So it’s been a busy few months which have seen me move to the other end of the country (back to London), followed by a trip back to China. In the meantime I’ve been waiting with the utmost patience while BT take 5 weeks to install a telephone line in my new place, just so I can get proper broadband access. Thanks, BT.
Anyway, along with some fellow colleagues, I took part in the Automattic World Wide Walk 5k – a chance for the good people at WordPress.com to feel a bit more connected. It was also a good excuse for me to get out of the house and explore my new surroundings.
My walk took me into the chaos of Sunday in Camden Market, giving me a chance to pick up a Chaboba bubble tea, before heading along Regents Canal into The Regents Park. This was followed by a walk around the park before heading to Primrose Hill for a lovely view over London.
And here’s my less-than-perfect attempt at photo stitching.
Apart from bills the only thing that comes through my post box are flyers for local pizza companies and private hire taxi firms. I wish I could get Akismet for my post box (or maybe this already exists – a big dog).
Anyway, a while back I found an unusual hand-printed business card had been slipped in alongside the junk. I almost threw it away before noticing that it contained the URL for a WordPress.com blog. On closer inspection it turned out to be an advert for a blog about the area in which I am living, and which must have been hand delivered by the author – an unusual way to promote a blog. I can’t imagine that a similar online method of promotion would have made it past spam filters.
The card reads:
Over the coming days, weeks, months and years I am going to write and tell you about my life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London. How can I ever describe the exuberant richness and multiplicity of culture in this place to you? This is both my task and my delight.
The blog itself is an interesting read and I’ve already learned about several places of interest in my local area, as well as reading about some of the more colourful local characters. It seems that sometimes hand delivered spam is ok.
Yes, this is one of those late-late February New Year round-ups! And what a year it’s been in general. Moving back to the ‘real world’ (aka London) has now come and gone, and I’m safely wrapped up in trying to stay ahead of the world’s general downward curve.
This site has fully moved from it’s previous Dreamhost location and is now being hosted by Slicehost. This has allowed me to add bug tracking through Redmine, which has helped considerably in keeping track of the state of things. I’m still experimenting with the right settings, and there are occasional weekend dips as I move things around, but everything should now be running quite nicely with a combination of Apache and Phusion Passenger. If you’re not afraid of managing your own system then Slicehost are highly recommended.
Next week sees the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rat, and with it millions of Chinese will celebrating with their families. The rat symbolises wealth and prosperity to the Chinese, and I’m hoping this is a good sign as by the end of the month I will be moving to London to restart Life 2.0.
My feelings about this are mixed. In many respects I’m looking forward to having access to all the modern goodness that I’m used to, but in others I’m expecting severe culture-shock as I rejoin the familiar rat-race (pun intended). Like many Chinese at this time of the year I shall be catching up with family (although hopefully not hampered by extreme weather conditions). Following that I’ll be faced with the rather more difficult prospect of finding employment and a place to live.
Seeing as the internet is ideally built for self-promotion I thought I may as well mention that if anyone happens to be in the position of needing a full-time London-based developer then please do get in touch. There’s some more details about my skills here, and it should be noted that I can do other things besides PHP/WordPress. Pimp-mode over.
I’ll admit a certain liking towards end-of-the-world movies. For me there’s something irresistible in seeing what happens when everything goes wrong and Bruce Willis doesn’t manage to save the day. It was with delight that I watched 28 Days Later, a 2002 movie by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland about a horrible blood-spitting disease that strikes Britain. Maybe it was the bleak London vistas, maybe it was the unrelenting music and in-your-face video, or maybe it was just the fact that it was a great budget movie that packed a big punch.
With this in mind I looked forward to 28 Weeks Later, the sequel, with great anticipation. Both Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took a back-seat this time, leaving the movie to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. The story starts 28 weeks after infection, and we are introduced to a Britain where the infected have all died of starvation. The American army has been called in to take control of the situation and reintroduce the surviving population back. Gone are the original actors, disappointingly with no indication about their whereabouts. Instead we have Robert Carlyle and his family as the main protagonists, as we follow them into London, entering a survival centre, and then escaping the aftermath as a good situation goes badly wrong.
After a long hiatus I am back in Prague, and it’s feeling good. Norway was a fantastic country to stay in. The countryside was, to use a ropey-old expression, drop-dead gorgeous. The people were very friendly, and I enjoyed myself a lot. Living in a hotel for so long did have its downsides, and I don’t miss that at all, but I succumbed to a reward scheme and have earned myself enough points to stay somewhere lovely.
My previous impressions of Oslo were more or less accurate, but I will update them here. The most important thing is that yes, Norway is indeed an expensive place. Even compared to London. When you look at simple items such as a stick of chewing gum or a can of coke, and find that they are up to five times more expensive, you start to take notice.
A curious fact is that even though the population of Norway is only 4,604,800 (half the population of London), they have two languages (and possibly more, but the distinction escapes me). Like most places I visited I managed to derive some amusement from words with dual meanings, and particularly enjoyed ‘spare bank’, ‘god parkering’, and ‘fartering’.
So I’ve had a few days experience of Oslo and my thoughts so far are:
It’s full of shiny new people and things
It’s very clean
Oslo has big traffic congestion problems
Norway has a lot of laws
The hotel has free wi-fi access in all rooms – nice!
It is expensive, but no more so than London
I’ve not seen a fish anywhere (although I think they are just hiding out of sight)
People get called Odd and Even
Most people have an almost perfect understanding of English, and can speak it with very little accent. I’ve been told that English is compulsory at schools from the age of 8 onwards. I suspect that the similarity in structure of English and Norwegian and Swedish may also be a contributing factor. Whatever the reason, I am in awe.
I met an old Odd guy who says his father tried to assassinate Trotsky when he was living here in Norway
I can once again buy goodies such as muffins and NME magazine. It really is a rock-star life-style I lead.
They say that technology is converging and that our gadgets will soon do much more. I’m not sure who they are, but it seems to be true – mobile phones can take photos and play games, computers double up as VCRs, and even fridges are online.
My apartment here in the Czech Republic is a fine example of Czech architecture, and is lovely and spacious. It’s got most of the modern conveniences I could want, except for a telephone line. I have a mobile phone, but it’s very expensive to call my family back in England, and just as expensive for them to call me.
I hate shameless plugs, and this is sounding awfully like one, but for the past few months I’ve been using Skype. This is a nifty bit of software that allows you to talk for free to people on the internet. This is handy enough, but they also offer a service, at a cost, called SkypeOut. This gives you the ability to call normal telephones from your computer, and thus solving my landline problem. The bonus is the calls are much cheaper than you could get via a traditional phone.
Recently they’ve introduced a service called SkypeIn. This is where it gets clever. You pay your 10 euros and select a telephone number in a country of your choice. This becomes your number for three months and whenever anyone with a normal telephone dials it, they get put through to your computer (provided you are online and running Skype). The best part is that the people dialing you only pay a call to the country in which the number belongs. In my case, I have bought a UK number and so my family only pays a local UK call, even though it gets routed through to the Czech Republic. I don’t pay anything for the call either. Amazing!