Archive for April, 2006

truly, madly, deeply

April 27th, 2006

disturbed. (Yes, I've taken a leaf out of Ash's blog and opened with a song title.) Disturbed at how ridiculously seriously (how do you like the double adverb?) people take the biking regulations in this town. I've known it from day one of my biking here that I would eventually get in trouble for not paying much attention to the make belief, fairy tale rules they try to enforce on bikers.

  • Biking in the city center. Fine.
  • Biking at night without a light. Fine.
  • Biking at night wtih just a front light. Fine.
  • Biking on the pedestrian sidewalk. Fine.
  • Running a red light (not the real traffic light, the little bike lights for kids) across an intersection where there's no traffic because a) there are no cars in sight or b) everyone is waiting for a green light for 3 minutes. Fine.

I've committed all of those heinous crimes. And then there's cops. Lots of cops. Walking the beat, in cars, on bikes even. It never bothered me to see cops in the past, I wouldn't see them often but when I did, they were just cops. Now I live with a fear that I'm gonna get a fine for biking. It hasn't happened, but at any time I see a cop when I'm on my bike, I immediately take stock of the situation "am I in violation of some mickey mouse rule right now?". Often I am, like biking down one street at night without a light (I always forget to take them) and a police car goes past me. But then at the end of the street, the light turns red, the car stops. By the time it will turn green, I will already be there too, so what if they notice then that I'm not using a light? So I turned back, went the opposite way.

The number of lives I've put in jeopardy due to my 'reckless' biking? 0. The number of people I've injured? 0.

Today I was off to the supermarket, I unlock my bike outside my house, get on it, ride for half a block and I see 3 wannabe cops approaching me. They're not real cops, they just write parking tickets. I pass them and one of them waves at me. "What's this, are they pulling me over to check my papers, is this Soviet Russia?" But they didn't stop walking, the woman waved at me and kept walking. I look back at them, the guy makes a gesture. I stop and try to find out what's going on. He starts talking in Dutch. I ask him to say it in English, he keeps on talking. I look at him point blank like what he's saying does not even sound like a real language. Then he says something about Engels to the woman and the 3 of them form a task force to squeeze out a sentence in English. "You are not allowed to bike on the sidewalk, you have to go in the street." They saw me unlock my bike, get on it and bike for 200m tops, this is where they choose to lecture me? I *was* going in the street, but since this particular stretch of street is trafficed, it makes more sense from a safety point of view to merge in further ahead. I didn't try to explain this as I think it would be lost on them, but in this particular case there's a sidewalk and a street, with no marking on it even, no section for bikes. No biker sidewalk either. Nor was there anyone on the sidewalk either, I guess the parking ticket people want to make sure they have the sidewalk all to themselves.

Narcotics and prostitution are both legal in this country, what the hell for? It doesn't affect me in the least, just like it never did before I got here. Make those illegal again and let me bike freely, you nazis.

don't send me to get the wine

April 26th, 2006

I was going to a party tonight and you're 'supposed' to bring something. So I thought I would pick up a bottle of wine. Now, I'm totally the wrong person for this job, but since I wasn't going with anyone, I couldn't arrange it so that someone else would do it. See, I've actually bought alcohol maybe 10 times in my life. And that's amazing because I'm 24 and most people my age have been drunk more times in a month. So wine is no exception, I really have no idea what I'm doing. The only thing I know is too bitter is no good. When I enter the wine section of the supermarket, a section I otherwise never bother going into, I might as well be blindfolded trying to pin the tail on a donkey. So I just pick by labels, not by what they say but the way they look. Some bottles look really tacky with how the colors of the cork, the bottle and the label match. Some look more classy and I ended up picking a Bordeaux. Or at least that's what it claimed to be on the bottle, it was the one where half the bottles were missing, so I thought if people are buying this, maybe it's a good choice. It also happened to be among the cheapest they had, at €2.09. It doesn't cost much to get drunk in this country.

Although I was a bit late for the party, I came in as the very first guest. But since everyone brought drinks and this didn't turn out to be some drunken fiesta, noone actually touched any of the wine. Neither the one I got, nor the one that was already there, nor the ones that were brought in. They seemed a lot more interested in the beer.


a lack of ideas

April 26th, 2006

Every once in a while I read up on a new technology and it makes me want to try it out, see what I can do with it. Lately that technology is Mono, I've been curious about it for months. But it's not the first time this has happened, a few months ago I was thinking about Common Lisp for some time, started reading Practical Common Lisp, but I sorta had no idea what to do with it. Then it was Ruby, I read both Programming Ruby and Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby (the book everyone is raving about). Once again I had no concrete idea about what I could do with ruby. Finally, I decided to write galleryforge, and that was a good idea, because it's actually useful for something.

You see, it's not like I don't have ideas at all, it's just that none of them pass my screening process. I know I don't want to get involved in a big project, because chances are I'll never finish it. So it has to be a fairly well defined and narrow. But if I am to work on code, it should at least be useful, it should solve some problem, otherwise it feels like a waste. But chances are that if it does solve a problem and it doesn't do it particularly well, there probably already are other projects out there which do it better, so again why bother? galleryforge was a good call, because although it's similar to certain others, its scope is well defined and it does its job well. But I haven't been able to find another idea as good.

law and order

April 25th, 2006

Swiss German Dutch?? efficiency. That's what I encountered today at the Geemente (dunno how to translate this, 'kommune' for Scandinavians) when I went to report a change of address (yes, very promptly as you noticed, I actually moved to this house 25 days ago). Apparently, you are supposed to do this so the city can keep track of where you are. I walk into the building, up to the reception desk, the guy immediately tells me "end of the hall, up the stairs". I enter a big room with a looong desk and numbers at every place, like a bank basically. Lots of people seated and waiting so I'm thinking "well, this may take a while". But then I go up the stairs and there's just noone waiting there. I take a number and I get served immediately. I have to show my passport, my rental agreement, sign on a piece of paper, whole thing took 2 minutes. Amazing.

summer is upon us

April 24th, 2006

I was duped today, imagine with so much heat experience a person can still make a mistake like that. It looked like a normal day, people are walking around in pants and sweaters, but it's 16°C today and it's going to stay like this all week. I didn't realize I was sweating until I stepped into a bookstore where the concentration of people was about 1/m2. You see, a new academic period is starting today and so *everyone* is out to get books right now. I knew this would happen, so I meant to be there at 9am, but it figures it was already 10 by the time I gained any kind of consciousness, and so I showed up right when everyone else did. It's not that it's hot outside, it's quite pleasant really, but in the buildings it's no good. Apparently they don't believe in ventilation or cooling here. I had to get 2 books and return one to the library, all of which of course happens in 3 different buildings. I also found out today the university is going to be a construction site until October this year :wallbang:, so getting from building to building will remain non-trivial. On the way home, I hear the faint noise of a fire truck and I'm thinking "there's no way Phil Collins put that in his song", so I take out one earphone and take a glance behind me. There is a fire truck advancing, it passes me and then... turns into my street. I pick up the pace on my bike (hell, you never know, right?) and I'm relieved to discover that it didn't park outside my house, it's gone. Once I got home, I started off with a summer classic: the cold shower. Oh you don't need shock treatment, just turn the dial little by little and it will feel perfectly comfortable. Then I see an ambulance racing through my street. It must be heat shock.