The End Of An Era…

January 13th, 2012

This Sunday, the 15th of January 2012, it will be five years ago that I moved to London. It will be five years ago that I showed up here with only a single suitcase to start a one year student exchange at Imperial. It will be five years ago that I was that shy, scared girl that I remember I was.

My plan was to finish my masters that year, and then to most probably go back to the Netherlands and find a job there. I remember wondering at the time about the 2012 Olympics and thinking that by then I wouldn’t be living in London anymore. Somehow I got a bit distracted along the way. What was supposed to take only a year, took me 4.5… oops. I never thought I would become the perpetual student.

I don’t regret it though. Within these 5 years I’ve done stuff, I never thought I would do. I started this blog, which has led to so many cool experiences, giving me the chance to meet awesome people and to cover awesome events. I attended GeekDinners, BarCamps and HackDays, learning to present, to code, to not be afraid to talk to people I don’t know. And then I also started organizing those events, allowing me to give something back to the community who had taught me so much.

They say that with every choice you have to make, the universe diverges and creates the realities of both choices. And sometimes I can’t help but wonder: what if? What if I had finished my degree within that first year? What if I got a job after that first year? Or had moved back to the Netherlands? Would I still have gone to GeekDinners, BarCamps and HackDays? Would I have met the same awesome people? Would I have done all those things that I never thought I would do? Would I be the person I am today?

I don’t think I would be. Part of me regrets not having finished my degree sooner, but I don’t regret all the things I’ve done and learnt instead. I don’t regret the wonderful people I’ve met and the amazing friends I’ve made.

This Sunday, the 15th of January 2012, it will be five years ago that I started the beginning of the end of my student life.

This Sunday, the 15th of January 2012, will be the last day of my student life.

This Monday, the 16th of January 2012, I will be working at EmberAds. Working with some of those awesome people I mentioned: Baz, Caius, Cristiano and Dom.

Part of me is scared, most of me is really excited. One thing I know though:

It’s going to be fracking awesome.


September 27th, 2011

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally done it. I’m finally done with my master’s. Yay!

I moved to London 4.5 years ago for a one year exchange at Imperial with the idea to finish my master’s within that year. Things didn’t exactly go according to plan… with me getting distracted by this blog, organizing events and a ton of other stuff. Part of me regrets not having finished sooner, yet on the other hand if I had finished sooner, I don’t think I would have gotten the opportunities to some of the cool things I’ve managed to do these past four years. This year though I realized I needed to finish what I started and put everything else on hold: no more blogging, no more event organizing, no more distractions. And it worked.

So for the past couple of months I’ve been focusing on my research: facial expression recognition for posed versus spontaneous smiles, creating parts of a system that can recognize between a “fake” and a “real” smile. The psychology research about facial expressions is so interesting, and it’s amazing how much our brains are capable of.


Last Thursday I had my final presentation and defence. I wasn’t that nervous for the presentation; I’ve been to enough BarCamps by now, that I don’t get too stressed anymore presenting in front of strangers. But the defence… eek! It was a one-on-one with my graduation committee where they drilled me on all aspects of my research. Some questions were easy-ish, others were tough. Super tough.

In the end though I passed. I got a 7 for the final project (not completely sure what the UK equivalent would be, a B, I think?) and I’m happy with it. The perfectionist in me wishes I got higher, but I’m mainly glad I’ve finally finished. I can’t call myself a Master of Science yet (or as my sister said: Master of Computers), not until I’ve actually had my graduation ceremony.

So: YAY! Soon I’ll be a Master of Science! 🙂

On a less positive note: I left a glass of water next to my MacBook on Friday night, and woke up to discover one of the cats had accidentally knocked it over… all over my laptop. I brought it into the Apple store yesterday, and the logic board needs to be replaced. Damage: £300. Ouch. Guess I should start looking for a job…

It’s My Birthday!

February 23rd, 2011

Yay, it’s my birthday today! And it’s a bit of a geeky one, I’m turning 3^3. I’m not sure why but I still get stupidly excited for my birthday.

I really wanted a simple birthday this year. My plan originally was to got out for sushi tonight with a Keynoir voucher from last week, but that got cancelled yesterday (it was a £30 voucher for £75 worth of food, but apparently the restaurant was being evil, so Keynoir refunded the voucher). So instead I thought I’d take it nice and easy today: sleep in, then watch TV and movies all day.

Yeah, no such luck. Today of all days, they’ve decided to work on our main building entrance, stripping the paint, smoothing the walls and other annoying things that make too much sound. Our apartment is next to the main building entrance, and our bedroom is adjacent to the wall and foor they’re working on. So I got woken up this morning by the lovely sounds of drills and whatever those machine are called that they’re using. It’s been going on since at least 10am and they still haven’t stopped.

To make matters worse, I’m waiting for a couple of things to be delivered today, so it’s not as if I can flee the house. Plus, I only just discovered that the dust and rubble of whatever is is they’re doing has been trickling under our front door into our hallway, leaving everything dusty and messy. <sarcasm> Yay, just what I needed today!</sarcasm>

Sorry for complaining, but I just wanted some peace and quiet today! Ah well, they should be gone by tonight.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me the past 4 years. And thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday (be it in real life, Twitter or Facebook)! I’ve got two giveaways at the moment for a copy of the zombie tale Feed from Mira Grant and a ticket to the London Funding Conference, and there’s still time to enter both. Plus I’ve got a couple more exciting giveaways coming up, so stay tuned!

Back In London

November 4th, 2010

So… yeah, my cunning plan of blogging more while in San Francisco didn’t really pan out. I’d like to blame it on the stupid sucky wifi (which really was stupid and sucky), but it was really me just being too lazy and attempting to enjoy San Francisco. I haven’t replied to most of my emails or done any work since the Monday I left; it’s actually felt like a proper vacation!

Me in San Francisco

San Francisco though was an interesting experience. Somehow with how some people described the US, I always imagined I’d have the same reaction to it as I had with London: that after a couple of days I could imagine moving and living there (I had the same with Paris and Rome actually, but the language thing has always stopped me from actually really wanting to do that move). But that didn’t happen. While it’s great to visit, both San Francisco and Silicon Valley don’t feel like something for me. During the trip I really realized how much I love living here in London.

So: happy I finally went on holiday for the first time in 4 years! But also happy to be back home!

I’m in the Netherlands for the next 3 weeks (reason behind the lack of posts here the past week) cat and house sitting while my mum’s on holiday in Indonesia. I was only gone for 2 days, when Cristiano tweeted “Is alone as @mseckington is in NL for 3.5 weeks. Realising I more and more want a cat.” And someone responded with 2 cats that needed a new home…

So we now have adopted 2 adorable brothers! Meet Casey:

Meet the Cats

And meet Dusty:

Meet the Cats

Casey is apparently settling in fine (as the below photo shows), while Dusty is still a little bit shy and quiet.

Meet the Cats

I can’t wait to meet these cats in 3 weeks time, although I love spending time now cat sitting Tasha, who you’ve seen in previous posts. Expect more photos soon!

I’ve been back in London for a couple of days and have jumped right back into the maelstrom of events (GameCamp and WarbleCamp last weekend). My trip to the Netherlands was pretty successful: new haircut, new braces and new lenses… new Mel:

New Haircut

I love my new haircut! Although I’m not completely sure yet how I’m supposed to dry/style it properly, it’s so different then how I usually have my hair. It’s gonna take some time till I’m fully used to it, but I love how it looks.

I got my braces last week Tuesday; I don’t remember the braces hurting this much the last time I had them! I’ve been living on liquid/soft/non-chewable food for the past week, not being able to chew without my teeth hurting. I know the pain eventually will go away, I just don’t remember having this much trouble with them when I was 12.

New Haircut and Braces

Then finally, my lenses. So much trouble with these still. I’m trying to make the jump to hard lenses, and got a new pair to try out. I thought the only difference would be the size of the lenses (a larger radius), but the vision in my left eye is horrible. I’ve only had them properly in for one day, so maybe I just have to get used to it, but I’m so sick and tired of not being able to see properly.

Sorry for the peace and quiet on my blog the past couple of days. As most of you know I spent the past two weeks in the Netherlands, celebrating my birthday with family, but also making some must needed trips to hospital, dentist and optician. Anywho, I arrived back in London two days ago, and am slowly getting back into the daily rhythm of work.

The main change for me is I’ve got to switch to hard contact lenses (I’ve been using soft contact lenses for 10 years now) and it’s proving quite a challenge. Remember my blog post during Christmas where I went to the optician and found out my eyes had declined even more, and that I had to go to the hospital first before I could get any new lenses? Well, I went to the hospital, they checked my eyes and everything is fine. My eyes have declined quite a bit, but that happens more often and they can’t see anything weird going on.


So I went back to the optician where they had a new lens specialist who measured my eyes again. She explained to me that my astigmatism is now so high that soft lenses might not work properly anymore. Astigmatism is caused by the curvature of your eye; the higher the astigmatism the more irregular your eye. When the astigmatism becomes to high, what can happen with soft lenses is that when they dry out or when you blink, the lenses warp and the wearer can’t focus properly. Hard lenses don’t warp, so they don’t have that problem.

I’ve gotten test sets for both soft lenses and hard lenses, and I already notice the difference. I just can’t see properly through the soft ones anymore, while with the hard ones everything is so much sharper and precise. But my eyes need time to adapt to them; each time I put them in my eyes tear up terribly and there’s nothing I can do about that. It takes about 2-4 weeks to fully adapt your eyes, and I’m now on day 7. All I can do is keep wearing them and hoping my eyes adjust to them as quick as possible.

I’ve always wanted to switch to hard lenses, but was always too busy, and didn’t want to spend time getting used to them. Now I have no choice in the matter and I’ve got to make time to adapt my eyes to them. It’s annoying and time consuming, but in the end I know it will turn out better. The great thing about hard lenses is that they last way longer than soft ones (like at least 2 years) and they only cost €230 (in comparison to 4 times €160 in 2 years). So fingers crossed that my eyes will adapt quickly.

My Birthday Presents!

February 23rd, 2010

Today it’s my birthday! And the past week leading up to today has just been fantastic. For almost the entire week, I’ve been in such a good mood. Things have just been going so well and half the time I’ve had this silly grin just plastered to my face.

It started last Tuesday with a great turnout to the first Movie Geeks of London. I am so glad that event went well, and that people were just excited for it as I was. It’s always tricky launching a new event, so I’m happy it seems to be an event that actually fills a gap in the event space. I’m definitely going to do another one next month (end of March-ish?), so if you missed the previous one, keep an eye out on my Twitter for any announcements. Then I celebrated my birthday last Saturday with friends, feasting on pizzas, donuts, cookies and cocktails. I might have overdone it a bit (my stomach still hasn’t settled down), but it was awesome to spend that day with friends.

One thing that totally contributed to my good mood was the fantastic presents I got this year. First off, from my parents, brother and sister:


A PlayStation 3! Squeeeee! I kind of knew that I’d get that this year, but I thought later in the Netherlands while I was there. Instead my mum conspired together with Cristiano so that I unwrapped it on Saturday morning. Plus it came with 2 controllers, loading dock and 3 games:


I’ve already started Darksiders and Soul Soul Calibur IV and I’m loving both of them so far. I haven’t started Uncharted 2 yet, mainly because I haven’t had the time yet, but also cause I’m not sure whether or not I should play the first one first. Besides those 3 games though what really has me psyched:


It’s not been released yet, but I’ll be getting the Collectors edition of FFXIII on 9th of March. That includes the game, plus soundtrack cd, a special hardback book featuring artwork and designs, 3 artprints of the Eidolons, and a decal of l’Cie brand. Awesome!

From Cristiano I got my very own iPod Touch:

iPod Touch

I’ve been wanting one for ages! Then I got some great gifts from friends:

Priest-Affirmation Priest-The-Extremes The-Glamour

I loved The Prestige (both the movie and the book), but I hadn’t taken the time to check out any of Priest’s other stuff. Priest seems to be brilliant though at building weird intricate stories which I adore.


Regular readers will know how addicted I am to Lush! I got a bunch of lovely Lush stuff, including the tasty Sweet Lips in the picture above. It’s one of Lush’s new products and is so far the best lip scrub I’ve found (mainly because you can lick your lips clean and just eat the sugar once you’re done).

Besides these presents, I got some yummy chocolates, Body Shop giftbag, book vouchers and a chocolate recipe book. My friends are awesome…

To top it off, I’ve gotten screening tickets to Kick-Ass tonight! I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for ages and being able to see it a full month before it actually comes out? Sweet. I won’t be able to write about it though (there’s an embargo until sometime March), but you might guess my mood from my tweets later tonight.

Sorry, it’s been a bit quiet here the last few days. I’ve been enjoying the Christmas/New Year aftermath and trying to catch up with some reading while at my parents (the more books I finished while there, the less I had to bring back with me to London). Anyway, yesterday we got back to London, and while it was great to visit family again and spend Christmas there, I am kind of glad to be back home.

It wasn’t all fun and games this trip though. Somehow every Christmas (at least for the past 5 Christmases) I manage to discover “something” that makes me have to do to doctor/dentist/etc. 5 Christmases ago I sprained my ankle really bad, 3 Christmases ago was the saga of my wisdom tooth surgery (if you weren’t around then yet, here’s the complete story). This year: it’s my eyes. Last time I went to Holland I got my eyes checked for the first time in 4 years. Of course, there was quite a jump and my eyes had each declined about -.50 (instead of -3.50 and -4.25, they were now -4.00 and -4.50). It didn’t feel right though and I went back 3 times to try different strengths out. In the end, I knew it wasn’t completely right, but didn’t have time to try out more and ended up with a set that was sufficient, but still not right.

So this time I got my eyes tested again. The verdict was my eyes had declined another -0.50 (now -5.00 and -5.50) and the optician felt uncomfortable with providing me new contact lenses until I’ve gotten it checked out by an eye doctor at the hospital, because it’s jumped twice in one year. Grrr. What I think happened is that it gradually got worse over the past 4 years and that last time they just didn’t check it properly.

I had an appointment on Monday with the GP about my eyes (not sure how it is here in UK, but in the Netherlands you always have to go through your GP to arrange anything at the hospital) and as I expected it was 3 minute meeting with the doctor going “nope, I can’t do anything, I’ve faxed your details to the hospital”. Now I have to wait until the hospital has time for me, so I’m guessing I’ll have to book a trip around February/March again. I know it’s better to have them checked just to make sure there isn’t anything wrong, but it feels like I’m wasting time.

Next to that my Dutch sim card died. Okay, not a problem, I thought, just go to the KPN store and ask for a replacement. Went to the KPN store and was told it wasn’t possible, because I’ve got a prepaid card. What I had to do was buy a new sim card, call customer services to get my old number transferred. Now normally I wouldn’t even have bothered with transferring my number, I would have bought a new sim card with a new number and live with that. But my bank account is linked to the old number and I didn’t want to go through the hassle (and the time) to get that transferred. I thought transferring the number would be easier.

Wrong. I ended up buying a new sim card a couple of days later at another store where the guy said the same thing. Buy a new sim card here and then call customer services to get the number transferred. So bought the new sim card and once home I called customer services. Call number 1: the girl told me they didn’t do that over the phone, but that it was on the website. Okay, easy I thought. I checked the website, couldn’t find the option. Call number 2: no, no, we’re not able to transfer numbers for prepaid cards, maybe if you call the department of “Nummerbehoud” (number retention?) on Monday they can help.

So on Monday I called, and unlike all the previous people I talked to this one actually knew what she was talking about. What I should have done and what all the other people should have told me was to order a new prepaid sim card on the KPN website checking the box “transfer this number”. There was no way whatsover to transfer the old number to the new sim card I got.

What did I do? I ended up keeping the new number (which is also way easier to remember than the old one) and transferring my bank account details. The stupid thing is I’m mainly annoyed with the amount of time I wasted, because the four people I talked to first each didn’t know what I should have done.

Sorry for the rant, readers. I know it’s the second one in two weeks, but I’m now back in London and hopefully I’ll get my regular postings back on track.

Arrived in NL

December 23rd, 2009

Just a quick post to let everyone know we finally managed to arrive in the Netherlands yesterday night. Our plane was 2 hours delayed! Not as disastrous as it could have been, but still very annoying.

We were at Gatwick airport pretty early, having had no problems with bus or train, and went through check-in and security much quicker than I expected (15 minutes while last time at Stansted it took us 1.5 hours). So we had about 2 hours to spare until our flight. No problem, I had my laptop, book and ipod with me, plus shopping around the tax-free shops is also always fun.

The most irritating thing was the lack of updates. Now this isn’t as a severe situation as the whole Eurostar saga of last week, but some short quick updates to the passengers could have helped a lot. What happened was that the info boards initially showed that the ‘Gate opens at 16:25’ (this for a flight leaving at 17:05) and we would see to which gate we’d had to go. 16:25 came and went and still no change. A couple minutes later it changed to ‘Please wait’, nothing else just ‘Please wait’. 16:40, 16:50, 17:00 and still no word. Finally around that time it changed to ‘Gate opens at 17:40’. No other information, just that our Gate would open then. Eventually it only actually opened at 18:00, and we rushed to the gate, only to stand in line for even more minutes until the dispatcher showed up.

I think it was somewhere after 19:00 that we finally took flight, two hours after we were supposed to go. The thing is: in the plane we were told that the reason the plane was late, was that it got held up in the snow in Manchester. They knew pretty early on that there was at least an hour delay. If we were told that we had an hours delay around the time we were looking at the boards, we could have gone on shopping around and not being in constant ‘stand-by’ mode, peeking every few seconds at the board to see if there was any change.

Anyway, we arrived at Schiphol airport around 22:00 local time. I’m at least glad we managed to get here! Bring on the Christmas!