General

Dunkin’ Donuts in the Netherlands

As an expat American living in the Netherlands, I am kind of thrilled when a taste of America shows up on the shelves in the grocery store or a restaurant opens up with promises of remembered delicacies. For example, when I first got here, I could go to Burger King (which tastes the same as it does in the States) or McDonald’s (which doesn’t) to get a little frisson of “home”. I don’t drink soda, so the aisles of Coke at the grocery store offered no solace and the many products marketed as ‘American Style’ were uniformly disappointing imitations.

I was thrilled when Subway opened up a shop in my home town. And then I ate there and remembered why I didn’t eat there when I lived next to one in North Carolina.

There’s a KFC which is too yummy and, thankfully, a 20 minute bike ride away.

Taco Bell showed up earlier this year, but it tastes different and doesn’t offer the only thing I really REALLY wanted to have, a 7-layer burrito.

Basically, when American stuff shows up here, I am torn between my hope that it will hit my taste buds in just the right way to remember happy times from childhood and my pessimism that some corporate hack won’t screw up perfection by trying to ‘fit’ their product for the Dutch market.

So I was pretty stoked when Dunkin’ Donuts opened up a few locations in the Netherlands. A great donut is a great donut. Once you know how to make donuts and have a winning combination, you wouldn’t futz with that, would you?

I had to take an hour long train ride to get there. But the lure of Long Johns and Crullers and Donut Holes and that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was a siren song . . . irresistible temptation!

I made that journey.

I arrived in the gleaming new Dunkin’ Donuts in Eindhoven at 7:30 this morning, hoping for fresh donuts and looking forward to a severe sugar and caffeine overdose to start my working day.

No Long Johns.

No Crullers.

No Holes.

This was what I was hoping for:

What I got was some over-decorated donuts with lots of sugar glaze and none of the flavor of their American brethren. A small scattering of donut types and flavors that would have a tough time battling what you could find in any American truck stop. I got a few to try, anyway. It was a journey and I didn’t want to leave empty handed. They did not taste better than they looked.

Heartbreak and desultory donut eating on a train.

I gave half of them to people in the office.

I just couldn’t bear the crushing weight of my crushed expectations.

Bitter.

 

 

Trumpism is a form of Fascism

I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate Cody Johnston’s ability to clearly explain some pretty complex concepts with examples (SO MANY EXAMPLES), citations and excellent timing. If you have not had a chance to look at Some News on YouTube, this episode is a good jumping in point. It is part 2 of a series explaining that Trump isn’t Hitler, he’s just a fascist.

My Dutch coworker tried to cheer me up about this stuff (the rise of American Fascism), but for every olive branch he offered, I had a counterpoint.

“The courts will stop him from doing illegal things!”

– Nope. The Republican controlled House and Senate are on a record breaking pace in appointing Federal judges. Right-wing idealogue judges. With the ascension of the newest justice, the court is now as extremely right as it has ever been and the new justices are young, so that tilt will last for the next 40 years. Gorsuch and Cavenaugh do not believe in upholding previous decisions and only overturning those decisions in overwhelming situations (Brown vs Board of Education and overturning Dred Scott). This is known as stare decisis. They will deny that congress has the right to give authority to agencies (this is called ‘Chevron Deference’, write that down) and will appoint themselves (the now right-wing bench) as arbiters of what they think the congress meant. Also, Roe v Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are going to be overturned as soon as any remotely relevant case is brought before the court.

“The people of America will rise up, only a minority of America support him!”

– Nope. What was the percentage of the German population that were members of the Nazi party? That was only 9%. Hitler took power with only 33% of the vote. It doesn’t matter what percentage you have against you if you have all the power.

There were more, but just typing this has depressed me.

 

 

Dutch Perl Workshop 2018

The Dutch Perl Workshop is an chance for Perl developers in the Netherlands to get together, meet old acquaintances, make new friends in the community and share some of the cool things we have learned and developed in the language. This year was lovely, despite the very high (for the Netherlands) temperatures. We were treated to presentations on everything from Perl on embedded devices to the inner workings of the Hash mechanism in Perl6 to suggestions for streamlining how Perl performs in extremely high traffic situations. Great stuff.

We also got a moving talk from Elizabeth Mattijsen on her experiences with Perl and the community around it and suggestions on how to grow into the future. Liz has been a driving force in Perl development and advocacy and is now spending much of her time working on Perl6 functions. Her talk was about the current “rift” between Perl 5 and Perl 6 and how to think about this division going forward. Great stuff all around!

 

After the talks and lightning talks and final thanks for the sponsors (Booking.com, cPanel, and Perl6.org) it was time for Barbeque, refreshing beverages, conversation and games. Wendy brought a whole bunch of board games and Mark Overmeer asked me to bring a game I recently created, “Merchants and Pirates”. I made this game for friends and family and it was a hoot to share it with my Perl friends!

Alas, all good things….  So, I caught a ride to the train station (thanks John van Krieken!) and it was back to Breda. Slightly soused and looking forward to the next time I can get together with this awesome group of people!

 

Terry Pratchett

terrypratchett

I just finished reading Terry Practhett’s book, ‘Going Postal’ for the 5th (7th?) time, the first time I have been able to pick up one of his books since his passing last year. It was harder than I thought it would be, but worth it. Always worth it.

I spent a lot of time last year working on research into morality, the basis of it, the outlines and sources of what we mean by right and wrong. Like many other fledgling philosophers, I thought for sure I had found an anchor for our moral beliefs, a generous splash of science and mathematics applied just so to ground our definitions of what it means to be a moral person.

Like many others, I found that there isn’t really a there, there. Our moral beliefs are based on some innate urges, things you learned as a kid from your parents, what the culture says, things you have been exposed to and an infinite web of conscious and unconscious influences. There’s nothing wrong about that, even if it does mean you have to do some hard work in the introspection and reflection department.

But I will say that after walking up the mountain and down the mountain and around the mountain of human morality, I have not found, in any medium or discipline, as clear a guide to morality as Terry Pratchett. I find myself thinking in aphorisms that he taught us, I compare myself to the characters that he brought to life. He is a fantastic writer, full of humor and wit, I would have no trouble at all finding millions of people around the world who would agree with me there.

He also had the most finely balanced sense of what it means to be human, and what it takes to be a good at it, that I have ever encountered.

I keep trying to convince my 15 year old son to read some of Terry’s books. I am thoroughly convinced that if I can get him to crack open my hard cover edition of say, ‘The Nation’, that he will have a good start on his path of personal development. I know that quite a lot of my parenting skills have been improved by thinking in Terry’s terms about the world and our place in it. I know that I could find no better guide to morality, goodness, and inner balance to share with him.

I still miss you, Terry Pratchett. The world is a poorer place without you in it to help us find our way.

20,000 Light Years Into Space

There is a simple game called 20,000 Light Years Into Space. It’s open source and easy to install on Linux with a few simple clicks on my desktop’s Mint distribution. Basically, you race to upgrade your city while keeping it supplied with enough steam to support its ever growing demands. Of course, sandstorms, alien ships, and earthquakes are constantly breaking pipes and it’s a constant struggle to keep growing and maintaining the network.

I don’t know why I am so hooked on this game. But I have noticed that I can listen to a book and still play it, the overlap between these two parts of my brain are minimal. This is one of the rare cases where multi-tasking really is possible.

This game is frustrating, the bad things that can go wrong are immensely destructive, the steam vents that need to be harvested are randomly placed at the beginning of each game, and the network elements don’t act exactly as you think they should. I spent quite a lot of time building ‘test’ networks on peaceful mode to see what configurations were most effective.

I’ve been playing this thing off and on for 6 months, a good time killer for when just sitting and listening to an audio book while blankly staring into space just feels weird. A nice thing to do with my hands and eyes. But I could never crack 3000 points. Hell, sometimes I couldn’t crack 2000.

Well, I did it. I finally made it over 3000

20000lyr

There’s no multi-player league for this game. There’s no place, that I can find, where players of this game congregate and share tips and strategies, no leader board. In the purest form, I have been competing against myself. And I cracked 3000. I don’t even know if this is a good thing. It FEELS good, but there’s no objective measuring stick, here.

Even without the leader board, I wanted to share my very small triumph. So, “Hurray!”

 

A Workplace Tragedy in 6 Panels

 

The uncertainty of looking for a job is maddening, a series of speed dates to try to find a company willing to take a chance on whether or not you will help them make money. This process can be a big hit on your self esteem and I remember my first few forays into the workplace, those first interviews with potential employers, very well. You never forget the first time you get told ‘No’.

But what I wanted to say to any first time job seekers out there is that the “date” has two sides. It’s important for the company to see how you will fit into their plans and structure, but it is JUST AS IMPORTANT for you to make sure that the company fits YOUR plans and goals.

So, before you polish your shoes and make sure the suit still fits, you want to have a few questions ready to go for your potential employer, you have to know what YOU are looking for in this new potential relationship:

  1. Let’s look into a crystal ball and imagine that you are seeing a successful version of you 2 or 5 years in the future. What kind of job does this future-you have? What kind of environment are they working in? If you have absolutely no clue about this, you might benefit from taking an online test like the one here: http://octogramtest.com to give you some hints. You need to find out if your potential new workplace will help you reach that goal.
  2. Workplace relationships are going to be taking up the majority of your waking hours for most of the rest of your life. You are going to be on your best behavior in the interview and so are your potential employers. The interview is the time and place for candid honesty, you are going to be spending a lot of time with these folks, do you like them? Are any red flags being raised? Listen to your intuition, if you are getting a bad ‘vibe’, pay attention to it.
  3. Here is a list of 14 career values:
    • Autonomy
    • Variety
    • Creativity
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Prestige
    • Competition
    • Personal Growth
    • Management, being a boss
    • Job Security
    • Being an Expert
    • Service and Commitment
    • Collegiality
    • Relationship with Management
    • Lifestyle, work personal life balance
      Print these out, cut them into little strips, and then order them from most important to least important. Try to find out if the job will give you the things at the top of your list and not give you the things at the bottom. Your order will change as you age and your personal circumstances change, but you should have this list in your mind during the interview. If the new job isn’t supplying what you need and value, you are going to be hating that job within a year.
  4. Try to get a sense of the culture of the company. You can get at this by asking questions like, “What kinds of behavior are rewarded at this company?” “How are decisions made here?” “How are promotions handled?” There’s a model for this called the “Competing Values Framework” and here is a graphic of what that looks like: quadranttypes_1-300x215
    A bad culture fit will be EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING for you because the things you think are important will be ignored and the things you think are bad will be rewarded. Very demotivating, so think about the kind of culture you want to work in before going to that interview.

Good luck on that inteview/date, I hope you find a good place to be :)