Amsterdam, et al.
Time for an update; an enormous amount has happened over the last few weeks, and I keep meaning to write about it all here – but then I get home after work and I’m so tired I end up just wasting my time instead. The weekends are no better; I’m either doing something, or sleeping in. As a result, this will be as usual a bit haphazard.
Thomas Has Left the Building
Over the last three months I got to make friends with a nice guy named Thomas, who was here at Atmel Norway on a short internship over from Germany, much like I was a year ago. That is, the internship part, not the Germany part. I was a bit sad to see him go two weeks ago, but alas all good things come to an end. Thomas has put in an application for Atmel in the Heilbronn (German) Automotive arm, which means I might not get to see him again for a while. Not to worry, thanks to the Internet everyone’s just an email away.
Anika has a Job
driving me mad spending some quality time home while I went off to work each day, Anika has found herself a job working at a local international school, as a replacement supervisor. Frankly the thought of having to supervise a bunch of 3 year old children all day fills my own heart with a cold terror – previously known only to those who just realized that train horn and whooshing noise was directly behind them the whole time – but she thinks is a great riot. Actually, I think she’s very well suited to the task, and it’s great that she’s found a way to have fun and get paid at the same time.
Several months ago – just before leaving for Norway – the screen on my nice and otherwise reliable Dell laptop died. I got it replaced, but the replacement screen was also mildly faulty, requiring another repair here in Norway. One would think this was simple, but through a comedy of errors this actually took several weeks, some very confused technicians and a lot of emails to get done. Firstly I had to fill out an ownership transfer form, to change the warranty address over to my new apartment in Norway. Through some sort of error on Dell’s side, this got changed so that the registered owner name was “Mr Test Customer”. Next, they couldn’t call my international SIM card in my phone to schedule an appointment – so they called the front desk instead. As our work just happens to use nearly identical model laptops, the call was routed to the Atmel IT department, who were (rightly) confused about it since the customer name wasn’t right and the service tag code didn’t exist in the Atmel database. Next the Dell technician called my coworker’s mobile phone as a backup – which would have been great if he had not been in France at the time. Now I ended up with two countries’ worth of Atmel engineers and technicians confused. After a lot of explaining and running around, I once again have a properly working laptop.
Lesson learned: buy a phone. I actually tried to to this yesterday, but ended up giving up after the guy in the shop couldn’t give me a straight answer on the total plan cost. This should be simple: choose a phone, choose one of the three plans they offer, and get a total cost/monthly cost estimate. What I got instead was a two minute long explanation of formulas (I think there was a Fourier Transform in there somewhere) they use to figure this out, and no actual total amount. I’m not about to sign something where the salesman is being shonky, so I’ve left it for the moment. Phone companies are all crooks, no exceptions.
I also got a haircut yesterday. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be newsworthy, but this was my first haircut I’ve had while in Norway (last time I just toughed it out the three months – never again!) and the guy in the shop didn’t speak English. The actual result is fine, but I really think I should have been awarded the Purple Heart of courage for not bolting as soon as he pulled out the electric clippers, after fruitlessly trying to explain how I wanted it – specifically, that I still wanted some of it on my head after he had finished with it.
And now the big one! Last week Anika and I flew down to Amsterdam for the extended weekend, from Saturday to Tuesday for a short holiday. This coincided nicely with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend’s entrance into the same city, as they are currently doing a crazily long five week slog across Europe. It was really great to catch up with some familiar faces from back home in the flesh, even if we haven’t really been away from Australia all that long yet. After arriving Saturday afternoon, we all met up and decided to walk the streets looking for a place to eat. I was ready to experience some rich local Dutch food, but it turns out this is almost impossible to find; Amsterdam has a million Argentinian and Italian food places for some reason, and not much else. Quite baffling, but we settled (eventually) on a pizza place that didn’t look to shabby. Half way through dinner an extremely fat black cat came over and sat next to us for a belly rub, which we were later told was fearsomely pregnant and not just the result of eating the leftovers every night.
After wandering around Amsterdam for a bit, I’ve come to a conclusion; if you can’t eat it, drink it, spend it, smoke it or, ahem, “make love” to it, they don’t think it’s interesting. It’s a city where there are a thousands coffee shops, but no one’s serving coffee. Incidentally, I always wondered why it was called the “Red Light District” – and now I know. Hrm.
Our hotel in Amsterdam was basic but clean – but thanks to the classical “tall and skinny” Dutch architecture I had to lug up our suitcase up several flights of stairs that looked like this:
Which was more of a carpeted ladder than stairs.
On Sunday, we all went off early in the morning to visit the Anne Frank museum, which was both fascinating and horrible at the same time. I always wondered how you could hide people in a house and not have anyone find out (well, for two years at least) but having been there, frankly I think I would have been just as bamboozled as everyone else. The cramped together houses seem to enter some sort of extra dimension inside, where it is difficult to make out how all the internal rooms fit into the spacial area allotted to the interior.
Afterwards we met up with my AVRFreaks friend Nard, who was generous enough to sacrifice his Sunday and put up with us for the day – we ended up visiting a historic windmill museum called Zaanse Scans. It was actually quite fun; after walking around the main museum building we then walked around outside and visited each of the old windmills. Nard, despite his protestations, was an excellent tour guide and funny to boot, so everyone had a great time. It’s kind of hard to argue with views like these:
And some bonus videos (commentary by Nard):
Much fun. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon and see Nard again.
On Monday, Anika and I ended up going to the local Zoo. I wasn’t expecting something all that good given the location in the center of Amsterdam, but it seems the Dutch animals are more resistant to the pervasive pot-smoking-hippy smells than myself, as there was a ton to see and plenty of animals I had never seen before. We have some decent zoos back home, but seeing Tapirs, pink Ibis and Egyptian Eagles was really interesting. Since Anika took a million, billion photos, I’ll just link to the photo gallery instead of putting them all up here.
Before we left, we stopped off at a local Dutch pancake house for lunch, resulting in Anika getting this:
And me getting this delicious monstrosity:
Mmmm, bacon. In the pancake. The Dutch really know how to make a decent breakfast.