So, Delft has a Fringe Festival

This weekend’s vacation achievement unlocked: we learned hot to use the shower-sauna! Electric showers, with all the fancy buttons and symbols are interesting but the ones in this flat didn’t seem very useful at first. However, after a bit of study yesterday, we are happy to report that we figured out how to make the water hot, something one might expect to be somewhat self-explanatory (sadly, no) and how to make the jets of steam rising from the floor act like more than intermittent volcanic exhalations. We are rather proud of ourselves. Of course, we’re mainly showering with cold simply because it’s so incredibly warm here.

It’s been unbelievably balmy, and today it was nearly 80 degrees. It’s a little different to experience that kind of warmth in humidity, but the sea breezes kept coming, and there’s plenty of trees in this green and pleasant land, so we were mostly fine. After the slightly terrifying day we had in Amsterdam – with several trains and miles of walking and seeing so much artwork and architecture and riding in a cyclecab through insane traffic, littered with bikes and cars and buses at rush hour on a Friday – today we kept it simple and tooled around Delft. We visited Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk, and people-watched, enjoying the vibrant outdoor weekend life of this busy little town.

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Delft’s “Marktplaats” is in the center of its medieval downtown, loosely bracketed by the oldest church in the town, on one end the “new” church, and opposite that their city hall. The market square hosts two weekly markets, the first on Thursday, with a huge flower market, the second on Saturday, with a vast antique/flea market. At both, fruit, veg, candy, clothes, household goods and sundries can be purchased. After a leisurely breakfast we began our day with Nieuwe Kerk.

Nieuwe Kerk has two viewing galleries open to the public (there are a few other doors which are locked, on the long climb up to the top). So, of course, despite the rather warm day and the D. had to climb them. This resulted in some fabulous photos … but, as D. said when T. texted him to ask how it was going, “Terrifying. Coming down now.” The ledge is about 2 feet wide and the railing comes up to about 10 inches below D’s waist. Fiddling with multiple cameras (yes, multiple: a Canon 80D, a Canon M3, 4 lenses, plus the cell phone because it does panoramas so well), in the breeze, at the top of one of the tallest churches in The Netherlands is a bit fraught, particularly when there are other visitors who want to get past. Was it worth it, to get a picture of the flat we’re staying in? Perhaps. We’re staying in the pair of windows with the sheer curtains drawn, right in the middle of the photo below.

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There are apparently 377 stairs to get to the very top, with about half of those being as nice and spacious as those pictured below. The rest are narrower. Passing your fellow tourists going in either direction is also not anything to want to go through again.

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The view is, of course, wonderful. Here’s the town hall, just across the town square from Nieuwe Kerk.

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And, after visiting Nieuwe Kerk, we went to visit Oude Kerk. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be a publicly accessible gallery, so D. had to be content with photographing other things.

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Tomorrow may involve riding a canal boat, going to several museums, and hopefully a return to the fabulous Stadsbakkerij de Diamanten Ring for more tasty treats (and, perhaps, to contemplate the mural telling us that William of Orange’s assassin slept here the night before he shot William.). We shall see.

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Our friend L leaves the day after tomorrow and our friend Thing-1 shows up that evening. We shall endeavor to take plenty of photos, of course (we’re up to 449 photos and a half dozen or so videos, since arriving late Wednesday night … so, 3 days of being tourists). After Thing-1 leaves we’ll make a point to spend time away from Delft (Gemert, with friend S and Wannepeerven & Gierthoorn with D & fam) because the Delft Fringe Festival begins, and it’s already lively enough, being so close to the pedestrian center in the marktplaats!

-D & T

Market Day Is Wild, in Delft!

No lengthy post today, as we’ve been wandering and enjoying the (rainy) day, only making it back to the flat after 11 p.m. We must say, though: Delft market has ALL of the things! D. picked up 1kg of licorice – half of it salty, half sweet, all of it black. We picked up cheese. Oh, the cheese. We also had to visit the guy with the portable, gas-powered, player organ.

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-D & T

The Joys of Arriving

In case you didn’t know, we’re off to The Netherlands for a vacation and to visit friends (some of whom live here, some of whom are visiting from Scotland). We are staying just off the main square in Delft, so we get to enjoy the tolling of the bell of Nieuw Kirk at all hours of the evening (it’s just after 2 a.m. here and we’ve just heard it toll a single bong… and we heard it toll 12 bongs at 1:00 a.m…. so we’re not sure what’s up with it).

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We shall see how much we get up to tomorrow. It could be that we visit a few local museums and stay pretty close to the flat, as we’re sure we’ll need naps. All in all, though, travel this time wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We actually managed to get a few hours of napping in, and schlepping our luggage from plane to train to cobblestone streets wasn’t as awful as it could have been. It’s sunny (we don’t have enough hot-weather clothes, but there are stores) and humid.

We will be painting pottery at the Delft factory store, though. It may not be in the morning, but it’ll happen in the next couple of days, for certain.

-D & T

Some Jobs are Better than Others

Every now and again I remember a horrible job I’m happy to have left. It’s far rarer that I reflect upon a job I’m happy to have turned down. Let’s do so now.

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The picture above was taken from a parking lot on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. I was there to basically have a tour of the site, finish up the paperwork, and meet the programming team I was to lead. Some of the contract terms didn’t line up as promised, so I backed out. As news about Hanford has trickled out over the past year or so I’ve found myself very happy it fell through. This is particularly true reading this article about plutonium contamination drifting over the region.

“…site was ringed by 8-foot-tall piles of radioactive debris with little to prevent dust from blowing off.”


European Travel

Way back in 1999 (before good photography) we visited friends who moved to The Netherlands for work, so we have fond memories of that, our first overseas trip (N & K have since moved back to California, visited us when we were in Scotland, and have then moved on to Portland, where we visited them a few years back). Being new at the whole international travel thing, we (ridiculously) also scheduled an additional visit with a friend in Germany … all this, in the course of a single week. That meant that we really didn’t get to see much (although N did indeed try to show us all of the things). While we know we enjoyed ourselves, some of that trip is… really, a blur.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Well, 18 years and a whole lot of travel later, we’re thinking that it is past time to revisit The Netherlands and actually take some time with it, rather than trying to cram it all into 4 days plus jetlag. We had planned to return to Scotland (of course), but our timing isn’t great, as most of our closest Scottish friends are going to be out of the country! There are also OTHER PLACES to see in Europe, and fortuitously, we have friends who, a year ago, moved to Southern Holland after a brief stint in Iceland, so it’ll be fun to see how they’re settling in. Our hope now is that, maybe if we ask nicely, we can entice a few other friends of ours in Europe to meet us “in the middle” as it were (we’re looking at you, Pille). Of those we’ve asked so far, several indicated willingness! So, now to find a place to rent for a few weeks in and around Amsterdam. Hurray!

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So, while it may not be as comfy as having friends over for a Spring/Easter feast in a flat of our own, we are looking forward to hanging out with faraway friends, and a whole new neighborhood. It’ll still be something to celebrate.

-D & T

All Over The Place

Things have been a bit quiet, here at Hobbits. T. has been writing, D. has been continuing his various wee contracts … and also looking for something a bit more than just wee contracts. After much casting about, many false starts (we’re looking at you, Washington State), and lots of places that just weren’t right for whatever reason, D. has taken a position with Revance Therapeutics as “Senior Technical Lead, Enterprise Applications” to start the end of this month.

Which means, The Hobbits are leaving Hobbiton and moving to … well, somewhere not that far outside of The Shire, and not anyplace truly distant, but it’s far enough that we thought Rivendell would be an appropriate name for it. IRL, we’re moving to Newark (no – not New jersey – there’s one right near Silicon Valley). D. will have a 2-minute commute, unless he decides to walk, in which case he might have a 15-minute walk to work – we’ll see whether there’s proper pedestrian access along the way, or if he’ll need to cycle instead.

So, next week, the movers come, and we’re off on another sort-of-adventure!

While things have been quiet here, though, they haven’t been idle

Fresh Turmeric

We ran across some fresh turmeric in the grocery store and thought, “hey, we made a South-Asian kind of Sauerkraut once – let’s use this for it!” So, we duly shredded all the things (cabbage, carrots, turmeric) and added all the spices and salt, packed it into the fermentation crock, and waited a few weeks. Then we found out we were moving, so decided to pull it out to taste, and maybe to give away … and, wow, fresh turmeric Takes Over ALL the things. We ended up throwing the whole batch out, it’s so incredibly not-tasty. All we can conclude is that we used about 10 times too much fresh turmeric, and that you don’t really get a feeling for how it penetrates just by tasting it fresh and raw – turmeric was all we could taste, other than maybe a hint of pickle and some salt. Boo.

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We also made up a nice wee spice blend, using spices from our local bulk herb company plus some orange peels we’d harvested and dried (peel your orange with a vegetable peeler before peeling it to eat & let the peels dry somewhere). Truly yummy spice blend, though we’ll add a bit more black pepper next time, so our spiced tea (aka chai) is a bit spicier. It’s a great all-purpose blend that we end up mixing into banana bread or zucchini bread – very yummy, and handy to have.

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In the past few weeks we had company, so of course broke out the touristy trips. Among other places, we dropped by the Cornerstone Garden Center on our way to visit Sonoma itself – it’s often overlooked (we overlooked it for years) but it’s definitely worth visiting along the way, if only for a wee break. Try it in early spring when everything is gray – even then, beauty. Some imaginative sculpture, a few restaurants, ponds, and of course places to sell you expensive things that you don’t need and would hate yourself for buying (we saw a distressed lawn chair for $450 – not kidding, and that wasn’t a typo, that was four hundred and fifty United States Dollars for a broken-down-looking wooden chair). Aside from the things to trick tourists out of their money, it’s a great place to spend a half hour or so.

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We also made a pilgrimage out to Santa Rosa, to the Charles M. Schulz Museum (a.k.a. the Snoopy Museum). It’s on the smaller size, for museums, but also has a bunch of comics for those who are fans of Snoopy. Definitely worth spending an hour or so, seeing some of the history behind the comics and behind Schulz himself. He was a local resident, there in Santa Rosa, and there’s a fair bit about his life as part of the community. The Empire Ice Arena is across the way with its own mini-museum (Schultz was an avid ice hockey player, and played there for years), and a fab way to pass a sticky summer afternoon is pretending you can figure skate.

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Finally, we visited Vallejo’s Petaluma Adobe. For those who don’t know, Vallejo was an early governor of California, when California was still part of Mexico. We’d driven past Petaluma Adobe literally hundreds of times – every time we came from Santa Rosa to the East Bay area, we drove past it. We’d never stopped in, though, and since we were in the area and had read it was a primo state park and once the home of General Vallejo, we figured we should check it out.

The Adobe itself is basically a mud-brick building in the shape of a squared C, with the only doors being on the inside of the C. The entire structure, on the ground floor, is an extended series of workshops, with looms, a saddlery, food storage and preparation, etc. The structure, on the second floor, is a series of living and sleeping quarters. This is basically an outpost, where people would come for a particular purpose (cattle slaughter, meat and hide preparation) for part of the year only. This is the early-California version of a meat-packing plant / factory except that it operated for months at a time and nobody could leave. What must it have smelled like? The park ranger said that the packed dirt floors were described as being “spotless,” so there were a lot of hands making the place work.

Petaluma Adobe is a California State Park and is in need of visitors. If any of you out there are teachers, they also do an overnight environmental living program for fourth-graders.

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And now, we must be off to take care of the irritating things like electronics recycling, which have been put off for too long.

-D & T

Santa Barbara

Well, folks, we’re heading down to Santa Barbara this afternoon, as D has an interview there on Monday. We’ll also hopefully take more pictures of the actual city of Santa Barbara, as, looking back, we only really have good pictures of the Mission, but not of Santa Barbara itself. So.

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-D & T

Thanks, TSA!

Thanks, TSA

Every time we fly we get one of these notices, but only in the bag with the laptop. The other bag never gets one. They leave this in disappointment, apparently, because the laptop is a piece of junk we take with us when we travel. Maybe they open the bag because of the novelty of seeing a laptop so old? Maybe it’s just that people have learned not to trust them with their electronics? We don’t know the real reason. But, if you want someone from TSA to go through your things, it seems an old laptop is something they find irresistible.

Helpful tech hint: when next you find yourself with an aging laptop on your hands, think about where it could still be useful. You could load Ubuntu Linux (or some other flavor, if you prefer – Ubuntu is easy to use for Windows or Mac people) and a few necessary programs and have something that’s quite useful for travel. Or you could strip everything off of the laptop that you don’t need and sanitize the disk (have a look at using sdelete, from Microsoft to do this). Either way, having something to take along that you wouldn’t mind losing means that you can pack the thing in hold luggage rather than schlepping it in carryon, and you can worry less about it in the hotel as well.

An added bonus is getting little love notes from TSA, expressing their disappointment that they didn’t find anything worth stealing in your luggage.


Tower Blocks We Have Known

It never ceases to amaze, how apparently the same five architects have been all over the world, building the same kind of tower block apartment buildings.

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From Mexico City, to Tallinn, Estonia, to Reykjavik, Iceland, to Glasgow, Scotland.

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These, to the right, are a few of the tower blocks in Glasgow. Somewhere in amidst the rest of our photos are better pictures of these, or ones like them, we’re sure – and in there somewhere is a bunch of them which closely resemble those we found in Mexico City. It’s a wee bit hard to find them at the moment, though, and there are better things to do on New Year’s Day (i.e., read books) than to hunt for pictures of tower block apartments. Glasgow was quite full of tower block apartments, although they’re mostly coming down now, as the days of trying to move the poor out of the city and into isolated and isolating towers is apparently at an end. We wonder about Mexico: are these the beginnings of a similar kind of thing there, or are these going to be more like those in Tallinn and Reykjavik, where they’re more of a long-lasting feature than a short-lived effort to shift the poor elsewhere? They unfortunately look more like Glaswegian tower blocks than they ought, if they’re going to last awhile. I guess we’ll have to ask about and see what role these are expected to play.

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The smaller tower block, here, with the elevator scaffolding in place was home for a very short 6 months, with us leaving because of the elevator scaffolding (which ran up and down outside our windows, with an awful buzzing noise, multiple times per day) and also because of the fact that the entire building pretty much fell into shadow after about 1:00 in the afternoon, all Winter long. This was our first flat in Glasgow – the elevator scaffolding is stopped right in front of our living room windows.

Now we’re back from Mexico City, we’re spending quite a lot of time sleeping, trying to recover from being tourists and from a nasty bug we picked up somewhere before we’d even left and which plagued us during the entire trip. Sometime tomorrow we’ll settle back into the idea that we have work to do, and lives to live here. Until tomorrow, though, we’re going to take it easy and ignore the world for a bit more.