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Filed under: Belgium,Conference,GNOME,GStreamer,Life,Spain — Thomas @ 11:59 am

11:59 am

Looks like I caught part of the flu my Barcelonan flat mate was having. It started – as these things usually do – on Friday evening. My psyche knows when it’s the weekend and when I want to relax, and schedules diseases breaking out accordingly. I’d feel guilty about getting ill on working days, I’m sure.

We had a BBQ planned on Sunday with our old sport club – our yearly meeting. A simple flu wouldn’t stop me from having it, even though we took over organizing it from the original instigator (and used Doodle to do so – do yourself a favor and use it every time you’re planning something with friends to avoid fifteen thousand mails going “I can’t on that date, how about that date” – I wish I had thought of that site)

BBQ was excellent, save for the fact that the ten-year-old-but-still-in-a-box-deluxe-barbecook was missing a whole bag of nuts and bolts. Peter to the rescue by going to the hardware store and getting some basics to at least allow us to have the BBQ itself working. And affected as I was by the flu apparently I didn’t bring home charcoal but vineyard branches – not a good fit for the barbecook.

But all was well after a short wait and the meat was excellent, as was the company. And we even got some sports done.

Today being San Joan in Barcelona – my least favourite holiday, 6 year old kids running around at night shooting off fireworks without regards for their own or my life – I decided to stay home this week. I’m happy I decided to stay here because it’s no fun travelling while ill. This also allows me to focus on setting up our new virtualized development platform at work, because we’re working on a near-seamless migration from our old platform code to the new version. Flipping the big red switch just isn’t a responsible way of migrating customers anymore.

Kristien took advantage of me staying to work from home this week and went out yesterday to get a new kitten. His name’s Tonie (staying with the cat meme we started with Lunya), he’s mostly black but with white paws, a white jaw, and a bit of white across his face. As far as kittens go, this is one of the more active I’ve seen – up and about and trying to break free from his temporary “get-used-to-a-new-place” area in two hours. Usually a kitten takes about a day hiding behind some couch in a corner to adjust. Also, this kitten hardly made a peep while Kristien drove him home – an hour car ride and only six meows. Lunya would wail like a baby the whole drive.

Anyway, I’m sure you all know kittens are cute and heartbreaking. This one’s up and about and alternating between discovering this new place and resting on my lap.

In the end I’ve decided not to go to GUADEC this year, and go to Europython instead. It’s not really a very calculated or well-thought out decision – I was hung up on deciding ever since I realized they were on at the same time. I probably would have booked for both months ago if they had been separate.

It’s not that I don’t want to go to Istanbul – I do, but holy shit, is it expensive – and it’s not that I don’t want to see all my GNOME friends again. I’m interested in the debate our dear rabble rouser has started, though I doubt people will get anywhere on that.

Maybe it’s simply fatigue – I have to agree with some people that there isn’t that much variety compared to other years looking at the schedule. Possibly it’s also the fact that I haven’t contributed much of anything at all to GNOME over the last year. I’m sure that’s largely due to my focus having changed a lot. My involvement in GStreamer as well has waned over the last year, for various reasons I’ll save for a possible other post.

Europython was fun last year, it’s nice to see a different community interact once in a while. Breaks the entrenchment one gets into. It’s also more work-related – we’re looking for people with Python skills, so it makes more sense to go to Europython.

In the end, it wasn’t a single thing that made me decide, it’s really just a flip of a coin decision, and I’m sure I’ll regret it somewhere down the line. Chosing is losing.

So, with my birthday coming up (and now having decided to have it in Vilnius) I’ve cleaned up my Amazon wish lists and ordered myself some goodies off of it already. Which leads me to wonder two things related to Amazon.

First of all, why does Amazon even *have* different frontend sites for different regions ? And why do these sites not interact in any way at all ? Every link on the web to an amazon item are always to the US version, so I always end up having a US wish list, though it is weird to order stuff from the US if it’s also available on any of their regional sites.

Which leads me to point two – how is it still possible that ordering the same stuff from the US just comes out huge chunks cheaper than ordering it from the .uk or .fr sites ? And that’s even when I choose priority air shipping. Shouldn’t it be a hell of a lot cheaper to ship from their European warehouses ? Is this just the weak dollar ? Should I delete my UK wish list entirely anyway (which I only started for DVD’s because of region coding and PAL vs NTSC) ?

Anyway, enough influenced posting for today. Time to do some non-work work.


Filed under: Music,Spain — Thomas @ 11:21 pm

11:21 pm

Last Thursday I went to the Daydream festival here in Barcelona. Basically, it was built around Radiohead performing here. Now, I rarely miss an opportunity to go see Radiohead play if they stop close by, so this wasn’t going to be an exception. Radiohead is one of the few artists to always lay down a solid live set, and usually enough surprises in it. Through the years I must have seen them a dozen times, starting with the triple-priced tickets I paid to see them play to 500 people when I was 18 (I paid a double-priced tscalper ticket and half of a friend’s who was going to not go in because of the price – imagine that) I stayed an extra day in Barcelona, and got a combi ticket to this festival and Summercase, and – as usual – looked for music by bands that were going to play that day and created a Rhythmbox playlist at work.

On the whole, though, the festival was a bit of a let down (no pun intended). I really liked Bat For Lashes on album, but live they weren’t very convincing. Again I tried to give Liars a chance – they seem the kind of band I should have every reason to like, from having weird album titles, the indie aesthetic, the direction changes, and the uncompromising approach, to having a band leader that “hit it off” with Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) – who strangely featured in a rather erotic dream I had, even though she’s not really my kind of girl – in the end all their uncompromisingness just ends up being really really boring to sit through. Drum’s not dead, as an example, just doesn’t grab me.

By far the biggest problem with Spanish festivals I’ve been to (most of which have been at the Forum) is the terrible sound. The speaker towers they set up just do not have the power to bring a festival to life. I was standing somewhere on the 15th row during Radiohead and it was as if I was watching YouTube. None of the dynamics that make their songs stand out made it through the sound mix. It was truly painful to watch.

It might be that this is because, as I’ve been told, electricity at the Forum comes from solar panels. So maybe they just don’t have enough juice. Or, maybe it’s because Radiohead makes a cool 1 million euro out of this concert (so I’ve been told, just as I’ve been told that Movistar really really wanted them there and paid the 1 million euro without being sure they would be recouping their investment – my money is on them losing money on it). And I guess it’s also no dumb luck that most big bands travel the world with a Belgian company handling their stage and sound. But either way, it’s depressing to pay 70 euros to see Radiohead then walk off in the middle of their set just because drinks seem more interesting than the band on stage.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen them play anything off Pablo Honey, and this time was no exception. But they did surprise me by playing The Bends and Planet Telex (possibly my least-liked song off The Bends, though I might have to reconsider, and in hindsight it’s the missing link to OK Computer, sharing much of its dynamics with Airbag). Though, again, with the sound setup they were barely limping along.

Rematch at Werchter, guys ? I have my 4 day ticket in my wallet, and my age forbids me from camping, so I hope to score a journalist’s parking card, but I am ready. I hope you are too. And now all I need is to find at least four friends and convince them to go one out of four days!

Nerd Night

Filed under: Belgium,Hacking,Python,Spain — Thomas @ 4:58 pm

4:58 pm

I remember when I moved to Barcelona I was planning to take the opportunity to bring out my inner nerd more. I was going to go find a LUG to join, meet up with fellow hackers in the local area, and do the things nerds do.

I also had this vague idea of getting people from work over to my place on a weekend and working together a whole day on a common project.

Well, the LUG idea didn’t pan out – I remember finding two LUGs around Barcelona, one being entirely Catalan and the other with less of a nationalist focus, but still pretty Catalan. I guess I was scared to join up with my nonexistent Catalan skills. I didn’t meet very many local hackers, though I recently started going to the Barcelona Python Meetup, and I still have to meet up with Pau whom I met on the subway.

The hacking weekends didn’t happen either – I don’t think people were as interested as I was to do so in the weekend, although I had a few succesful stints with Jan before he left for Ireland that I remember fondly. But mostly people were happy to go out and get drinks/food/partied.

So, I was happy when Peter proposed we organize Nerd Nights. The idea is we get together and do nerdy things. We used to do this automatically in the house we shared before I moved to Spain. But now the other guys need to find a way to get some me-time away from wife/girlfriend and kids, and this is the perfect activity in which we’re guaranteed to have the women not join in.

Tonight’s the first one. We have various things we want to work on, including noiseproofing PC’s, getting Linux on a really old laptop, teaching Jeroen how to bittorrent, Setting up the Tux Droid, setting up the scrolling marquee Peter and I have, using the Cue::Cat, designing a new DAD (Digital Audio Database), making a VGA-over-CAT-7 cable … The list goes on.

It’s not exactly like the Hacking weekends I wanted to do, since it’s not Linux- or hacking-oriented, but it’s still enough to keep my inner nerd happy for now :)

Summer time and the living is

Filed under: Life,Spain — Thomas @ 12:45 am

12:45 am

There are days in this city when the work is hard and the nights are easy.  I was planning to get to bed before twelve every day of the week and didn’t manage a single time yet.

Tuesday we had a drink for our Office Manager going away, and we ended up at the Risolis tapas bar for excellent tapas and two bottles of wine.

Wednesday the plan was to go eat the excellent rabbit at Can Margarit but that plan fell through and I ended up at El Rey De La Gamba.  Some TODO dreams are of the kind where you cherish the idea of possibly doing something more than you would actually having done it.  Taking holiday off of work and go work at El Rey for a week just to get one of those awesomely awful T-shirts they have is one of those.

Thursday a birthday party at bar Centric.  Fun people all around, discussing work and life stuff, having home made tapas and some drinks.

And all the while at night the air feels pregnant and the temperature’s tender.  It is just bearable in the sleeping department, much more so than last year.

Spanish weekend

Filed under: Life,Spain — Thomas @ 10:15 pm

10:15 pm

In contrast with last weekend’s trying-to-get-hacking-done-and-failing-miserably, this weekend was excellent. Even if it started with a Saturday morning alarm ring at 7:40. The reason was simple – we were going snowboarding ! Sofie and Anna came to our place at 8, and we drove to La Masella. Hired skis/boards, got the passes, and up on the slope at 11. We were joined later by Jochen, Christine and Tim.

Kristien had some trouble getting her board to turn. Being a one neuron male, I of course blamed her sloppy technique, but she went back for a smaller board and that fixed her problem much better than I would have.
Most of the slopes were done with artificial snow, and there weren’t that many open, but for one day it was just about right, and the snow quality was decent enough. For various reasons (not the least of which the bad snow season this year) I am not going for a full week, so this is my only day of action this year. It did remind me however that I should look into getting info on having a snowboard with a customer design made. And now that we have a designer in the office, it may actually end up looking good as well !

When we got back in Barcelona, I managed to convince Kristien to get out and at least try one of the places we’ve been wanting to try for a while. We ended up at Mamita Linda, a Cuban tapas place that Daniel Fisher also liked on his visit last week, and it was excellent. The restaurants in Barcelona can be overpriced for the quality, downright bad in any price range, and most of the times they get the snobbish attitude down first before they manage the good food that’s supposed to be their motivation for being snobbish in the first place.

I don’t recall ever being actually said “welcome” in a Barcelona restaurant. They took great care explaining everything on the menu, they were extremely friendly, it had the feel of sitting down at a family dinner, everything we ate was good to delicious… The waiter asked “la mamita” whether we had finished all of our food, and she proudly said “yes” and he seemed genuinely pleased. They actually cared whether we liked it.

Also, the caipiroska we had was excellent. Serious competition for Miramelindo. Mamita’s taste slightly better; Miramelindo’s manage a nice thin layer of ice covering the glasses, and somehow get their ice to soak up enough of the cocktail to be worth eating at the end.

Overall, I should probably go again very soon, but a serious contender in the top-five of my Barcelona tapas favourites, and the difference in cuisine for the tapas definitely helps.

After that, we went to Noelle’s party, which we were indirectly invited to. They moved into a new place straight on La Ramblas, but the place looks better than that introduction would suggest. Around 2, they started expulsing people from the party on the grounds that those people didn’t know any of the three girls living in the place. This may sound strange but stuff like that happens all the time here. Before it happened I was actually considering giving random good-looking guys on the Ramblas the trinity of numbers that would give them access to an apartment full of party-minded girls, but after the complicated shoving-out procedure I decided against it. I have to say the girls handled the expulsion very professionally, as if they do this every day…

We spent Sunday sleeping in late – I can’t remember the last time I woke up at 12 – and dove straight into lunch, then headed for the beach and got some sun.  On the way back, we stopped by Ciudad Condal for the Usual Suspects, and then I drove Kristien to the airport.
Did I get anything useful done this weekend ? No, not at all ! Do I feel good about it ? Why yes – yes, I do.

On a side note – favourite Spanish cheese of the moment – Idiazabal.  Why didn’t anyone tell me before ?

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