Host at least 3 social gatherings (parties / dinners / whatever) at my flat: 0.3
    • Any other ideas I come up with: 0.0

    Overall: 0.2

  • Improve how I dress: I bought a suit to wear to Daniel and Sharon’s wedding, and have not worn it since. It felt awkward. Otherwise no improvements to my fashion sense or wardrobe.
    • Buy a suit, or at least something a bit more formal, for the odd occasion when that might be necessary: 0.8
    • Find other ways to improve in general: 0.0

    Overall: 0.4

  • Maintain other hobbies: I did some baking, but do not think I made stuff for other people as often as once a month sadly. I did not do any work on theQuotebook, Fridge or anything else, nor any further electronics projects.
    • Bake something for other people at least once a month, preferably more often: 0.4
    • Do some work on my existing programming projects such as theQuotebook and Fridge: 0.0
    • Do some work on electronics projects, such as the paper keyboard I started on last year, some kind of floor instrument, or something else based on the Teensy: 0.0

    Overall: 0.1

I have some ideas for this year as well (and have even started on one of them), but I will leave that for another post, and I think I will organise them differently.

30 December 2012

4 months

Filed under: Me, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , — qwandor @ 3:29 am

It has been ages since I last posted, so I guess it is high time I wrote something again. A have done a fair bit in the mean time:

The weekend after my trip to Amsterdam was Blues Shakedown, a blues dance exchange in London with 8 different bands plus plenty of DJs playing for lots of dancing all weekend. I was a little apprehensive as it was the first such event I had been to, but it was great fun and I was very glad I went. I definitely plan to go again next year assuming I am still around by then.

My parents came to visit in September. On first arriving in the country they spent a week by themselves in a cottage in the Lakes District, then I met them up in Glasgow and we spent a week driving around Scotland, visiting Glasgow, Oban, Skye, Inverness, Pitlochry and Edinburgh. Scotland is pretty, and it was nice to see some hills again; London is much too flat for my taste. The west coast of Scotland has particularly nice scenery, and reminded me a lot of parts of New Zealand. We saw lots of castles, lots of rain, and a fair few lochs and hills. There are plenty of photos in the usual place.

From Glasgow

They then spent another week by themselves in the Peaks District before continuing on down to London to stay with me for a week. It was nice to finally be able to show them around some of the city I have been living in for more than two and a half years now, and we went out to see a musical and a play as well (Singing in the Rain, and One Man, Two Guvnors; both were good). They then spent another week enjoying the warm weather in Greece before heading home via Singapore.

Shortly after my parents left London I headed to Berlin for Berlin Blues Explosion, the first weekend in October. It was also good fun, if rather exhausting. I met some nice new people there too.

On 20th–26th October my friend Chris Wood came to stay and see a bit of London. He was over from NZ for work, so stayed on a little as a tourist while he was over this side of the world.

Warsaw: With Andrzej and Małgorzata

I then flew to Warsaw the night of the 26th, to spend 9 days travelling around Poland and Hungary, catching up with a few friends and seeing some new places. I stayed with Agnieszka (who had been an intern at Google London) in Warsaw, and also caught up with Małgorzata and Andrzej, whom I met through Charlotte in Uppsala last year. Apparently it had been around 20°C the week before I arrived, but when I got there it was below 0, and it was snowing much of the time I was there, which made sightseeing less pleasant. Nonetheless it was interesting to see Warsaw, and I had a really good hot chocolate (with ginger and orange) at a nice café there. On Sunday we took a daytrip to Lublin, and then on Tuesday night flew down to Budapest where we stayed a couple of nights with a friend of Agnieszka’s.

From Budapest: Looking out from Gellért Hill

Budapest was beautiful, though unfortunately quite rainy. Not as cold as Warsaw at least, though. The photos tell most of the story. On Thursday evening we flew up to Krakow and I stayed 3 nights there in a backpackers’ hostel, but unfortunately Agnieszka was not feeling well and had to go home early. Along with the usual sightseeing and a couple of guided walking tours of the city, I met up with Nina (whom I had met at the aforementioned Berlin Blues Explosion a few weeks earlier) and some of her friends. She happened to have a friend in town for the weekend as well, so the 3 of us plus another of her friends did a bit of sightseeing together, which was nice. It also happened that the friend, Jordan, was planning a visit to London later in the year, which worked out well as I was then able to show her around London.

Back in London, the London Jazz Festival was on so I went to a couple of different free gigs as part of that: on Saturday 10th November there were 3 different bands playing at the Royal Festival Hall, and on Sunday there were 4 bands, all from Finland, playing at the Barbican. Unfortunately there were big gaps inbetween their sets, so I left after the first couple, but they were all good music.

The following weekend was time for yet more blues dancing, with Blues Baby Blues happening in London. I really enjoyed it, learnt quite a bit I think, and again made some new friends.

I had been thinking for some time lately about changing churches, for a number of reasons, and so in November I decided to check out All Souls Langham Place again. It is a large central London church, near Oxford Circus, and some of you may know it as the church where John Stott was rector for some time, and closely associated with until his death. I had been to All Souls a few times in the past, and was always impressed with the quality of the preaching and depth of thought that seems to go into everything, but this time I also found it to be quite friendly, more so than I had noticed in the past. So I went along to an open evening to learn a bit more about the church, and have now started attending regularly. It seems like a really good church so far, so if any of you reading this are in London, you should come along with me to a service there some time!

I had three different American Thanksgiving meals this year. There was a Thanksgiving themed lunch at work on Thursday 22nd November, which was alright. That evening an American couple I am friends with, Sean and Sarah, had invited me to a Thanskgiving dinner at their place with about 12 or so people. Sarah and a friend of hers had cooked an amazing meal, and the company was good too. Then on the following Saturday another American friend (Jennifer) hosted a pot-luck Thanksgiving meal at her flat, which was also full of tasty food. There was just so much of it! At first there was a reasonable amount of food, but then people kept arriving with more and more pies and cakes, and despite all eating too much there was still heaps left over.

The next weekend Jordan (the friend of Nina’s whom I met in Krakow) was in town. She is from Texas but spending the year working in a small town in Poland, and trying to travel around Europe as much as she can. She arrived late Friday night and left Sunday morning, so only had the Saturday to see London, but we managed to fit a lot in: starting at Baker Street we walked through Regent’s Park, up Primrose Hill, along Regent’s Canal to Camden Lock, then spent a while wandering through much of the Camden markets. We then took the Tube down to Leicester Square for a quick around there, Chinatown and Trafalgar Square, along The Mall for a brief glance at Buckingham Palace, back through St. James’s Park, past the Horse Guards, along Whitehall, Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, Dean’s Yard, then across Westminster Bridge. We walked all along the Southbank, with a brief walk through the Tate Modern, a detour through Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral, then across Tower Bridge for a look around the Tower of London. We discovered a little church there which I had noticed before, which had a small free museum in its crypt, featuring among other things some original Roman tilework. We then walked past St. Paul’s Cathedral to poke our heads in, by which point it was getting dark already, so we just had a quick look at some of the remnants of London Wall around the Barbican before heading home. Not bad for a day’s looking around though! I think that may well have been the most of London I have managed to show someone in a single day.

In December we had two work Christmas parties, one just for engineering at the Natural History Museum Earth Hall, and one for all London Googlers at some big club on the Southbank. The latter was extremely crowded much of the time, but the snowball fight was fun.

Christmas itself was pretty low-key. All my flatmates except for Steph were away with their families in various different places, and Steph had her sister and father visiting. Unfortunately her father only speaks German, and I only speak English, which made conversation rather limited. On Christmas Day itself I just went to church in the morning, then went to visit a friend for a bit in the afternoon, for some tasty lasagne. Boxing day was even less eventful. Work has been pretty quiet all this week, especially on Monday, but hopefully more people will be back next week.

Well I guess that is all my news for now. Next up, what to do this year… any suggestions?

8 September 2012

A weekend in Amsterdam

Filed under: Photos, Travel — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 6:20 am

Monday 27th August was a bank holiday, so I went to Amsterdam for the long weekend. Unfortunately it rained a lot for most of the weekend, with Saturday and Sunday alternating between torrential downpours and nice sunny weather every half hour or so. Other than that it was a good trip though, and I got to see some interesting things, as perhaps you have already seen in my photos.

Amsterdam: A well-known sign of the city’s slogan

It happened coincidentally that one of the interns who is working at Google London over the summer — a girl from New York named Erica — had also decided to go to Amsterdam that same weekend. We had each booked independently several weeks beforehand, but discovered the day before that we were both going there when another intern mentioned it to me. A number of other Googlers also happened to be in and around Amsterdam the same weekend, but they were busy with other things, so the two of us met up to walk around sightseeing together most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. We were staying in different parts of the city but not too far away. There also happened coincidentally to be a free music and arts festival on that weekend called Uitmarkt, so we went to see and listen to some of that at various points on Saturday and Sunday. Among other things the Holland Symphonia was playing a selection of Eurovision hits on the Saturday night, and songs from various popular musicals on Sunday night. A few of the latter were in English but most were in Dutch, so it was funny to hear songs I recognised (like those from Wicked) but in a different language. There were also songs from The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, Fame, The Buddy Holly Story, Yab Yum, and various others.

Amsterdam: Songs from Wicked in Dutch

We went to the Amsterdam Museum on Saturday to escape the rain for a while, which was reasonably interesting. Among other things they had models of houses from different periods of Dutch history. We also walked around a number of parks, which were nice but no doubt would have been much nicer had it not been raining much of the time.

Amsterdam: We came across this strange playground equipment on Saturday

On Sunday we took a daytrip to Volendam and Edam, which are nice old towns a short distance out of Amsterdam, with more traditional architecture (and lots of tourists). It was cool to see what we could in-between the downpours. I had been advised that it is nice to bike up there, but the weather being what it was we decided to catch a bus instead. Later in the afternoon we visited the NEMO science museum, which I found a bit disappointing. It was mostly just the standard basic science stuff, not terribly well done, and very much aimed at kids. Definitely nothing to compare to the Science Museum in London or the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the latter still being probably my favourite museum of any that I have visited.

Amsterdam: Little houses in the old town of Volendam

Funnily enough, on the Sunday night as I was sitting on a couch in the youth hostel, catching up on Facebook, Twitter and IRC before going to bed, there happened to be a Chinese girl sitting to my right with her Mac. Looking over her shoulder she seemed to be compiling something and reading something programming-related online. After a while we ended up chatting, and it turned out she was working through Stripe CTF 2.0, a set of web app cracking puzzles. Furthermore, it happened that she also lives in New York and studies computer science at Columbia. I mentioned that I had a couple of friends doing their PhDs at Columbia, and sure enough it turned out that she was friends with Erica but did not know that she was in Amsterdam at the same time. So, we ended up working together on the cracking puzzle for a bit before I went to bed, and then the three of us toured together for a bit on the Monday morning and early afternoon before Erica and I had to catch our respective flights back to London. Monday was thankfully sunny so we walked around some parks and nice areas in the east central part of Amsterdam, and bought some Stroopwafel as I had been instructed by one of the other interns who used to study in Amsterdam. We also took a free ferry across the harbour to see what was on the other side, but it was not particularly exciting.

Amsterdam: Strange creatures we came across
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