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I bought a skull... then I painted it...

My new skull

I expect he'll be drawn/painted many more times over the years.. but this painting is the first. :-)

— by Rob, created 15th Sep, 2013, last modified 15th Sep, 2013 | Tags: Private

Off to Australia

Sophia and I will be in Australia until the start of June. It's just a quick trip this time to catch up with family and friends.

Update: We're back from Australia. It was fun!

— by Robert Thomson, created 9th May, 2013, last modified 4th Jun, 2013 | Tags: Private

Visiting Oz in May

We've booked a 3 week trip to Australia in May, right after Sophia's exams (Staatsexam I). It'll be great to see the family again, and I'll have the chance to introduce most of them to my wife - last time they only met my girlfriend. ;-)

— by Robert Thomson, created 1st Apr, 2013, last modified 3rd Apr, 2013 | Tags: Private

Off for another week in Perugia..

Tomorrow, I'm off for another week in Perugia. I'm looking forward to it, just like last time. The only downside is that I have to stay overnight in Florence, due to the timing of the flight and the last train, and the expense of a Saturday morning flight.. It's been getting progressively colder there, so I will take some warm clothes with me this time. I'm sure I'll be fine, since it's actually colder in Holland right now.

This round of packing is a little tough, though.. What's the largest set of clothes and other items that I can take with me that will still leave me with everything that I need here for my final 3 weeks here but that I can easily take with me next time. My final work day is on the 31st of October.

I also spent some money on things that I can't take with me, such as a washing machine, microwave, mattress, etc., and it would be nice if I could recoup some of the expense.. but I guess I'll be putting those things up for sale in my final week, unless the flatmates wish to purchase them from me (which would be ideal) for the next tenant, or the next tenant themselves.

— by Robert Thomson, created 2nd Oct, 2008, last modified 3rd Apr, 2013 | Tags: Private

I've found a place to stay!

It's reasonably priced, in a good location, sharing with nice people. I have my own kitchen and bathroom. It's 3 rooms on the first floor of a two story townhouse. We share the same entrance and stairwell, but that's about it. There's a fourth room which is currently being used for storage, but will become a kind of working room for the girl above. The other tenants are a young couple, and presumably her father owns the building (he lives next door, which is actually downstairs).

The room is 30m², currently unfurnished, but they're going to furnish most of the room, I'll buy a few things, and I already have a few things here. First priorities are a bed and a fridge. Everything else can come later. They have a spare couch that can go in there. I'll just need a bed, working desk, chair, a coffee table, and perhaps a small dining table. I'll probably visit the nearby Kringloop and see what they have. It's a bit like the Aussie garage sale by the look of it. :-)

— by RobertThomson, created 16th Nov, 2007, last modified 6th Jul, 2009 | Tags: Private

Looking for a room in an apartment in Den Haag/Delft

I’ve decided to stay in Den Haag past the new year, so I’m now looking for an room in a shared apartment. If you know of any, let me know. I wrote a [[RoomWanted webpage]] outlining what I’m looking for, and I’m hoping that I find something suitable with some interesting flatmates. I’m looking for something cheaper than I have now, because I plan to travel back to Passau often to see Sophia, which costs around €280 return for the flight plus trains. I’m also looking for a flatshare so that I have less initial costs and more flexibility in the future, in-case my contract isn’t extended next year (although at this stage everybody says it will be).

My eventual plan is to move back to Germany, and most likely to Munich because of the IT companies there, and its close proximity to Passau and Sophia. The job market is picking up, and I’ve already had expressions of interest from a couple of companies there. But they’ll have to wait for the time being. :-)

See: [[RoomWanted Room Wanted Advert]]

— by RobertThomson, created 28th Oct, 2007, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: Private

E-Plus is a bastard of a Telco

Let me clarify the title. All Telcos are bastards, but E-Plus is the bastard of the moment in my life. I found the choice of mobile plans in Germany particularly limited. I feel that the german government is not encouraging enough competition and looking after its people, in the hope that the German monopoly (Deutsche Telekom) will have enough capital to invest in other EU countries - and one of the trickle down effects of their lax approach to competition is that the price of telco services in Germany is one of the highest in the EU, despite having the single largest population.

But that's not my primary rant. Before signing up for a mobile plan, I did a lot of research and calculations. It worked out that if I were in Germany for 6 months over a 2 year period, it would be cheaper to sign up to a plan and get a mobile than use pre-paid and purchase a mobile. Unfortunately, 3 months after that, I got this contract in Holland. So - I lived with the loss, but still used my German mobile for SMS' back to Germany as I don't want to carry around a dutch phone in addition to my German and work phones. I've been paying €0.39 for every SMS I send, which is quite phenomenal, but I accept the cost every time I send one. But last month I decided to phone home.. There were some problems with some of the calls - I don't know why - but there was no connection, so I tried a few times, and either succeeded, or gave up trying. I also rang once or twice, but hung up before anyone (or voicemail) picked up. I was very surprised to see that these calls appeared on my phone bill at €0.79/call, because that's not normally what happens. I assumed it was a problem in the way that calls are billed between countries - so I complained, and told them that they were in error. Sure, billing errors happen - but the reason *why E-Plus is a bastard of a telco* is their off-hand response to my complaint. They came back simply saying, "We have reviewed your bill and it was correctly billed." (in German, of course). I have complained again, telling them that it is not correct, and that charging for services that weren't provided is actually illegal, and I await their response. I dislike that I have to bring the law into complaints - I would hope they would be already aware of it.

It also appears that Germany does not have a telecommunications ombudsman like Australia (or the Netherlands or in fact most civilised countries) so the consumer's only option is legal action. I wonder how many other telcos are similarly charging for non-service. Hopefully this will be resolved, and they will fix their billing issue - I intend to test it again.

If they give me a hard time (or fail to point me to a section of their contract which states they can bill me for uncompleted calls, which I'm fairly confident doesn't exist and would be illegal if it did) then I think my next step is to accuse them of breaching the terms of the contract and instruct them not to direct debit any more money from my account, and ask for the address to which I should ship the phone and SIM card. If they then withdraw money, I will have an additional basis for a legal case. I can also complain to the EU regarding deceptive billing practices.

Update: E-Plus, while not admitting any billing errors, has given me credit for the phone calls. I think I'll contact the EU anyway. I realise it's most likely the Dutch telcos' fault for charging for the uncompleted calls, but I'm not a customer of the Dutch Telco, so it's up to E-Plus to keep them honest.

— by Robert Thomson, created 6th May, 2007, last modified 8th May, 2007 | Tags: Private
... now get off my lawn!