rob's Weblog

| Private |
| Technology |
| World |
 $ pipeline blogposts:all task:blogpost2html concat:-

Krita on Kickstarter

My digital drawing & painting program of choice these days is the open source software, Krita. It’s got great brush engines, works fantastically with my Wacom tablet under Linux (my primary criteria), and they also recently launched a well supported Windows version.

They recently started a Kickstarter campaign to fund some full-time developers who’ve already made significant contributions to the project.

If you haven’t seen it before, check out:

If you’re interested in supporting its development:

— by Robert Thomson, created 15th Jun, 2014, last modified 16th Jun, 2014 | Tags: Tech, World

New toy...

On the weekend I took delivery of a Wacom Intuos 5 tablet.. I’ve never had much of an artistic talent, or maybe I just didn’t like the messy paints, but I really liked the idea of a tablet… Anyhoo, after a couple of days of playing around and reading tutorials, I can now draw a snail… Enjoy my unabashed talent!

I also wrote my first hand-written letter in a long time… I sent it by email, of course. ;-)

Update: A cool little bug:

Update: Blatently copying characters from Pearls Before Swine:

Update: Here's looking at you, kid...

— by Robert Thomson, created 7th Apr, 2013, last modified 4th Jun, 2013 | Tags: World

German Copyright Law & Employment Contracts

Like many IT geeks, my work is also my hobby. This often means that my personal fields of interest are often in the same problem domain as that of my workplace. Recently I decided to thoroughly investigate German copyright law and my work contract after a colleague suggested that I had crossed a line with an open source project of mine. I’m happy to say that after my efforts, I’m quite confident that I’m OK. I am going to share what I learnt, however.

Firstly – a clarification for those who don’t know or get confused easily. Copyright law applies to specific implementations, not to ideas. Also, I am not a lawyer, so ask a lawyer for a legal opinion. :-)

In Germany, copyright always belongs to the individual or individuals who wrote a piece of software. That means that any software I would write for work would have my name associated with the copyright. However, there are different rights associated with copyright. German (and most European) copyright law aims to ensure that the author retains the inalienable moral rights. The second set of rights are the economic rights, which govern how and if the software will be made available to others.

German copyright law states, in UrhG. 69b: “Where a computer program is created by an employee in the execution of his duties or following the instructions given by his employer, the employer exclusively shall be entitled to exercise all the economic rights in the program, unless otherwise agreed.” (auf Deutsch: “Wird ein Computerprogramm von einem Arbeitnehmer in Wahrnehmung seiner Aufgaben oder nach den Anweisungen seines Arbeitgebers geschaffen, so ist ausschließlich der Arbeitgeber zur Ausübung aller vermögensrechtlichen Befugnisse an dem Computerprogramm berechtigt, sofern nichts anderes vereinbart ist.”)

I interpret this to mean that so long as I don’t write something for work, in order to facilitate my work, or at the instruction of my employer, then I retain the economic rights. Very straight-forward and sensible, isn’t it?

I also assume, although I haven’t seen it stated here, that you shouldn’t use work resources for personal projects, or work on personal projects during work hours. Maybe this is more to do with the typical employment contract than copyright, but I could imagine it forming part of a copyright claim’s justification.

In the event that there is a dispute, however, it is a civil matter that can be dealt with in a number of ways. The suggested way would be to discuss it and reach an amicable solution, rather than involve expensive lawyers and courts. The best solution is to avoid potential disagreements in the first place, by making your company aware of any private projects which could cause problems beforehand. You don’t require their approval, nor do they have the right to deny it, but you should have them acknowledge it, preferably in writing.

The next thing to consider is your employment contract. In Germany, they assign a lot of weight to contracts and quite a lot is allowed (although there are more restrictions when it comes to employment relationships). My work contract, for example, considers work in a certain field to be somewhat “protected”, and for that field I should seek approval from the company before openly releasing any work to the public. Luckily I have little interest in that particular field.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t publish anything openly which could cause harm to your company. It has nothing to do with copyright – but as in any contract, you have a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the other party, plus it’s just common sense to maintain a good working relationship with your company.

So my friends in Germany, go forth and write software!! :-)

— by Robert Thomson, created 2nd Apr, 2013, last modified 3rd Apr, 2013 | Tags: Tech, World

Got Sofa?

WE DO! 8-)

Tonight we received two lovely leather sofas and a matching armchair.. and a dining room table..

Sophia's aunt & uncle bought some new sofas, and they asked if we wanted theirs.. Naturally, we replied with an emphatic "Yes!" We initially wanted to buy a Sofa-Bed, but we couldn't find one that we liked (for less than €800).. We looked in quite a few places.. so we started to look for normal Sofas that someone could sleep on. Yesterday, I suggested that we start considering second hand sofas, and today we get a phone call. :-)

So, we now have a complete set of loungeroom furniture, for just the cost of delivery. (And the cost of repairs to some plaster & paint, but that's a lot less than it would've cost to get the furniture, and now I can learn how to repair plaster damage! .. Yes, I'm an eternal optimist. :-)

— by Robert Thomson, created 6th Nov, 2009, last modified 6th Nov, 2009 | Tags: World

2 weeks in the apartment now..

It's been almost two weeks since we moved into the apartment.. It's looking okay, but we still have unpacked boxes and bags full of clothes. We still need to buy some cupboards (and surface area) for the kitchen, a sofa, and a wardrobe for me.. some nicer ceiling lights would be good too. Once we have the sofa, we should be ready for visitors. :-)

— by Robert Thomson, created 3rd Nov, 2009, last modified 3rd Nov, 2009 | Tags: World

We now have an apartment. :-)

I finally have keys to put on my keyring again.. We just have to choose a moving company now.. hopefully in under 2 weeks we'll be in.

— by Robert Thomson, created 14th Oct, 2009, last modified 14th Oct, 2009 | Tags: World

We're in Berlin!

We've been in Berlin for a little over a week now. We've mostly recovered from the sunburn we got in Taormina (it's all too easy to get sunburnt when you have clouds and a pool), and I'm almost recovered from the stresses of Etna. It was a fantastic experience though.

Right now, I'm trying to juggle work (finishing off projects from before the holiday) and apartment hunting. Oh yeah, Sophia got accepted into FU Berlin, the University she wanted to change to, so she's now in the progress of switching and she has to give notice on her apartment in Passau, and we have to arrange transport for her goods. I think it will be an expensive affair, this moving business. But I'm looking forward to having a Zuhause again. In every place that I've stayed since 2004, I've treated it as temporary lodgings, so I didn't really settle down.

I'm also deciding whether I want to find a proper job here and go mainstream, or continue contracting.. Or maybe both.. I think it will come down to a combination of money and life satisfaction in the end. I can afford to wait for the right opportunity, though.

— by Robert Thomson, created 11th Sep, 2009, last modified 11th Sep, 2009 | Tags: World

Second Travel Report

2. September

Catania's a nice city - a real city - not too much visible tourism. Still things to do and see, if you are willing to brave the heat. The hostel was quite good - simply a modified apartment run by an italian couple, but it was a good price, had working aircon, and for a reasonable fee we could make use of the kitchen for cooking.

We went to the Volcano, Etna, yesterday. Absolutely amazing. We went right to the top, and looked into the big crater. We had perfect weather and volcanic conditions. We could see a long way down, because the gases weren't too thick. Smelt awful though. The whole volcano was like a black desert. In some places, you'd sink 30cm or more into the "sand" when walking.

28. August

Syracuse good. Taormina touristy. We're in Catania since yesterday.

18. August

Bit of a gap in my writings, but here goes. Palermo was great, but we spent too long there, and/or didn't take advantage of the nearby opportunities there.

We found a nice cheap outdoor restaurant where we treated our taste buds to many sicilian specialties. We ate there almost daily, and said an almost teary goodbye to our regular waiter, Vincenzo, the day before we left.

The shopping opportunities are quite good there. There are some nice beaches just outside of Palermo, which we failed to visit.

Trapani was pleasant. We changed from our out of the way hostel to a hotel at the last minute, and from then on Trapani was great. We went to the small island of Levanzo first, lost the trail trying to find the main grotto there, so backtracked and found our way to a smaller grotto, where we swam and took in some sun before heading to one of the very few local restaurants/bars, where we ate pizza before catching the ferry back.

The second day in Trapani we visited the hilltop city of Erice, and the ruins of the temple there, before returning to the city, catching the afternoon sun and watching the sunset with our plastic cups full of red wine, and finally a walk through the city in the evening.

Because Saturday, August 15. was a public holiday, we opted to take a train back to Palermo, and then down to Agrigento instead of taking the one and only bus in the evening.

Agrigento failed initially to make a good impression, largely to do with the public holiday and sunday, and the initially malfunctioning fan in the room (we had it replaced at 11pm when we couldn't sleep and I went to find the hostelkeeper with murderous thoughts, but he had a spare, lucky for him) Our local take away pizza store did make excellent pizza, though, so we enjoyed that the first night on a nearby bench overlooking the all-but deserted street and some trashcans. Luckily we were in good company. On Sunday we visited the Valley of the Temples, which was indeed impressive. Amazingly well preserved. A little warm, though, as most of this holiday has been so far. We went to the beach afterwards, but didn't want to swim or set foot on the sand until later in the day, so we walked for a bit, eventually settling for a little beachside cafe with umbrellas. They have chip-patties in Sicily. Oh how I've missed them.

The second day we wanted to visit "le scale dei turchi" (the turkish steps), and assumed it woud be an easy trip. After chilling in the morning, we caught a bus to Realmonte, then we walked for 1 hour in the midday-sun to the stairs, because the next bus was still 1.5 hours away and we were told it would take 30 minutes. There were no cafe's in-between to buy more water, but it was mostly downhill. We made it, drank lots of water, took some photos on the steps, waded in the ocean, and then decided we didn't have time to stay longer if we had to walk back too, so went on our way. 10 minutes out we asked a man on a motorbike if he knew the number for a taxi service. He told us there was no service because it's such a small town, but he called a friend of his with a car and negotiated a fee. 25 minutes later we were enjoying a beer at the caffé next to the bus stop, with 40 minutes to spare until the last bus back to Agrigento. The bus came late, and our taxi driver stopped on his motorbike to see if everything was ok, but we made it back ok. So - Agrigento is good for public transport to the temples, and ok to its beaches, but you want a car for anything else. A motorbike would be ok too, but don't expect to be able to hire one there.

Right now we're on a train to Catania, and we'll catch another train later to Syracuse. The hotel looks ok, but we'll see!

At the Hotel. It looks great! The aircon's on and we'll shower before taking off to explore the old city at night. I love places like this. New plan - if the hostels aren't significantly less than hotels, just stay at a hotel!

7. August

First day in Palermo was a success. It was a bit of a walk from the port to the hostel - different port than we thought. But we walked it anyway, getting directions from friendly natives.

— by Robert Thomson, created 2nd Sep, 2009, last modified 11th Sep, 2009 | Tags: World

Travel Report

6. August, 5.30am

The ferry from Sorrento to Naples was faaaast - on a hydrofoil - it only took 30 minutes, which was nice. But we ended up with 5 hours in Naples. It was better this time - different part of the city. We enjoyed a spicy pizza for lunch, visited an Internet cafe, and then a couple of cafe's before embarking the ship.

Dinner was funny. We pre-booked the cheapest dinner on the website along with our tickets (choices were none, a cheap pizza menu, or one of two expensive menu's), but we must have been the only people to have done that because nobody knew what to do. It involved a lot of running around and asking questions and a special exception for us. Tutto casino, tutto normale. Next time we'll know that we don't need to pre-order.

I slept well for a while tonight, but Sophia not so well. We'll get ready now, and we'll go to watch the ship come into port in a few. Must do washing soon. But otherwise we'll just spend the day in Palermo.

4. August

We went to the island of Capri today. Wow - stunning - I only wish I had enough money to afford more than one cup of coffee per day there though! The boat trip was quite nice, but I prefer larger boats against potential sea sickness. We walked up to Capri city from Marina Picola, where we arrived, and spent some time getting our bearings. We then found a cafe out of the main tourist zone (hoping it would be affordable - alas not - €3 for an espresso, when we got the bill) and a supermarket (normal prices, mostly). We wandered up a hill hoping to hit Salto di Tiberio, where Tiberius apparently threw his (usually very young) ex's off the cliff. We didn't find it, but we did find the Belvedere, which was breathtaking. The blue waters near the island make for great photos (forthcoming). Afterwards we spent a while at the beach near the port. Rocks instead of sand, but great, and a very picturesque backdrop. We saw a few grottos from the boat, but we didn't go into any (and the blue grotto was closed to boats because of choppy waters, but a few people swam in, some sustaining a few scratches). A great day. Tomorrow, we have to go to Naples (by ferry hopefully), then from there to Palermo.

3. August

Third day involved a trip to Amalfi. 2hr bus trip, although it's only 30km away, it was a little hellish with the inadequate aircon. Hot air blowing on our heads - yet better than no aircon. And those mountainous corners! Italians beep before going around a blind corner, and don't slow down very much at all. Can't imagine the number of accidents there are, even for Italian trained drivers. Amalfi itself is small and pretty. The history is more interesting than the tourist city it has become. But we found a small normal priced pizzeria to enjoy a lunchtime snack. We're catching a boat back to Sorrento in a few minutes. Should be faster and more comfortable thana return bus trip. And we'll see the coastline better.

End of the day. Ok - forget the bus. If you go, pay extra for a ferry bothways. Preferably one or both ways slow. It takes about 2 hours on a slow ferry, but the coastline is magnificent. We had deck chairs undercover but in the open facing the coast. Amazing. We even dozed off for a while. I think we'll opt for a ferry to Naples port instead of catching the train on Wednesday too. That way we'll also skip the dreck of the city and have no hassles finding the port there.

2. August

Travel from Perugia to Naples was nightmarish. We arrived too late for our next connection.. But it too was late.. So we ran to catch it, but had no water. We waited for 30 minutes in an overcrowded entrance while the sign always said 5 minutes until departure. Italian trains leave much to be desired. Berlusconi is no Mussolini. From Naples to Sorrento was no problem, just on a very slow local train. We failed to find the bus stop taking us to our hostel though. So we caught a taxi for €20.

We stayed in Sorrento the first day, and we quite like it. Beautiful coastline, and obviously benifiting from the tourist industry. But the local supermarket we found was better and cheaper than the small one in Perugia's center. Can't wait for Germany again. We did a lot of walking, bought a travel chess/backgammon set, and found a small shop selling cheap beer by a park before returning to our campsite and cooking dinner - a great first day of the holiday.

Our second day was less thrilling, however. Too hot, and we went to see Herculaneum, then Naples. Too hot for Herculaneum, but very interesting. Naples is north africa, though, and I'm not referring to the street vendors. Beautiful old buildings, but the poverty shines through. Cheap clothes shopping on Corso Umberto 1 though.

— by Robert Thomson, created 6th Aug, 2009, last modified 11th Sep, 2009 | Tags: World

Sorrento & Sicily, here we come!

We're leaving now. Wish you all the best! Take care! See you in a month. You can contact me on my Italian number if you have to (See Contact Details).


— by Robert Thomson, created 31st Jul, 2009, last modified 31st Jul, 2009 | Tags: World

3 days until holidays!

On Friday, we hand over the keys to the apartment and embark on our trip down south. We will first go to Sorrento, where we will stay for a few days, exploring it and nearby places such as Capri and Naples.

We will then catch a ferry to Palermo, and travel counter-clockwise around the island. At the start of September, we will eventually fly to Berlin. No doubt somewhat exhausted and tanned. :-P

During this time, I won't have computer or regular Internet access, so excuse the lack of response!

— by Robert Thomson, created 28th Jul, 2009, last modified 28th Jul, 2009 | Tags: World

Back from Berlin..

LinuxTAG was interesting.. I got a better grasp of the Linux and Open Source crowd in Berlin (and in Germany in general). I think my geek-side will be satisfied there. I've decided to check out Sugar-on-a-stick after chatting to them there (and pointed one of the developers in the direction of Numptyphysics, which just may appear as a Sugar package at some point). I'm looking forward to settling down in a proper apartment again, and setting up a media center for myself - A nice ATOM dual core + NVidia (ION) server combination (TEO-X had one there) should provide all the power that I need (with lower power consumption) for XBMC & a retro (& not so retro) gaming setup. :-)

Also interesting was Büro 2.0, which involves a shared workspace and services for Open Source companies and freelancers in Berlin. If I decide to be a freelancer there, this might be an option.

— by Robert Thomson, created 30th Jun, 2009, last modified 7th Jul, 2009 | Tags: Tech, World

Summer holiday ... to Berlin!

This Italian weather is killing us. We're about to step out the door and head to the mild temperature in Berlin for a week. We're taking our big suitcases, and we'll leave them there, because we will be travelling around Italy in August and we can't take so much with us. And I'm taking my laptop, since I want to work from Berlin. I plan to visit LinuxTAG during the week too.

— by Robert Thomson, created 20th Jun, 2009, last modified 20th Jun, 2009 | Tags: World


I got busy with work just after the N810 arrived, but nevertheless I’ve enjoyed having it and I find it quite a cool gadget. It’s screen is readable in all but direct sunlight, which helps to make it a great device when traveling. I found myself using it mostly as an E-Book reader when on the road, and loving Project Gutenberg and the Baen Library. I still have quite a few application ideas for it – largely revolving around making online content easily searchable and then available offline (eg. train timetable searches, hostel/hotel contact information & reviews).

As a side note, I suspect that the next device I buy will come with a PixelQi screen for it’s easy readability, low power, and versatility, but it will still be a few months until the first commercial device using it makes it to market.

I’ve developed a reasonably complex Django application for questionnaires/surveys for a medical study, which I hope to release publically in the near future, after the internal project is released. We’re still working on a name, as django-questionnaire and django-survey are both taken.

— by Robert Thomson, created 11th May, 2009, last modified 11th May, 2009 | Tags: Tech, World

Chess Board!

No more lonely nights browsing websites (no, not *those* websites)! We now have a chess board... and the books Chess for Dummies and Complete Idiots Guide to Chess. :-) We still need to buy a pack of cards and a couple of board games. :) We must also find some sports we can do during winter here.. there's not really much to do in the city center itself since it's all historic, so it will take 20 to 40 minutes on a bus each time..

— by Robert Thomson, created 21st Nov, 2008, last modified 10th Dec, 2008 | Tags: World

Locked out of house, and rescued by firemen!

Yes, in Italy, firemen come to your house when you're locked out. 'twas cool! And we met all of our neighbors! We have a second lock, to which we have no key, that we only use from the inside.. it must have clicked shut when we closed the door. Luckily, we had an open window, and with a long enough ladder, it was reachable.

— by Robert Thomson, created 9th Oct, 2008, last modified 9th Oct, 2008 | 1 comment | Tags: World

Emergency Root Canal Treatment!

I had that on Monday (yesterday), because of one of my bottom front teeth. Luckily, it wasn't very painful. The nerve of the tooth was mostly dead, and the anaesthetic worked a treat anyway.. I didn't even dribble my water afterwards!

I'm sure I could have gone without pain meds today, but as the day wore on, my overused mouth was starting to make itself known, so I decided to take a paracetamol+caffeine (for the caffeine, really!) and later an ibuprofen tablet as a preventative measure. I'll probably also take one just before I sleep, so there's less chance of me waking up.

Apparently dead nerves/gum infection usually occurs because of some prior accident, and the only accident I could recall happened when I would've still had my baby teeth, so that's almost certainly not the cause. So, no idea why!

— by Robert Thomson, created 26th Aug, 2008, last modified 26th Aug, 2008 | Tags: World

Italy Italy Italia!

Sì amici! I was in Italy. It was a wonderful few days that Sophia and I spent in Perugia, Umbria. While it gets quite warm there, it is dry heat, so with sensible clothing and plenty of water, it’s quite bearable, even pleasant (more-so in the evening).

An Australian friend has already lambasted me for talking as if 30–35 degrees was possible only on an alien planet, and he reminded me that it’s actually quite common in Oz and told me that I must be getting soft in Europe. All I can say to that is “Nyer! Nyer! I’m going to Italy and you’re not!” which I hope will put an end to the discussion.

We stayed at a cool place called the “Farmhouse hostel”, located a short bus-ride outside of Perugia, where we enjoyed the use of the pool as well as laid-back drinks in the evening with the owner, his friends, and other guests.

We also found an apartment. It’s studenty and small, but well divided (upstairs and downstairs with desks to work on both levels) and in the city. We should also be able to fit a single camping mat on the floor downstairs, for any visitors that we might have. :-)

In the meantime, I still have almost 3 months of work at Shell/T-Systems before I move there. So I’ll be trying to save money now so that I can enjoy the good life later. :-)

One of the many old streets in Perugia:

— by Robert Thomson, created 6th Aug, 2008, last modified 6th Aug, 2008 | Tags: World

Warum liegt hier überhaupt Stroh?

Warum liegt hier überhaupt Stroh?

— by Robert Thomson, created 28th Jun, 2008, last modified 28th Jun, 2008 | Tags: World

Gettin' it done..

I'm sure many of you have heard about Getting Things Done, an action management method by David Allen, which basically involves recording tasks and information in an manageable fashion, to get them out of your head and your worries. For a while now, I've been using a piece of software called ThinkingRock at work, and I find it quite useful. I do project work, and at the moment, it's a lot of small insignificant projects and tasks for them, all demanding some level of time and thought throughout the day, so doing a brain dump is excellent and it's a relief to know that things won't be forgotten.

My only complaint is that ThinkingRock doesn't have any web integration at the moment.. It would be nicer even, if it could use WebDav to save/synchronise with other instances, and publish summaries online for an on the road reference, perhaps talking to a web app for collaboration with other users (you can delegate tasks, and being able to track them would be great)

— by Robert Thomson, created 5th Jun, 2008, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: World

Italy! Italy! Italy!

Vado a Perugia questo anno! Eccellente!

— by Robert Thomson, created 7th May, 2008, last modified 27th May, 2008 | Tags: World

12 days until Maibaumkraxeln!

The countdown has begun! Maibaumkraxeln is an annual event in Freinberg, Austria (just near Passau) of beer-swilling pole-climbing fun! There are often side-events that are more readily accessible to the inebriated types, but ultimately it's just a day of drinking beer and eating good Austrian/Bavarian food in the sun along with friends and strangers, while watching some death-defying unharnessed people climb a 15m high pole like monkeys, and watching others climb it like your grandmother, inching up with arms and legs holding on tight enough to choke a bodybuilder. I can't recommend it enough! This year it's on the 18th of May (unless the weather really is terrible, in which case it's postponed). Bring your Lederhosen and your Dirndls and come along!

— by Robert Thomson, created 6th May, 2008, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: World

The longer I live here, the more I hate this city.

Never move to Den Haag.

May 6 update: Sure, *now* the weather's lovely.. don't trust it, though.

— by Robert Thomson, created 25th Apr, 2008, last modified 6th May, 2008 | Tags: World

Warm weather's on its way!

Hopefully. In the Netherlands, you can't really tell. It still gets to around freezing point, but the days lately have been around 10-12 degrees with sun, which makes sitting outside with a light jumper or even a long sleeved shirt a possibility. With daylight savings changes, it's no longer dark of an evening, which makes it a lot less depressing. I'm hoping for a nice summer here - mid-twenties with a soft cool ocean breeze.

— by Robert Thomson, created 16th Apr, 2008, last modified 16th Apr, 2008 | Tags: World

La vita, l'universo e tutto quanto.

Shell has been working on an IT outsourcing plan for about 12 years now, and it’s finally coming to fruition this year. As a result, my contract has been “mapped” to T-Systems, who are known in Germany but have no brand recognition in the rest of the world. In the Netherlands, they only have around 300 staff and contractors, so the addition of Shell’s Netherlands team will double their workforce. It’s a big opportunity for T-Systems to develop a name for themselves, so they will be trying hard to keep things working smoothly. Unfortunately one T-Systems person has stated that they don’t do development as a company (focusing instead on integration), which may turn out to be disappointing. But as a colleague told me, many times companies don’t realise that their staff are doing a lot of internal development, and I’m not likely to stop my current development work after T-Systems takes over in July. My contract is currently until the end of October, and I’m hoping in that time to make contacts within T-Systems so that it is an option for my future when I’m back in Germany.. or potentially make such a great impression that they keep me on the payroll part time, even while I’m in Italy.

My own future, intriguingly, will quite possibly take me to Italy. After almost two years contracting to Shell (as will be the case by the end of October), I want to move closer to Sophia; and by all accounts, it looks like she’ll be going to Italy for an exchange year. Being the intrepid character I am, I’m planning to go along with her and learn Italian in the process. It will leave me with no source of income (except maybe teaching some English) but it will no doubt be a great experience. La Buona Vita! It’s also vital for Sophia and I to live together and ensure that we can have just as great a (if not better) relationship living in the same house as with several hundred kilometres between us. I’m looking forward to it! She is hoping to go in September this year, in which case I will follow in November, otherwise in March next year, and her choices for cities are Perugia and Pavia. If March, I may stay for a little longer in the Netherlands to better equip myself for the income-less student lifestyle.

— by Robert Thomson, created 20th Jan, 2008, last modified 20th Jan, 2008 | Tags: World

I saw Knut today.

I saw Knut today. Das ist alles.

— by Robert Thomson, created 25th Dec, 2007, last modified 25th Dec, 2007 | Tags: World

Moving House & crummy flatmates

I am moving house this week. I found myself a nice “shared” apartment in the Zeeheldenkwartier, a nice part of the Hague. I have my own kitchen and bathroom but we share a common entrance and the hallway on my level. The main room is 30m² and the kitchen and bathroom are of a reasonable size. It’s about half the cost of my current place. It will take me a little longer to get to work and home again, but I will actually have shopping centers that are open late.

In other news, the Aussie guy I had sharing the excessive costs of my current apartment, did a runner without paying almost €600 in rent and phone costs. Just in case you ever have any financial dealings with him, his name is Rohan Anderson, he’s from Sydney, his birthdate is the 7th of September, 1976 (7/9/1976), he does skateboarding, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

Here are some pictures of him and his girlfriend, Inga Hendrix of Germany. She’s also responsible for a small part of the debt, having been there for 2 of the 6 weeks of unpaid rent:

He seems like a nice guy and somebody you’d call a mate. I did. He didn’t steal anything (except one key which he hasn’t returned yet), but it appears that he’s a coward, unable to face life’s responsibilities. If he ever pays his debt, I will update or remove this page. His facebook page is Rohan Anderson

— by RobertThomson, created 4th Dec, 2007, last modified 19th Jan, 2008 | Tags: World

Postmortem of a long weekend back in Passau

From Wednesday evening until Monday afternoon I was once again in Passau. It was a brilliant long weekend. I got to meet up with a few old friends and ran into a few acquaintances in the streets and while out. I stayed in Sophia's tiny student apartment, but we managed OK. The Maibaumkraxeln went ahead on Sunday and it was a perfect day for it - perhaps even a little too warm and sunny, even, as I am now sporting a visibly red face and arms.

I recommend to anyone who wants to experience some real Bavarian/Austrian traditions that they should go along to the Maibaumkraxeln one year. I don't know where else in Germany or Austria this goes on - it may only be this one city, actually. The fastest person took just under 8 seconds to climb the 15 meter high pole (the pole's still higher, but decorated on top), which means he broke the world record.

In smaller villages in Germany and Austria, it's traditional for the people of one village to try to steal the Maibaum of the neighbouring village, and if successfully stolen, it costs one crate of beer per meter to buy the pole back. It's also a common tactic to leave a crate of beer by the pole the night before, so the guardians-of-the-pole get drunk and fall asleep on the job, at which point the pole is easy-pickings.

The downside of going back to Passau is that Den Haag once again feels foreign and a bit depressing. Hrmph! Photos soon!

— by Robert Thomson, created 22nd May, 2007, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: World

Over two months in the Hague

I've been in the Hague now for over two months. I'm settling into the work environment alright, and the apartment is growing on me, although I still think that it's too big for my needs (it also means that I have to clean all that extra space). But at least I can find an apartment - not like friends and family in Australia, who are being out-bid for rentals consistently. The weather's warming up, then cooling down, then warming up, then cooling down.. but I'm confident there'll be a warm spell of a few months somewhere in there. The night-life here isn't anything to rave about - but I'm meeting a few people (mostly from Shell) and it's OK. I've had to throw away my cap, because here (much like in South Africa), wearing a cap indoors is a *big* no-no, and I'm sick of being told off by bouncers and staff. Of course, most of the cap-wearers around these parts are usually teenagers wearing baggy pants and permanent looks of disdain, whereas in Passau it was just optional casual attire.

I'm also leaving shortly to go to Berlin for the weekend (and doing a bit of telecommuting tomorrow morning). Sophia's birthday is tomorrow, and I want to be there for it. There'll be one or two other people I know there, so it should be okay. I'm looking forward to seeing Berlin again, and going out somewhere on Saturday night (I get to practice my German with family and close friends on Friday night), although her parents both speak good English, I believe. I'm really looking forward to this weekend!

— by RobertThomson, created 22nd Mar, 2007, last modified 22nd Mar, 2007 | Tags: World

Moved in

I moved into my new apartment yesterday. The apartment is quite nice, but the location is a little ordinary. It will be convenient to ride to work from there (15 minute ride) or into the city center (A five to seven minute ride). But all the tramlines and a main train station are within 5 minutes walk. Here's my apartment's location on google maps. I was a little sad after signing the contract - I think because it's a sign that me being here is something more permanent, and that I'm abandoning my Passau life. I've been generally quite happy the last couple of years, and the idea of moving on isn't that appealing, even if I do like the contract work with Shell at the moment, and I know that I will settle in soon enough. Maybe I can spend the next couple/few years saving and investing, so that I can settle into the lifestyle and location that I want.

— by RobertThomson, created 12th Feb, 2007, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: World

I have an apartment!

I've just made a verbal agreement for an apartment in Den Haag. The Apartment itself is very nice, but it's in a "cheaper" part of the city. A lot of people were warning me against the area, but the current tenant (an Australian originally from Merewether in Newcastle, as a matter of fact) told me that he'd never had any problems, and that it's mostly suburbs on the other side of the train station that are responsible for the area's bad reputation. By European standards the apartment is certainly not cheap at EUR€740/month plus approximately €150/month for water, gas, and electricity.. especially considering that I was sharing a nice apartment with river views for €255 all-up in Passau.. but it's not tooo bad by Sydney standards, and there's a higher population density here. I do have a spare room with a single bed, so it will be good for visitors, or short term sub-leases. But the best thing is that it doesn't have a German style toilet! No shelf!

Thom's kicking me out on Friday because he has another friend arriving (he's been a great sport, though!) and I'm going to travel to Amsterdam and Zwolle on the weekend, meeting up with a dutch friend Willem who I studied German with in Passau. Then I've organised to stay at a workmates place for the week after I arrive back. I'm sorted!

— by Robert Thomson, created 30th Jan, 2007, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | 1 comment | Tags: World

News from the Nether

I've just finished my second day of work for SHELL. There's a lot of initial "onboarding" to do before I'll get involved in projects. Health and safety is a very big thing here. I'm sleeping on a mattress on Thom's floor, but am looking around for accommodation. I signed up for a bank account on Monday, and if Shell's internal post office doesn't destroy my mail, I should have my card on Friday. It's quite useful to have a bank card in the Netherlands - they're slowly becoming a cashless society. I should also have an automatic overdraft, which will be useful this first month, as I don't want to spend my Australian money when I'll have Euros so soon.. and I'll have to pay two months rent up-front when I find a place to stay.

Somebody within Shell misspelled my name so I'm now known to all as "Robert R Thompson", which makes me cringe.

— by Robert Thomson, created 16th Jan, 2007, last modified 16th Jan, 2007 | Tags: World

I have the contract..

I'm told that the paperwork will be sorted out by the end of today, but I've given the recruiter permission to accept on my behalf based on our discussed rates and start-dates. Now - to find accommodation. I may be one of the better paid homeless in Den Haag.

I'm actually going to stay with Thom May for a couple/few days when I first arrive.. but I don't want to impose so I'll do some frantic apartment hunting. I'll also use this time to get my SOFI (tax file) number, a bank account, and a dutch phone number.

It's quite sad to be leaving Passau, but Passau has no IT industry to speak of, and this is very much the kind of opportunity I was looking for last time I was looking for work in Europe.. but at that time I wasn't prepared to move too far from Passau. I'll probably keep my apartment here for now - I may sublease it, or just give up the lease.. but I've got a reasonable amount of stuff to move, so I'll have to come back and sort through things soon enough.

Update (9 Jan 2007)

I just heard, I start on Monday, and I get the rate I hoped for. I'm dusting off my suitcase as we speak. Farewell dinner/drinks on Wednesday.. probably train on Thursday.

Update (11 Jan 2007)

Leaving tomorrow morning at 11:22am, arriving around 8:30pm.. changing trains once in Frankfurt, and once in Utrecht in the Netherlands. I'm sure I'll be up for a good meal and a beer after that journey.

— by Robert Thomson, created 8th Jan, 2007, last modified 18th Jun, 2009 | Tags: Passau, Tech, World

Latest News - Netherlands..

A couple of months ago my my girlfriend of over 3 years, Katharina, and I broke up. She moved to Nuremberg and my initial plan was to follow her there after a semester in Passau improving my German, but I decided it wasn't what I wanted. We're still keeping in touch, but it's a little awkward - time will hopefully make it easier, as I really want us to become friends.

Since then, I've been living it up in Passau and generally enjoying myself. However, without any fixed plan for the future, I started looking for contracts around Europe. I applied for a short term contract in Berlin, which would have been cool, but didn't get it (or even a callback) - I think I asked for too much money. Then I spotted a 6 month contract for a Python Developer & Linux Engineer in the Netherlands. I was initially disappointed to discover it was in the Hague, but after chatting to some people and looking at train timetables, I realised that Den Haag is really not far from anything. 45 minutes to Amsterdam is nothing - I've waited longer than that to get from Chatswood to the city. Plus there are other nice places near Den Haag. So, after a bit of chasing I got the attention of the recruiter who had forgotten me after the initial phone call, and things got slowly rolling.

I had a phone interview on Wednesday with the manager from the company, which turned out to be Shell. The position is actually in Rijswijk, just outside Den Haag, but only 10 minutes away from Den Haag Centraal. The manager seemed to like me, and is keen to get me on-board.

A formal offer should come early in the new year, but I've got a verbal yes, as well as a very positive second hand quote from the recruiter, which was "I've been waiting for this profile for 3 months, and I get it just before Christmas!" - I think means that immediately before Christmas is an unfortunate time to be organising such things, rather than with a child's Sintaklaas joy - I don't think he's that into his job. I would most likely start mid-way through January.

As a skilled migrant earning over the threshold, I will be entitled to the 30% tax rebate, which significantly offsets the prohibitive dutch tax & social insurances and makes this contract lucrative. The work sounds very much like what I like - a mix of programming and system engineering, utilising many of the same technologies as used in the telco field - but certainly more formalised than in my experiences. I think there are almost as many project managers as engineers.

It's a pity that it's so far from Passau, but I will be able to afford to come back and visit reasonably often - flights can be reasonably priced and will save 8 hours or so of train-time. Weekend trips should be possible.

Am I abandoning my hard-earned German language skills for Dutch now? Not a chance. I'll learn some Dutch to avoid embarrassment, but the country's multilingual enough that English and failing that German should serve me well. There are many similarities to German, so the trick is to learn the pronunciation and pick up the vocabulary, where it vastly differs.

My first tasks will be signing contracts, getting a SOFI (tax file) number, getting a bank account, and then apartment hunting. I'm actually thinking that I'd like to find some shared accommodation, since it's a totally new country and language.. it would also probably be a little cheaper initially (before first month's payment).

— by Robert Thomson, created 30th Dec, 2006, last modified 3rd Jan, 2007 | 2 comments | Tags: Passau, World
... now get off my lawn!