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11Jun/12Off

Back from Amsterdam

I'm back from Amsterdam - it was about what I expected. I basically stuck to the hotel and the data center - I even skipped out on that little cruise I pre paid for, just didn't feel like going. I knew I disliked traveling and this trip was a massive reminder as to why. About the only thing that was a positive surprise for me was the long haul flights. I was dreading it at first but the nice reclining seats and big screen LCDs allowed me to kick back and stretch my legs without getting the usual cramps and discomfort. My flight to Amsterdam was on a single airline, made a stop in Chicago where the transfer of plans was amazingly short - it was about 150 feet between the gates I was afraid that it was going to be far and maybe I'd miss the flight (I don't have much recent flying experience the last time I had to make a connecting flight was I'd wager 20 years ago).

I got confused as to my flight schedule(wasn't going to be the first time) and I arrived in Amsterdam about eight hours before I thought I was going to arrive. The hotel was alright, I mean for the price at least, it was around $200/night or something which seemed pretty typical for a city room. First thing I noticed is it took me a good 3-5 minutes to figure out how the lights worked (had to put hotel key card in a slot to activate them). Took a shower after the long flight - no washcloth ? Maybe it is not typical in Europe I don't know, I seem to recall washcloths at hotels I was at in Asia growing up. The toilet was a very strange design, it was like this, which had a couple drawbacks. The mini bar in the room was automatic, I didn't notice that until the 2nd day, so you can't even take something out to look at it without being charged. I ended up taking quite a bit of things out. There was a sort of mini mart at a shell station about a half mile away that I walked to to buy drinks and stuff on a couple occasions the selection paled in comparison to similar stores in the U.S. The first time I went I literally saw a line of cars at the pumps. I don't know if gas was cheap or if it was a rush hour or the only gas station in the area but  it really reminded me of seeing the pictures of the gas shortages in the 70s in the U.S. There wasn't many pumps - I think 4 or 5, I'd say less than half the typical gas station here.

On the first leg of my flight the passenger next to me said watch out for the bikes - but didn't elaborate. Wow - I had not seen so many bikes since I lived in China in 89-90. They certainly have their bike infrastructure laid out pretty well with dedicated pathways for bikes as well as dedicated street crossing signals etc. On one of my walks around the hotel area I walked through what appeared to be their version of the Park and Ride. Where here the park and rides are filled with cars and parking lots, this one was filled with bikes and was pretty much entirely under a freeway overpass. It seemed like a large number of bikes weren't even locked up. The overall quality of the bikes seemed low I suppose that is at least partly to reduce theft by not having nice fancy bikes I'm not sure. More than anything when I saw the bike stuff it made me think this must be what those hippies in Seattle and SFO want. It was certainly an interesting design, too much of a culture shock for me though.

I found the intersections very confusing and am even more glad I did not try to rent a car while I was there.

Speaking of cars, wow are they small over there, I struggle to think of seeing even a single pickup truck (of any size) while I was there. I saw a bunch of cars like mine, and there was this other really tiny car, which made those tiny Smart cars look big, it was smaller than a golf cart. I missed a few opportunities to take pictures of them, I'm sure I could find them online somewhere. The taxi drivers drove sort of crazy, drifting between lanes and stuff, one of them blew way through a red light(the other lights must've turned green already) which was freaky. I recall on that same trip we were behind some kind of small van that had a radiation warning sign on it.

The data center was -- interesting I guess. Everyone had to wear protective booties around their shoes while on the floor which was a first for me, I think way over kill. Nothing really exciting here, I got everything done that I needed to get done.

I spent hours looking online for places to go but could not find anything that I was interested in. Well there was one thing I just couldn't figure out how to do it. I was really interested in seeing the big water structures they used to hold back the water. The biggest of them appeared to be a 2 hour drive away from the city ( too far). There was a couple tours that hit them but they were minimum 8 hour commitment which was too long. This is my first trip where I did not have a car at the destination and that was a good reason why I didn't do anything or go anywhere, normally I would just roam around but relying on taxis I really had to have a precise destination. I wasn't about to rent a car, I really did not feel anywhere comfortable enough to drive in a foreign country like that. While everyone said "they all speak english!", most people did speak great english, but the destinations for me for the most part were unpronounceable and not understandable (Schepenbergweg was the street the data center was on - I heard it pronounced at least a dozen times and at the end was no closer to beginning to pronounce it myself than hearing it the first time). Because of the $20 per megabyte roaming data fees on my phone I kept the data services on the phone disabled throughout my trip there which of course limited my ability to find stuff while not at the hotel or data center. I was especially worried of getting lost and having to call for a taxi and not be able to pronounce where I was and the taxi not being able to find me. I don't know how it was like in the real down town parts of town but in all the places I visited while growing up in Asia there was taxis everywhere you could just flag down and get one. I did not see this situation in the areas I was at in Amsterdam. The hotel called me a taxi to go to the data center and I asked the security guards at the data center to call me a taxi to get back.

So in the end I ate most of my meals at the hotel, never went to the down town part of town, I walked around a bit around the hotel and took some pictures of the area, nothing special. It really reminded me how much I dislike traveling in general.

The flight back was a little more frustrating, having to stop in London and go through customs and immigration and a pretty long trip to change terminals, it seems like I barely made the flight despite having a 2 hour stop over. I had to ask multiple people for help while there too because while I had a boarding pass it didn't tell me which gate or even which terminal to go to. Even once I knew where to go, getting there wasn't clear either. The whole place was very confusing, and as a result very frustrating.

This is the first trip I've taken in recent memory where I was really excited about going home. I wasn't looking forward to it to begin with and it turned out about the way I expected. Hopefully that's my last trip for a long time to come.

I thought about going somewhere fancy to eat or something, but I really couldn't find anything of interest. Add to that I don't like going out alone, if I'm with a friend things are different. When it comes to things like fancy steak or pasta or whatever I really don't have the sensitivity to tell the difference between most of them so I wouldn't be able to appreciate the good stuff so there really isn't a whole lot of point of me going. There was a BBQ + Grill near the data center (emphasis on was), the sign was still up but the building was empty. I went to two different nice places with a local friend when I was in Atlanta that I really enjoyed, I tried finding something sort of along those lines in Amsterdam but came up with nothing. Most of the places seemed too exotic or too fancy/upper class.

Apparently I left on the day things were going to get crazy, some special soccer game was being played on Saturday afternoon (I left at around noon). I've never been much of a soccer fan at least not since I played it back in 5th grade and earlier years. About the only sport I do enjoy watching is pro football, and even then my interest has been waning over the recent years.

I did all of my shopping at the Airport, picked up a bunch of dutch chocolate going to give most of it away, I tried some of it and it tastes like regular chocolate. I live a mile or so away from a pretty big Sees Candy operation, I bought some of their stuff for Christmas gifts last year, it tastes similar to the Dutch stuff if not better. Picked up a couple picture books of the area, along with some shot glasses for friends and/or family or something.

I got back a full day earlier than I expected. I was absolutely sure yesterday was Monday when I woke up at 5:30AM and turned to CNBC only to see it was Sunday. I got back on Saturday afternoon.

Contrast that with my next trip, which I think will be early July at this point, road trip up to Seattle. I decided to take the coast up north at least to Crescent City, CA. I've been wanting to take my new car along the coast since I bought it over a year ago. I made the coastal trip a couple of times several years ago but not in a car as fun to drive as the one I have at the moment. I'm not sure if I will spend two or three days driving up. I'm really looking forward to that. I think it may of been really cool to go along the coast of the Netherlands but I really didn't have a way to make that happen while I was there.

One of my friends from SEA is in town for a few days I intend to take tomorrow off and go see him down in Morgan Hill, CA (60 miles away), should be good times to catch up and hang out at this nice place he is talking about.

TechOps Guy: Nate

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  1. You should come to NY for Interop in October… I’ll make sure you have a good time!

  2. Sounds interesting to be sure! I can’t plan that far in advance but anything is possible. One of my friends just moved here from NYC a few months ago. He had high praises for the night life and stuff(the main reason why he went) but living there was apparently not quite so fun for his family, but he said it was a great place to visit.

    If I do end up going to that end of the country I’ll have to take enough time to go see a friend of mine in the Boston area.

  3. Thanks Dan Sounds like good i come to new york in December may i know Dan where you live in New York city.


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