February 2008 Archives


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Those wacky Onion writers, letting the cat outta the bag.
Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early


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IMG_8322.JPGSo not only did I go to Munich for Franz's orgy of food, I went for Starkbierfest. It was an amazing afternoon, with a capella band and the Schwuplattlers in the hall, but also intense sun out on the terrace. I'll upload more later.

Those wacky Dutch

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IMG_8388.JPG This is hanging in a hall in the AtosOrigin office where I work. I haven't been to that corner yet. Everyone seems to come away with a smile though!

A little Sunday brunch

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Franz made a little Sunday brunch this morning.
As usual, it was completely over the top. Photos behind the fruit plate.

A Rhythm

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Three weeks into the project, and I've finally found a rhythm where I feel like I'm here and part of things. Up at 7:30, coffee in the lobby by 8:15, and a short pair of trams to the office, picking up lunch and a snack on the way. A series of coffeebreaks with the AtosOrigin guys, interrupted by periodic fits of work. Sandwich time (I bring a diet coke, not milk like the dutch, somehow its just not the same), more work, and out the door at 5. In the gym at 6, cardio, weights, shower, and dinner. Tonight I'm eating at a restaurant, rather than a Albert Heijn salad-for-one in the room, which makes it rather a big night out. I'm not that adventurous though: its a little dive called Leopold, that has an excellent selection of Belgian trappist beers, and a ribeye which isn't quite like home, but has some flavor to it. The candlelight and dimmed incandescents give the wood and brass in the room a mellow golden glow, and the occasional scent of tobacco lingers lightly in the air in a way that lends intrigue and authenticity to the place. It makes me happy cause the place usually has a good crowd as well; its not as lonely as a hotel restaurant.
I'm beginning to have the feeling that Den Haag is kind of like Austin. There's very few people from there, and it sprawls all over the place. Most people on my project are living in Rotterdam. The girl and guy that run the coffee counter in the lobby of the hotel are from Amsterdam and commute in daily. Maybe next week I'll move hotels to Amsterdam for part of the week, so my last few days there I can get some gift shopping done, and have a bit more variety in evening entertainment. That and a few more Marriott points.
Friday will be a half-day at work, and then fly down to Munich for the weekend for Starkbierfest. My friend Keith that lives in Stuttgart is going to make it to Munich as well, so I'm really looking forward to it.
The upside to having been here 4 weeks in a row is that I'm mostly guaranteed 3 weeks at home to work, and those weeks should be plenty productive.
One thing that I notice about Den Haag is the random haphazard way the public transport infrastructure has been built. It cracks me up that trams cut underneath buildings and through the middle of some other buildings. The city sprawls and seems to be undergoing construction at every corner.

Afternoon view

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IMG_8273.JPG More brilliant sun in Amsterdam. Its nice to be out in it, as long as you find a spot not in the wind. Its been a nice quiet weekend for the most part. I stayed out too late on Friday night which meant most of Saturday was shot. Today has been lazy as I get some expenses together and write some documents for work. Even got to work out today, and hopefully the scale wasn't lying when it said I'm down 2 kilos from last week.

I agree with Slashfood..

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They like Stroopwafels.  Lekker!

The week was busy with requirements and other somewhat numbing work. My feet hurt bad.

Laundry at the hotel for the week? 100 Euro. Breathtaking. After next week, I will have bought the hotel a brand new washing machine.

I sent Chaz some tulips yesterday. I told him I picked them myself.

Morning View

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IMG_8270.JPGPrinsenhof Atrium right next to my hotel. Its rather futuristic, and almost Disney-esque with the tram running by on the elevated track out the window. Today's rather foggy, and its going to be a challenging day, telling the customer that their most important requirement can't be met by the product. After the sales guy has gone on vacation, of course.

Stream of Consciousness.

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I can't believe I went and left my Bonuskarte at home. Remembered my Oystercard, forgot the Bonuskarte. Dumbass.
I paid too much for a weeks worth of gym (30 Euro), but its amusing cause it seems to be the gym where the hot chicks all work out.
I got to see Jan & Timon both at their houseboat and at their garden house this past weekend. It made the weekend complete for me. Gezelligheid is amazing; homecooked food, good wine, friends, a swan begging for scraps at the window, lazy lit nighttime traffic on the Amstel. I walked away Saturday night humbled, thinking "I really don't deserve to be part of all that.. I don't bring much to the table." I'm honored.
Work has been on one hand silly, and on the other hand fascinating. This project is an interesting mix of reality and fantasy. Typically an organization has some standards for production applications. According to the customer, they really don't have standards, as long as we have something that can be justified, the government will deploy it. I hear that and think.. "No wonder their RFID implementation went so bad, so quick."
I can't believe all the crappy reality TV that's broadcast here. I probably shouldn't be staying up so late here.

Voorburg steeple at night

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voorburg churchOne of the fondest memories I have of the time when I lived here was riding my bike in a bitter freezing rain at 3 something in the morning after carousing with friends. Somehow I noticed the clock on the Oudekerk with its little yellowing lights at the hour markers and a bar of lights on the hands on all four sides. The utility and simplicity of this just struck me as beautiful. A timeless timepiece that's been there for years. As I neared the apartment, I sped along the canal and seeing the clock on the Westerkerk's tower, a smile crept across my face when I saw the same arrangement on its face. Sure I was drunk, but I knew I was privy to something no one else knew. They're all the same, the clocks at night. The Dutch made them that way, and no one has noticed. And tonight when I saw the church in Voorburg after dinner, I still feel privileged to have been let in on this secret that only comes out at night.

If its Thursday, it must be The Hague

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Two of three 'training' sessions with the dutch are under my belt, and as unprepared as I was to jump into a full gallop on this project, the customers is even more unprepared. This is a double-edged sword of course, so its been a stressful week trying to stay just a few steps ahead of them. That fact compounded with jetlag have made for a couple of sleepless nights.
Eindhoven was a good visit, but the 80 minute drive up to Den Haag was nerve wracking.  The distance between the major cities isn't that great, and there's enough upwardly mobile people here now that are driving intercity to pack the highways full after work.  Traffic jams weren't that bad, it was just the driving in close proximity to one another at high speed in narrow lanes that takes a lot of concentration.  There's no time to look out the window over the bridge at Rotterdam or Breda when you're 4 feet off someone's bumper.

And speaking of things dutch, you know they have some great things at Hema as always. Just don't run your mouse over the drinking glass.
Den Haag should be alright.  The hotel for these two nights is nice enough, and the people are going to get engaged pretty quickly.  Would be nice to have a native speaker on my team for next week when we do requirements, but I've been able to hold my own.

I've only taken a few photos, and they've turned out pretty crappy for some reason. Franz hopped a train to head up this way through Saturday morning. Its nice to see him, but it interrupts the rhythm of my week a bit. I'll get through it though.
IMG_8197.JPGIts not quite the same as climbing on top of a 9th century temple to watch the sun set, but when you pull over from the race from time to time, there's a rich palette out there to see. Too bad my camera seems to be flaking out on picture quality
Since the class I'm giving tomorrow is in Eindhoven, and it was getting frustrating trying to coordinate how to get there with the client, I rented a car and drove my happy butt down here on my own. One hour and I'm nearly across the country.
The man-cold has now just become annoying chest congestion. Hopefully I can kick it the next few days, but the fact that I'm teaching may interfere.


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More fun and games with HP. I've booked a car for today to go to Eindhoven for tomorrow's class. I'll have 2 nights there before coming back to Den Haag for two days.

Earlier this morning

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No traffic on the Ring Road.  While it was sunny today, the sun barely cleared 50 degrees off the horizon.


Sunrise over Schiphol

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Houston to Amsterdam was just over eight and a half hours, with a ferocious tailwind behind the plane. I did manage to get some sleep. Since I was able to check into the hotel at 9am, a nap is most certainly in order, then perhaps the Rijksmuseum if its open today.  The morning traffic is quiet, and the city is still. It hasn't changed from 8 years ago when Chaz and I lived here; at the right moments after the bustle of the weekend is over, you can see remnants of the village it once was.

ALGPC Endorsements

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For the record upon my return.

Road Warrior, NL edition

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After two week of bench/training time, my next assignment has me traveling to the Netherlands for four weeks. The first week will  be all over the place - arriving in Amsterdam on Sunday, then working there Monday. 2 days in Eindhoven at the customer site, then 2 days at their other, main, site near Den Haag. I write this from the Austin airport President's Club.  Austin - Houston - Amsterdam; 14 hours in transit.

I take this trip with somewhat mixed emotions.  Springtime weather is approaching here in Austin, and as I pack my hat and my gloves and buy a few sweaters on drastic markdown, the sun is out and its a glorious 70 degree day.  Talk about cognitive dissonance.  The 10 day outlook for Amsterdam doesn't have anything above 50 degrees, and is highlighted by rain.  Be careful what you ask for, indeed.

I wasn't too clever with planning this trip. This weekend is Karneval [mardi gras] in Cologne, and Timon and his crew are already out there having a good time.  Had I been smart, I would have left for Cologne on Thursday, and set expectations to be in NL by train on Monday.  I needed the time at home to get ready, however, so I suppose it works out.  That time would have been on my own nickel anyway, and these days that's a little rough.

Franz is already planning a trip to visit as well, so that should be enjoyable. And hopefully I can do a few things on the weekends as well. Shahzad is in Madrid at the moment, and I could probably find a place to crash in London. I've sent emails to that effect already.  Of course the last weekend in February is Starkbierfest which should be a blast as well.  Now that I think about it, I'm going to be hustling all over the place for 4 weeks.

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