Entries tagged life

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So life in Finland goes on

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

So after living here in Finland for 6 months I've now bought a flat.

We have a few days to sort out mortgage paperwork, and assuming there are no problems we'll be moving into the new place on/around the 1st of March.

Finally I'll be living in Finland, with a sauna of my very own.

Interesting times.

In more developer-friendly news I made a new release of Lumail with the integrated support for IMAP. Let us hope people like it.

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Some things are universal?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

I don't often do retrospectives, but this year has been an unusual one for me, as I moved to Finland almost six months ago.

The topic has come up in conversation a lot over the past few months, so when people ask me what I think I can give some simple answers without too much thought. Here's a brief summary.

There are some obvious changes:

The Traffic

The traffic drives on the right-hand side of the roads, which took a bit of getting used to, but isn't a huge surprise as I've travelled in Europe in the past. There aren't so many countries that drive on the left after all so most people probably wouldn't even notice this as odd.

When it comes to traffic one thing nice about Helsinki is that most junctions are "zebra crossings". Sure they don't have flashing lights, but they have shaded areas, and pedestrians have right of way.

As for transport the city of Helsinki has local trains, trams, buses and taxis. The trams and buses all use the same card for payment so transport is integrated very well. I buy a time-based card, spending about €50 for a month of unlimited travel. If you prefer you may add euros to your card and pay for distinct journeys - but that works out more expensive if you travel twice, or more, a day.

The Money

Finland uses the Euro these days, having switched from the Finnish markka in 2002.

Enough said.

Costs are largely in line with what I'd expect: Cigarettes are cheap, beer is expensive. Some things are very expensive, some things are very cheap. Largely the expensive things are those that are imported. It is a very small country after all.

The Language

Finnish is .. complex.

But I've not struggled too much. Mostly I can buy what I want without difficulty. There are weird exceptions though for example I went out to buy soup one day and had to return carrying only shame and disappointment: I can't read the language on the tins and what I thought was soup turned out to be a can of chopped tomatoes.

Food is good though, and available easily (!!). The only significant surprise when it comes to shopping is that loose goods must be weighed yourself. You pick up a bunch of bananas, take it to the scales, press the button that has a picture of a banana on it, and it prints out a label you attach to them - at the till the cashier will scan the label and charge you. If you forget, or don't know how to do it they'll tut and complain.

In daily life I use two phrases frequently and they are sufficient for communcation:

  • "minua haluan ... kahvi|kakku|olut"
    • "I want ... coffee|cake|beer".
  • "kiitos"
    • "Thanks"

Usually people speak to me in English, which is a little annoying as it means I'm not learning as much as I could. But that said over the past few months I've had proper conversations entirely in Finnish with shop-keepers, and similar. So I'm getting better.

The Culture

Finnish people are friendly, but terse. That's the reputation.

The Finnish people are alcoholics, and have high rates of suicide. Also the reputation.

Finally we know that the Finnish people consume more coffee than the rest of the world.

All those things are true, but they're not enough by far to describe the people. Obviously they're all different, and we have a lot of people from other parts of the world here too - Russians, Asians, Somalians. So culture is complex .. but markedly different than in the UK.

I could write more about this, but I think for the moment I'll just draw a line under culture and say that I'm enjoying the interactions with people here, and while many things are slightly "off", it's not bad. Just different.

Also saunas are fun. I've never had any qualms about being naked with strangers, so I don't really understand why Americans, and others, find this so difficult/surprising. But yeah, saunas are great.

Things that Finland is known for internationally: The invention of the molotov cocktail, rally-driving, hockey, world's strongest man, Moomins, Tom of Finland, Salmiakki.

The Weather

Not too hot. Not too cold. But that's largely because I'm one of those "hot" people who doesn't really get cold even at the best of times.

My ideal temperatures are about 13°C. My wife prefers 15°C, or more. We don't fight any more. Mostly.

Winter is apparently full of snow, but this year has been poor. We had the first snowfall yesterday, here in Helsinki, and we woke this morning a blanket of snow about two inches high. It looks pretty.

The biggest thing about weather in Finland is the constant darkness in winter, and the constant sun in Summer. In Summer there were like 22 hours of sunlight a day which made sleeping hard when we moved into our flat - with no curtains.

In winter it feels like there is 20 minutes of sunlight a day. It's not that bad here in the south, although I think it is something like five hours and less in the north. I've never had any real issues with depression, or similar: People have good days and bad days, I'd generally be "OK" or "great". In the darkness? I've been grumpy at colleagues, I've made bad choices, I've lapsed attention. I'm not sure I can blame it on the weather, or my reaction to the weather, but I know I've not been as "happy" as I "should".

It requires effort to be enthusiastic in a way I've never experienced before. Thankfully once I (slowly) realized this I took action and I think I'm good now.

Unlike the UK the buildings here are relatively modern. I think that's the biggest contributing factor to how houses are "warm". Houses have all been built in the last 50-100 years, so you have proper insulation. Even though it might be very very cold outdoors indoors you can be naked without heating. Try that in the UK and you might freeze in some of the older leakier houses!

You do have to laugh, though, when people point out "the oldest pub" in the city though. Where I come from if I pub isn't 500+ years old you wouldn't give it a seconds thought - places like The Golden Fleece, etc.

I could write more. I probably should. But it has been an interesting year, and although there are things I miss about the UK, and Edinburgh specifically, I have no regrets. I'm glad I came.

What triggered this post? I said "Some things are universal" to my wife, when I saw a child riding a bicycle they'd obviously just received for Christmas. Her reaction "No Finnish person would buy a bicycle at Christmas - they'd expect too much snow!". So perhaps it was another immigrant family.

Christmas bicycles universal, or not, it doesn't really matter.

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We're in Finland now.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

So we've recently spent our first week together in Helsinki, Finland.

Mostly this has been stress-free, but there are always oddities about living in new places, and moving to Europe didn't minimize them.

For the moment I'll gloss over the differences and instead document the computer problem I had. Our previous shared-desktop system had a pair of drives configured using software RAID. I pulled one of the drives to use in a smaller-cased system (smaller so it was easier to ship).

Only one drive of a pair being present make mdadm scream, via email, once per day, with reports of failure.

The output of cat /proc/mdstat looked like this:

md2 : active raid1 sdb6[0] [LVM-storage-area]
      1903576896 blocks super 1.2 2 near-copies [2/1] [_U]
md1 : active raid10 sdb5[1] [/root]
      48794112 blocks super 1.2 2 near-copies [2/1] [_U]
md0 : active raid1 sdb1[0]  [/boot]
      975296 blocks super 1.2 2 near-copies [2/1] [_U]

See the "_" there? That's the missing drive. I couldn't remove the drive as it wasn't present on-disk, so this failed:

mdadm --fail   /dev/md0 /dev/sda1
mdadm --remove /dev/md0 /dev/sda1
# repeat for md1, md2.

Similarly removing all "detached" drives failed, so the only thing to do was to mess around re-creating the arrays with a single drive:

lvchange -a n shelob-vol
mdadm --stop /dev/md2
mdadm --create /dev/md2 --level=1 --raid-devices=1 /dev/sdb6 --force
..

I did that on the LVM-storage area, and the /boot partition, but "/" is still to be updated. I'll use knoppix/similar to do it next week. That'll give me a "RAID" system which won't alert every day.

Thanks to the joys of re-creation the UUIDs of the devices changed, so /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf needed updating. I realized that too late, when grub failed to show the menu, because it didn't find it's own UUID. Handy recipe for the future:

set prefix=(md/0)/grub/
insmod linux
linux (md/0)/vmlinuz-3.16.0-0.bpo.4-amd64 root=/dev/md1
initrd (md/0)//boot/initrd.img-3.16.0-0.bpo.4-amd64
boot

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Subject - Verb Agreement

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

There's pretty much no way that I can describe the act of cutting a live, 240V mains-voltage, wire in half with a pair of scissors which doesn't make me look like an idiot.

Yet yesterday evening that is exactly what I did.

There were mitigating circumstances, but trying to explain them would make little sense unless you could see the scene.

In conclusion: I'm alive, although I almost wasn't.

My scissors? They have a hole in them.

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Moving to Newcastle

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Although things are not 100% certain it seems highly likely we'll be moving to Newcastle in five months time.

If I seem distracted/absent/busy over the next month or two this will be a good excuse!

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An anniversary and a retirement

Thursday, 11 December 2014

On this day last year I we got married.

This morning my wife cooked me breakfast in bed for the second time in her life, the first being this time last year. In thanks I will cook a three course meal this evening.

 

In unrelated news the BlogSpam service will be retiring the XML/RPC API come 1st January 2015.

This means that any/all plugins which have not been updated to use the JSON API will start to fail.

Fingers crossed nobody will hate me too much..

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So I found a job.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Just to recap my life since December:

I had worked with Bytemark for seven years and left for reasons which made sense. I started working for "big corp" with a job that on-paper sounded good, but ultimately turned out to be a poor fit for my tastes.

I spent a month trying to decide "Is this bad, or is this just not what I'm used to?", because I was aware that there would obviously be big differences as well as little ones.

At the point I realized some of the niggles could be fixed but most couldn't then I resigned, rather than prolong the initial probationary training period - because I knew I wouldn't stay, and it seemed unfair and misleading to stay for the full duration of the probationary period knowing full well I'd leave the moment it concluded - and the notice period switched from seven days to one month.

A couple of people were kind enough to get in touch and discuss potential offers, both locally, remotely in the UK, and from abroad (the latter surprised me, but pleased me too).

I spent a couple of days "contracting", by which I really mean doing a few favours for friends, some of whom paid me in Amazon vouchers, and some of whom paid me in beer.

e.g. I tweaked the upcoming death Knight site to handle 3000 simultaneous HTTP connections, then I upgraded some servers from Squeeze to Wheezy for some other folk.

That aside I've largely been idle for about 10 days and have now picked the company to work for - so I'm going to be a contractor with a day-rate for an American firm for the next couple of months. If that goes well then I'll become a full-time employee, hopefully.

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Interesting times

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

In November I resigned from Bytemark.

In December I started working for a local company, here in Edinburgh, in a real office (rather than working from home).

Unfortunately today I resigned from that new job, meaning I'm currently unemployed.

I plan to take a 1-2 week vacation, then look for another job as a matter of some urgency. (I can live off savings for the next half-year, or so, if I need to, but I'd go crazy if I had nothing to do for that long.)

It is unfortunate to have to resign from a new job after only five-six weeks, but much more honest to do so now than pretend everything was OK and do it at the point I'd passed my probationary period (of three months).

The people were lovely, the office was lovely, the coffee machine was excellent, the work was interesting, but the nature of a large corporate job with the associated beaurocracy made it a less good fit for me than it looked on paper.

I shall pretend that the next week or two of down-time is our honeymoon ;)

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It's a wonderful life

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Today, here in the UK, the date is 11/12/13.

Today, here in Edinburgh, I we became married.

I've already promised I will make no more than two jokes, ever, about "owning a wife". I will save them for suitable occasions.

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Meanwhile, behind the facade of this innocent book store

Thursday, 14 November 2013

In brief:

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Some things change, some things do not.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

After seven years working from home I've resigned from my position at Bytemark.

Why? A combination of wanting to do something different coupled with the desire to reclaim my second bedroom, which is currently tied up as an office.

Working in an office in the future will be weird ("You mean I have to get dressed every day?!") but hopefully not unduly burdonsome.

My two-year plan still remains in effect: Pay off this flat as soon as possible, then purchase another and rent this one out. Giving me some income of my own, which I will need.

The "five" year plan involves me quitting work, so that I can stay home and raise children. That makes sense because sometime next year I'll become the partner who earns the least amount of monies, and I'll also be the partner with the lowest upper-bound on salary potential (short of moving to London/similar which I've always ruled out).

Having rental income for myself means I'm not utterly dependant on other money, and all being well this place will be 100% paid off within 18 months.

(After that lots of saving will take place for a deposit for the second place. We did bid on a couple of places locally, which were outstanding, but it is perhaps for the best we didn't win them. No more looking at ESPC!)

Bytemark now becomes a company I recommend 100% for hosting in the UK. In the past I've always said nice things, but I've not strongly recommended them/us, because I'm too biased.

All my personal hosting, except for one virtual machine, will remain at Bytemark indefinitely. Lovely, flexible, and great.

(I have one outside guest for the purposes of diversification. That currently lives at Mythic Beasts.)

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Some days you just want to do nothing

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Today I finally pushed out a new binary release of my slaughter server-automation tool. (Think "CFEngine-lite", with perl. full documetnation is available. Though nobody ever reads it.)

Otherwise the weekend is being quiet; we spent last night mostly drinking vodka, until midnight rolled over, and along with some messing around with a camera ("Wow, your arms are getting bigger!")

Today has consisted of a Turkish breakfast, an Indonesian dinner, and an ice-cream based tea.

I could write more, but I'm hung-over. A rare thing for me.

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So I'm a year older

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Last week I had another birthday, which was nice. I'm now all mature, and everything. Honest.

I received a few surprise gifts from friends and strangers alike, which was pretty good. Other than that I didn't do too much.

This weekend I'm going to be using "airbnb" to spend the weekend in Dundee with my partner who is regularly commuting between Edinburgh and Perth/Dundee, to work in various hospitals. With all the commuting time she's not had too much time to explore the actual city, and I've only been there once before so I'm sure it will be a fun weekend.

The templer static site generator got a little bit of pimping on LWN.net the other day, thanks to Martin Michlmayr, although embarassingly I seem to have read the article and repeated the content in the conclusion, and duplicated that in my own comment. Ooops.

Beyond that I've done little coding recently, although I suspect now that nodejs has had a stable release I might do something interesting soon. I don't want to dwell on the failure of Sim City - because I don't run windows and couldn't have tried it even if I wanted to - but I'm pondering the idea of a persistant grid-space where different items can be placed.

I've not tried anything browser-based before, but the popularity of things like minecraft make me wonder if you had an "infinite grid" where folk could store "stuff", and scroll around in a browser you might be able to do interesting things.

Starting small, with a 100x100 grid, and some kind of updated play-by-mail turfwars/drug-war like experience should be simple. But then again enthusiasm is easy to generate until you start working out how you'd interface with the server and what kind of client you'd need.

Now to enjoy some 21 year old whisky and call it a night..

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I spent my life trying not to be careless

Monday, 28 July 2008

There should be a word for those silly little ways you can fool your body & brain. For example recently I've been having trouble with my boiler - so getting hot water is a challenge.

I find myself doing the crazy thing:

  • Turn on hot tap(s)
  • Stick my hands under them to see if the water is hot.
  • Think to myself "Hey it is getting warmer..".
  • Realise actually I just imagined it.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Similarly there are times when you can imaging all kinds of bodily sensations. More than once I've been walking out, or sat at home, convinced that my mobile phone vibrated in my pocket. And it hadn't at all.

I remember, random, conversations with people who agreed they sometimes believe their phones are vibrating when they are not. Seems to be a common thing.

Which begs the question, is this a modern thing? Ten years ago if you had something vibrating against your body you damn well knew about it ... because you were doing it deliberately!

It is only recently that it was possible to have something semi-randomly vibrating against you, without your explicit control. Right?

(OK that sounds rude. It'll be our little secret.)

ObQuote: Godfather (Pt.1)

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