Sunday, 31 August 2008

nearly done

So in between all these bouts of work and panda births, I've been doing more decorating and buying furniture (IKEA shares have soared thislast month I suspect)

And here's the proof

Quite a difference from when I moved in eh?
From This

To this

Then This

Need to get some art on the walls and a few trinkets for the shelves but its becoming home sweet home :)


Thursday, 28 August 2008




Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The stone age returns

Still no iphone.....I have resorted to...
I can't believe I'm typing this...I have resported to.
An appointment diary and pen.

oh god how I'm suffering.

Settling down and more material want woes

Been a busy few days, the initial whirlwind of information was pretty overwhelming but things are starting to settle down now. I am starting to focus on what I need to talk about next week and putting together the course work needed.

And the living room is finally papered and all the ikea furnure is all built

Starting to feel like home.


there's a fly in the ointment of my contentment
I'm not coping well with schedules, fairly simple thing I know but I've not really had to work to a schedule for some time so I've got a little out of the habit of keeping note of meetings and things.
So this finally gave me the incentive to go buy an Iphone so I can carry an organiser around with me at all times (ok ok I also want an Iphone real bad and they are cheap here)

Trouble is everywhere is sold out...So I tried an Apple store. "Yes we have them in stock"......hurrah
But...there had to be a but. I need to also get a contract with guessed it, there's a problem. The online system can't cope with ex pats, and so you have to send in the forms on a fax. Ok well 2 days turnaround is not so bad..thats what they told me.
2 days come and 2 days go and on the 3rd day I walk back into the Ifactors shop and ask what the hold up is. Trouble is the assistant manager has gone on a training course and has left word that it might take 2 weeks to process the T-mobile application.
I suffer


Saturday, 23 August 2008

1 down 51 to go.

So that was my 1st week in academia. Lots of new faces and names to remember, a load of educational chatter that had me staring blankly into peoples faces. The English names are not too bad, but I'm really struggling to remember a fraction of the Dutch ones.

I just hope my mouth wasn't open and drooling like a zombie when my brain overloaded and the saftey cut out kicked in.

I also have the wonderful notification that while still stuggling with this whirlwind of information and unfamiliar practices, that I have to prepare a years work for 3 (I think) courses for a week on Monday.

Oh and a schedule that dosen't seem to be quite finalised yet, since it has me in two places at once on Wednesday mornings. Hopefully that will get sorted soon, especially as there is an 8-30 start for 2nd year students on programming students.....up at 8-30? hmmmm I might just take a pillow to that class and catch up on my own sleep, cos there won't be many students there after the 1st week or 2.


Fortunatly I have finally managed to make sense of the university's online course plan system, so have been going through what was taught before and making notes on what I liked and didnt like about it. And having done that I've pulled a couple of books from the library which were used as refernce in the last couple of years.

Michael Dawsons excellent Beginning C++ Game programming is in there, though I've not seen much use of it in the course material, other than to cite a few examples, which is a shame as it really is an excellent book. I'll try to include a bit more of that to help the noobs along. If you want to learn to program in C++ I can't reccomend this book enough, it lays all the foundation work you'll ever need, so I'm pleased it's considered reccomended reading.

I'm a little torn in that as a new boy I don't want to be changing too much, but at the same time I don't feel too comfortable with the difficulty level that was set out as a start point in previous years. So I'm going to tinker a bit with the learning curve and lower it at the start, raising it in the middle and ending up at hopefully the same or better levels than previous years. I'm not confident enough to write an entire coruse but modifying whats there, adding some new stuff and removing some old stuff should produce the result I a majority of happy and progressing students.

My senior lecturer seems happy with this but wants to see my outline plan on Monday( so even less time) before I set it in stone. I guess so long as they achieve the required level of competecy at the end of the term, how I construct the learning curve should be up to me....I just have to remember I will have a fairly mixed bag of students and must try to keep them all interested regardless of their starting levels.

Of course I've no idea if the bulk of my class will be keen coding gods or, unwilling noobs. So I have to try to produce enough work to keep the keen coders happy while also producing simple enough explinations of what is being taught to get the noobs up to speed.

Welcome to education 101.

Students start arriving on Monday and will go through what I suppose is the equivilent of a rag week in the UK. I have the dubious honour of making my introductions to the entire new 1st year....

I must remember to buy some immodium and a cork when I go shopping this weekend.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

A desk.....I have a desk

Finally decided to build my nice Ikea desk and chair today so I can sit in the spare room and work away from TV and the ever welcoming fridge.

So some semblence of a working environment means I'm actually getting quite a lot done..dunno if its any good or not, but between bug fixes on my DS project and taking notes and making comments on my programming course, I've had a really productive day.

And just to top things electrical goods have finally much for the promised early morning delivery.

Oh I forgive them though...I have a Freezer, printer,dvd/hifi, microwave and TV at last....I can lounge around in style tonight.....well after I've put paper on the back wall.

oh thats interesting, I just noticed that this blog works on UK time....not that that means much, just thought it was interesting


boxes, cardboard and paper.

The flat is currently littered with boxes, mostly from Ikea, all unopened as I've not finished the lounge wall paper. Today a few more boxes are due to arrive amongst them my all important 26ft plasma TV....well not really, but I can dream.

A local electrical shop opened up last Saturday and had a great offer on a 100cm LCD Screen, which would have saved a few hundred euro's. Unfortunately by the time my expenses had hit the account, the offer had lapsed (as had stock, they flew out of the door) But when I explained to the salesmen I basically needed to buy almost every electrical gadget on offer we managed to negotiate a nice little discount....not as much as the special offer but still nice.

So today more big boxes are going to arrive to clutter the place up, so after I've finished work today I need to crack on with the decorating in the lounge and get the Ikea stuff built.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Internet at home yipeeeee..ah there's a catch

I got my internet router and set up details today. The phone itself isn't actually on till Friday but I thought I'd hook everything up so it would be ready when it did get switched on.

Thing is, once I did hook it up, the DSL light came on which means it was getting a data signal.
Sure enough, 10 minutes later after I set up the laptop to put in passwords and stuff I have internet at last, access to faster por....ermm webcam chats with my beloved.

But I'm a bit worried the line is supposed to be 20Mb, now as is usual in the UK you seldom get the stated speed, normally its 50-80%...but after checking it I'm only getting 0.6M . Thats a helluva difference from 20M.
I'm going to assume the line is not fully clear yet so will wait till the phone is put on on Friday and if its still 0.6M Mr's B's little boy is going to be on the phone pdq wanting his missing 19.4M.

In other news..the bike is still in the shop waiting for the factory repair geezer to come and give it once over. But as I've now started work I needed to get hold of a bike, so am renting for a week, hopefully that'll be long enough.

Work started on Monday and its all a bit of a blur at the moment, theres a huge number of new people to get to know, and masses of education'talk that goes right over my head, but some if it is starting to sink in and hopefully by the time school starts proper I'll at least get my Dutch collegues names pronounced correctly. Either that or I'll have to start calling everyone Luv or pal....might reduce the number of face slaps.


Sunday, 17 August 2008

Thunder in the air

In Breda, everyone cycles, pretty much. That's not to say there's no cars, there are, but for 2 wheels you can't seem to top the bycicle.
There are however a few motor bikes though, and almost all are Harley's. To make them more interesting they seem to like them very loud so they drive around without baffles in the exhausts making an incredible din.
Just one unsilenced Harley can be heard from half a mile away. So much so that I often mistake it for thunder.

Today is Harley Dag in Breda, or Harley Day if you prefer.....One day a year Breda hosts a festival where Harley owners from all over Europe descend on what is normally a quiet little town and the place becomes a mecca for bikers.
There are hundreds if not thousands of unbaffled Harleys, driving around Breda or sat posing in the Grote Markt or other large squares, with their proud owners showing off the new chrome they got last month and demonstrating just how much noiser it is that the guy next to them.

There's a lot of Thunder in the air today..Thor will be pleased.


Thursday, 14 August 2008

Not much news I'm spending a few days a the NHTV office to get access to the internet so I can set up my new work laptop.
Work proper starts on Monday which will be fun, though I understand that it's mostly going to be an induction process for a few days.

I have discovered a few problems with the language...mainly my lack of understanding of it, as I've cocked up my pin number on my bank card and have to apply for a new one...I assumed a number I got from the bank was my pin, but in fact it was a telephone access code. So when I tried to use that number on my internet scrambler gadget 3 times without success it killed my card.
Which was not exactly fun...lucky there's no money in there that I need to get my hands on urgently and I have just enough cash to see me through till my expenses hit the account.

In other news, the repair shop reports the bike has a 50-50 chance of recovery. Watch this space.


Saturday, 9 August 2008

and in other news, police want to speak to a fat scottish bloke in connection with the death of a young bicycle

My bike broke

I think I killed it.......I must lose weight.

I took it back to the shop to get them to fix it, they all looked at me like an axe could such a young bike die so young.....I made my excuses and left.


Its like the 70's all over again

We went to the pics last night, and were a bit late (she sent me to the wrong matter what story she tells was her fault) and misssed the Dark Knight (they don't let you in once it's started)
So we decided to see wise it was ok, but this fantastic little cinema was like something straight out of the 70's. Tiny little 4 screen theatre, where you are called to attened just before the performance starts. Each theatre sits about 150 and someone closes the door just before the film proper cute.

But...this is what got me......they had an intermission...Half way through the film, they stopped for ice cream and drinks was sooo cute. Shame there was no lady with a tray but still...I've not seen anything like that in 20 years.

It seems this small cinema is going to close soon as there is a big multi screen opening up which I think is going to take over the franchise. That'll be a shame.

I also commited a terrible faux pas, In typical UK fashion I left my drink bottle on the theatre floor, but as I was waiting for Bina to come out of the loo (bladder like a walnut) I noticed everyone coming out and depositing their rubbish in the bins outside...oh dear..I feel so bad about that now. I have to rediscover my long lost social conscience and start picking up my own rubbish in future.


Brussels japes

So every year it seems in the Grand Place they have a carpet of flowers and a bit of a party, there's bound to be links on the net.
So Bina and I are walking around Brussels taking in the sights and sounds, all very nice. And we wander into the Grand Place, where everyone is sitting on the ground watching the Hotel DeVille which has a lights being set up changing the colours of the building in very impressive ways.... So convinced something cool was about to happen, we joined the throngs of tourists on the clean cobbles and waited, and waited, and waited...then some more waiting, and a bit more which time, being a bit clever, I started to suspect something was not quite right...but being equally a bit stupid I waited a bit more.
Until 11-30 or so an my bum started to complain about the cobbles, no matter how clean they were.

Time to give it up and go get a drink at one of the open air cafes. A glass of Vin rouge and a lager for the commoner with me, and I asked the waiter what was was a test for the lights at the weekend...A couple of hundred tourists are sat around on cobbles waiting for a performance that ain't happening for 2 days.

So my experience of Brussels is coloured (geddit) by the experience of sitting on cobbles for 2 hours waiting for a light show.


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Day trip to Brussels

Bina has joined me for a few weeks before I start work, so we're heading off to Brussels for a day trip, (Breda is very close to the border) she has thousands of hotel points saved up so we're going to enjoy a bit of half star Best Western comfort for the day.


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Week 1

Well that’s the 1st week over and done with, in 7 days I’ve actually achieved less than I wanted to, but probably more than I thought I could do.
The carpet is down, the decorating is well under way, the kitchen is stocked, I have a bed to sleep on and a comfy sofa to sit on, I own a mean machine bicycle to do the shopping on, lights and curtains are up and I have some TV and radio to entertain me in the evenings.. A mobile phone for Dutch calls, and a home phone line and internet on order. Washing machine in place and cleaning clothes as I type, and a new iron sat in its box waiting for someone to teach me how to use it… All is slowly taking shape.

The fancy wallpaper gadget wasn’t really as useful as expected…Somehow you knew it would be didn’t you? It was ok, but it spread the paste very unevenly so I have quite a number of bumpy bits in the 1st couple of strips…but once dry they should smooth out. I discovered if you didn’t keep it topped up constantly it got patchy, but that resulted in a lot of wastage of paste, so I’m only really setting it at the minimum level now and touching up with a bit of brush pasting the old fashioned way.

I even worked out how to get the light switches off…the rocker switches pop off revealing a rubber seal that you remove to take the unit off the wall…quite neat

Pretty good going, and though the flat is still a bit disorganised with a bed in the lounge which will go back in the bedroom tonight when the paper is fully dry, it is starting to look and feel like home…One dissapiointment is that when I went to buy the lounge wallpaper, they only had 6 rolls from the same batch available, and I need 8. I know from past experience that getting paper from different batches never works out, so they are going to order a new load of rolls but they won’t be here till Friday. Ah well not to worry, I can have a bit of a relax this week and do a bit of window shopping for stuff, The next round of furniture buying will top things off nicely.

Learning Dutch isn’t going as well as I expected though, every time I try to say something I get puzzled looks, or worse.
I have to work out the difference between that ghhrrr sound and the ghhhrr sound…apparently it can make the whole context of a sentence totally different…like

“Hi, where can I find a WiFi Hot spot”,
becomes “
Your mother is a porcupine and I’ve had her”.


It’s all a bit confusing.

Ah yes..I can’t close off without commenting on my first disappointment in Holland. Racism rears its ugly head…I’m hoping it’s just a lack of communication skills but this did bother me.

During my last update, I got shoo-ed off the platform steps where I was hooked up to the WiFi signal at the station since a train was on the way and the platform guard wanted the steps cleared.. So I had to move 10 yards away to a bus shelter where I could still get a signal.
There, 2 young Dutch lads at the stop. noticed me using my laptop and said some to me in Dutch to attract my attention. When I gave them my best “Sorry Spreekt u Engels”, which fortunately has nothing to do with mothers or porcupines, they were a bit lost though and tried to translate their warning.

It came out something like, “Is not good you sit with that there, here is bad place, too many blacks y’know, they rob.”

Ouch….yes its true there are a lot of apparently homeless immigrants who hang around the station and show signs of sleeping rough, most are African it seems, or from the Dutch Antilles, and clearly some degree of lawlessness and begging is going on if you stop and watch. But probably no more than in most other large train stations. I’ve ever been, I mean have you ever stood and watched what goes on at Euston or Kings Cross.

I felt quite sad that this seemed to be a stereotypical example of racism, not something I’ve heard much of from the Dutch, but as I say, it could simply be a translation issue, the 2 chaps were struggling with the English, and perhaps blacks was an easier word to use than homeless/vagrants or whatever he might have been trying to say.

Anyway…while I don’t like the stereotyping that was involved, I have to say it did make me look around and realise that perhaps sitting on some open steps with dozens of people aimlessly wandering around looking for dropped cash, flashing something that could easily be pawned for a meal, was perhaps not the brightest thing in the world to do….I shall therefore attempt to hook up at a safer place next time, and perhaps be able to enjoy a coffee while I’m at it.


Friday, 1 August 2008

home from home

Look look, its a bed, a BED, something comfortable to sleep on tonight...when I get it built..I'll have to leave it in the lounge for now, since I've not finished decorating the bedroom yet, plus it'll be hot and moist as the paper is dying so best to wait till paper is up and dry...but tonight I sleep on a bed...bliss.

Also Ikea (I love that place soooo much) are delivering a new couch sometime before 11pm...(brilliant service) and also I have clean clothes thanks to the washing machine that arrived yesterday and dried in 10 mins flat when hung over the balcony in the blazing sun yesterday.

Decorating wise I've got all the walls prepped and ready to slap the paper up there in a big splurge this weekend, and I've bought this fantastic looking autopasting gadget from the Formido DIY shop I've been going to, if it works as it should it will make the job a lot easier. But I've not started doing the paper as I've discovered I need a long thin Philips screwdriver to take off the wall mounted thermostats and also the power units so I can keep the paper neat and tidy behind them. Anyone know how to get the switches off? They seem to be snap on and stay for life types over here rather than the screw on/off once we have in the UK... ah well not to worry. if I make a mess of cutting round them you can buy little overlays from the DIY shops I noticed.

Despite the general lack of finished things, the place is starting to feel homey, carpet a fridge full of food and a few bits in the cupboard help that feeling along. The fact I can get BBC1 and 2 and a whole range of English/US progs on with dutch subtitles makes it much easier to chill out in the evenings. My laptop is now almost permanently on top of an empty kitchen bin box in the absence of any suitable tv cabinet, the box is just perfect. :D

And now to top that off a bed...I might even have an early night tonight.

Budget wise that’s it for now, cash has run out now and I need to keep a few hundred back to buy food and stuff till I can claim back the outlay as part of my relocation package then I can buy the remaining bits and bobs I need, lick units, wardrobes, TV etc, but I'll have to wait till the university staff are back (on the 18th I think but I'm going to check)

I had to decide between a dirty great big TV or a decent sofa (the sofa bed is ok, but long term its not the most comfortable thing to sit on for hours at a time), and sitting on a TV seemed to be a waste and would make it hard to view anything! Hence my trip to ikea again (if nothing else this 14km cycling trip every day must be helping me get fit). And knowing I was getting something delivered I picked up a clothes dryer (to put on the balcony) and a laundry basket which would have been a wee bit hard to carry on the bike...mind you I saw one enterprising young Dutch man, load up a very large microwave on to his rear carrier then head off home holding it in place with one arm behind him.....amazing these people are as comfortable on 2 wheels as we are in cars...I've even forgotten how to ride no handed....but at least I can get up to 3rd gear now without wheezing.

I didn't add any pics last time as I was in a bit of a hurry and hadn't uploaded them to the laptop before I headed off to the train station to hook up the the wireless net there. But here you go I’ll edit the posts now ...and here’s a few more pics for you to get excited about....whatd'yamean you're not excited?

Arrghhh fantastic..Ikea just delivered my's that for service..order and pay for at 4.40pm delivered same day at I'll get it built and add pics.
It'll look s lot better when its built...I hope.

Right off to the train station to post this, pick up mail and catch up on the gossip.