Travel Stress

December 22nd, 2009

This is not the type of post you’re used to seeing from me here, but I’ve got to moan and rant a bit, just to calm down a bit more. Almost every single time I have a major trip, I become a bunch of nerves. It hits me each time again even though half the time it’s a trip I’ve done before without any trouble. In part, I guess it’s because a lot of it depends on factors I can’t control: the weather, buses riding on time (or even showing up in the first place), trains being delayed.

A part of me can’t help but wonder if it’s the geek in me that makes this all the more difficult. I have to think everything through, think of each possible outcome, no matter how bad, and make backup plans accordingly. Yeah, overloading myself with everything that *could* go wrong isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do, especially when I know how stressed out and nervous I can get.


This time around I’ve gotten more and more nervous since the snow of last week. Flights being cancelled, the Eurostar is completely messed up, it seems an impossible task to get out of the UK. The stupid thing is that our initial plans were to leave on the 18th, but we decided to postpone it (mind you, we booked 2 months ago). Still not exactly sure why we decided to go later; up until last Thursday I’ve been moaning about how we should have booked a longer trip and should have left earlier… like around the 18th. Looking back, I’m so so glad we didn’t do it, but even now traveling out of the UK is riddled with problems. Yesterday Gatwick was closed, because of the snow, and tons of flights were cancelled and delayed. It’s open now again, and I’m hoping hoping hoping that everything goes okay.

Another thing that gets me always worried too though, is packing. Do I have everything with me? Am I forgetting anything important? Passport? Check. Keys to get back into the flat when we’re back? Check. Reservation number? Check. And yet I almost always manage to forget something. Often it’s something small, but it annoys the hell out of me that a simple object was able to elude my mind and not make it into the suitcase.

An added nuisance this time around is that we’re flying out, and are restricted to 40 kilos of luggage. That’s an awful lot, I first thought, we shouldn’t have any problem. Ehm… think again. Christmas presents alone were 20 kilos, filling practically one suitcase. Argh! I’ve had to ditch an extra pair of shoes, some clothes (which admittedly I don’t really need) and extra goodies for my parents (like Australian BBQ sauce). I *think* we’re just under the 40 kilos now, and I’m holding my breath that the airport scales say the same.

Okay, rant over. Thanks for listening, dear readers. Hopefully, you’ll hear from me tonight that we’ve safely arrived with no problems. Fingers crossed!

After a “holiday” of 10 days in the Netherlands, I’m back in London and ready to get back to my blogging. I haven’t written anything for over a week, just taking a nice time out while I was away. I managed to get everything done what I wanted to do in NL, including a brand new haircut. It’s shorter than anything I’ve done in the past 8 years, and every time I look in the mirror I’m still completely startled by it. It will take some getting used to.

I don’t have a photo yet (I only got my hair done the last day I was there), but to make up for that here’s a photo of my cat:


Isn’t  she cute? (and yes, that’s my bag. You can always tell I’ve been in the Netherlands, cause all my stuff will be covered with cat hair)

Sorry for the quietness around here. Last Saturday, after waiting for a long 5 days of a reference check that in the end wasn’t even completely used, we got to move to our new apartment. Yay!

This new place is much larger than our previous flat. We’ve got our own kitchen and bathroom, and a nice big sitting room with two long leather couches. Finally no more annoying housemates and ugly furniture; we can do anything what we want with this place. For the past three days we’ve been cleaning, organizing and re-arranging everything here. It’s almost done, it still needs a couple of finishing touches, like bookshelves (very important!) and a new mattress for the bed (the one that came with the house is horrible).

The thing though we’re missing the most? Internet.

It’s going to take at least two weeks until we got a proper connection, and I was dreading those upcoming two weeks. Yesterday though we got a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband USB stick from 3, and it’s working great. It was about £97 for a “free” stick plus 12GB data allowance (which has to be used within a year). Once you’ve finished the 12GB, you get the normal pay-as-you-go tariffs: £10 for 1GB, £15 for 3GB and £25 for 7GB (which then has to be used within a month). Pretty good deal, right?

Yesterday the stick was working terribly; almost no speed and a very flaky line. I almost was considering bringing it back to the store and demanding my money back. Today it’s been working great though, so I’m guessing the snow must have interfered a lot with it yesterday. Even if we hadn’t moved house I would have been tempted to get this. Now I can get some work done from a cafe or when I’m on the road.

Anyhow, I’m going to try and blog some more the next couple of days, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be online even with this broadband stick. I haven’t tried uploading any photos so far, so I’ll have to see how it all goes.

So how about a house warming party in two weeks time?

Wasting My Time

January 22nd, 2009

I haven’t been posting here much lately, but that’s mainly because I’ve been trying to find a new flat. We’ve been fed up with this place for some time now; annoying house mates, not enough space, while there most probably is something way better out there. So for the past week (actually longer than that already) I’ve been phoning estate agents, scouting out new areas and seeing available flats. It’s all time-consuming, energy-draining and stress-invoking, but I know in the end it will be worth it. 

Lately we’ve been looking around Canada Water. It’s a quiet, almost suburban area, but the transport links are great for us (from there we’d be quicker in Central London, then from where we’re living now) and there’s a big shopping (plus cinema) right next to the tube station. And as a bonus it’s near the water. So we’ve been trying to find something around there.

And last Monday we found something. A spacious yet cheap 1 bedroom flat, only 5 minutes walk from the tube. We straight away made an offer on it, and were already celebrating that evening that we found something great. Only to find out the next morning that the landlady decided to take it off the market. Grumble, grumble, don’t put it on the market then in the first place!

Anyhoo, for the past week all the viewings and appointments all went without any problems. Until yesterday. Yesterday I had 3 viewings and I ended up seeing none of the places. Now I’m not one to rant. I don’t get angry that often, barely never in fact. Something really has to go wrong for me to get angry. But yesterday? Yesterday was one of those days where you end up dealing with the mess of incompetent people and not achieving anything at all.

I had appointments that day with three different agencies. The first one was at 11.00 with Oliver Jaques and I had arranged to meet the agent at the property. Because of problems with the tube I was running a couple of minutes late, but with a lot of running and hurrying I managed to be there on time. And no one was there. It took me a while to figure out what the telephone number was, but once I phoned the agency I was told that “He had tried phoning me half an hour earlier to confirm our appointment, and when I didn’t pick up they assumed I wouldn’t be there and cancelled our appointment”. Ehm, I was in the tube? And I wasn’t told the day before (I had only made the appointment less than 24 hours ago) that they would call to confirm it. What kind of idiocy is this that they just don’t show up? 

Now this same agent was supposed to phone me back later that day to reschedule the viewing to later that afternoon. He never did. I phoned again and was told he’d phone back in half an hour. He never did. So now I still haven’t seen that property, but by now I’m not even sure I want to. This isn’t the way to deal with clients!

Next up was my second appointment. This wasn’t too bad, and not even the fault of the agency, but I still couldn’t see this property either. Apparently the locks of the communal entrance were replaced earlier that week and the agency hadn’t received the new keys for it yet. So there I was standing in front of the building with the agent and we couldn’t get in. What ticked me off though? The person on the 1st floor who was home (we saw him behind the curtain) and refused to open the downstairs door for us. Refused to even listen to what we had to say. Hopefully we’re going to see that property tomorrow, even though the agent still doesn’t have the keys…

Finally we had the third property. This agent was taking over from some other agent who I had phoned the day earlier; the tenant and the property was usually dealt with by this other agent. We arrived at the property, only to hear someone in the shower. After a while, we found out the tenant was still home, angry as hell that for the third time the agency hadn’t cleared it with him when they’d bring viewers by. And he refused to let us in. I completely understand his point of view, I wouldn’t have done it either. But that meant 3 appointments for me all resulting in nil, nada, nothing.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow all goes fine, cause yesterday felt a complete waste of time.

After reviewing last year’s resolutions, I’ve (just like Cristiano) decided to skip the more “usual suspects” of resolutions. Of course, I have to sport more, eat healthier, be more organized, etcetera, but those aren’t the most interesting resolutions I can make. So here are my 2009 resolutions:

1. Finish my degree and get a job

This should be my number 1 priority this year; I’ve been taking way too long in finishing my degree and it’s about time I complete this. While I might be a bit demanding, I want to find a job that I love doing, day in, day out. I don’t want to settle with something that will pay the bills, I want to find a job I am actually passionate about.

2. Get a new apartment

I’ve had it with my housemates and I really want to move some time this year (the sooner, the better). I’d like to get a place on our own, so no sharing anymore, but with the prices here in London I’m not so sure if that would be possible yet.

Salmon On A Bed of Mashed Cannoli Beans

3. Try out and create more recipes

The past year I’ve been slowly learning how to cook from scratch, not using any sauce bags etc. Instead I’m trying out recipes and learning how to use the different ingredients together. I’ve created a couple of dishes I’m already proud of, but I haven’t even scratches the surface yet here. Main Goal: making a perfect Risotto Milanese with Ossobucco.

4. Start my own startup

This might be aiming a bit too high, but I do want to get my idea of a startup going. I at least want to think it out a bit more better, and figure out if it’s possible or not.

Besides these four resolutions, I’ve also got a couple blog related ones:

1. 52 Movies

Cristiano and I discovered we’ve only watched a measly 25% of the Top 250 IMDB Movies, missing a lot of great movies (confession: I still haven’t watched The Shawshank Redemption). So we’ll be watching one movie from that list a week, and I want to write a blog post ever single time. We’re already not having such a good start though; tonight is the last day of the first week, so we have to watch a movie tonight (and I have to blog about it tonight).

2. 52 Themes

Similar to the 52 Movies, I will take 52 photos, every week with a different theme (according to an already predetermined list of themes). I was interested in a Project 365 (taking a photo every single day), but I’m not that much of a photo addict yet to do that. What I do want to make sure of though is that I take every one of these photos with that theme in mind; I don’t want to make “random” photos and then look back thinking “oh, I could use that for the theme this week”. 


3. What I Wore

I’ve been inspired by blogs like Karla’s Closet, the What I Wore tumblr, and Sunny-Side Uptown, who post photos of some of the outfits they wear. While it won’t be every day (I don’t have enough different clothes and I don’t go outside every single day, for that), I want to start doing something similar to that. It will have to wait though until I figure out what the best way to take those type of photos is. I don’t have enough space here in my room, and I don’t trust London enough to leave my DSLR outside on the street alone (even if it’s just for a few seconds).

4. Write more reviews

I’m already writing reviews for movies and books, but not as much as I’d like. I want to try to actually write reviews for every single book I read and every movie I see this year (although repeats on TV won’t count).

What do you think of my resolutions? Anything I’m forgetting?

Last Year’s Resolutions

January 2nd, 2009

Before I do my New Year’s resolutions post, I thought I’d take a moment to step back and take a look at how I did with my resolutions from last year

1. Work out more, be healthier.

Kind of “check”? I did start running this year, but I can’t really say I kept to a weekly schedule. Food wise though, I do feel as if I started eating better. Let’s put it this way: I worked out more and was healthier in 2008 than I was in 2007. Overall, I still think I could improve a whole lot, but it’s a nice little start.

2. Work more organized and more regularly.

Again kind of “check”. I am much more organized than last year, but there is still room for major improvements on the “more regularly” part.

3. Stress less.

Check! If there’s is one thing I’ve improved in this year, is the amount of stressing I do. I used to get really worked up about all kinds of things, stressing out about stuff in my life that wasn’t going completely to plan (the plan in my neurotic-slightly-overachiever mind that wants to do everything perfect). This year I realized and accepted not everything goes the way you want it to, so there’s no reason to stress out about those things. 

Now where is that alien?

4. Start organizing events.

Check! Since February I’ve been involved with organizing the London Geek Dinners and have created some spin-offs like the London Geek Meet and the London Girl Geek Coffees. I still don’t put as much time into each of those events as I wish I could (haven’t organized a Girl Geek Coffee since June), but I hope I can do more of these events next year.

5. Finish my degree and get a job.

Ehm. Pretty much “Fail”? I’ve made some progress with my research thesis this year, but I still haven’t finished it yet. There have been some serious issues which caused the delay (like my wisdom tooth removal), but it’s no excuse: my main priority of 2009 should be finally getting my degree.

6. Get a “real” camera and learn more about photography.

Check! Since Cristiano got a second DSLR, I’ve been playing more and more with his old one (although I like the lens on the new camera too). One of my resolutions of this year though is to actually process the photos I take and not keep them lying around untouched for ages.

And My Camera

I’ll be writing about this year’s resolutions some time later this week. So how did you guys fair with your resolutions from last year?

The Sound of Silence

August 26th, 2008

Sorry, it’s been a bit quiet here lately! I went on a 5-day trip down to Dorset with a couple of friends, but as we were all geeks (we even called our trip Geeks in The Country), I took my laptop with me and thought I’d have time to blog a bit. Instead I’ve spent a great couple of days sightseeing, enjoying the countryside and eating wonderful loads of food. And I was completely tech free: no blogging, no emails, no Twitter. It felt like a real holiday; I haven’t been on holiday now for 2 years and it was great just to get away from all the busyness. 

I’ll be uploading more photos later this week and write a blog post or two about the wonderful things I’ve seen. For now: what do you think of my new wellies?

Trip To Stonehenge

June 16th, 2008

Sorry, for not posting the last couple of weeks. Since BarCamp I’ve been sick as anything, spending most days in bed and only last Thursday I finally was out and about again. Enough about that though, yesterday I went to Stonehenge!

Stonehenge Trip

Trish had some Dutch/Danish friends coming over for a few days and had the great idea to hire a car for the whole day to visit Stonehenge. Strangely, the only car rental hire big enough to fit six people and which didn’t close at 1pm, was the Sheraton Hotel near Heathrow. Ehm, why? Wouldn’t it just make sense that people would want to hire a car for trips for the entire Saturday? Anyhow, traveling to Heathrow, taking the (expensive) bus to the hotel and filling in all the paperwork took a bit longer than expected, so we only really left London around 11:30. Then we got slighty lost detoured along the way, so we arrived at Stonehenge at about 1.

Stonehenge and Bath

I’m still trying to rack my brain about what to actually say about Stonehenge. It’s pretty impressive, but, well, they’re just a bunch of giant rocks. Cool to see and to experience, but that’s all there is to it. Big rocks in practically the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by lots and lots of grass. That being said, Stonehenge is one of those places you have to have been to yourself. It’s just part of The List (you know the one with the Colosseum and the Pyramids of Gizeh) and now I can finally cross it off. Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t only go there for the sake of going there. It’s a brilliant piece of ancient creativity and the awe and mystery that still surround it have always intrigued me.

Stonehenge Trip

After admiring Stonehenge (including a short sunbath), we decided we should drive to Bath in an attempt to see the Roman baths. Because of road works and a detour, halfway there we stumbled on a small quaint village and stopped to have lunch/dinner there. It was a beautiful little town with a small canal winding through it and (although I say so myself) I made some pretty nice photos there. It might have been a bit too relaxing there, cause by the time we were ready to continue our journey it was already 5 o’clock.

Stonehenge Trip

Which of course meant that we only arrived in Bath around 6 (including driving around the center trying to find a place to park). And of course all the museums and the Roman baths were already closed. So I can say I’ve been to Bath, but I haven’t actually seen that much of it yet. It’s definitely worth another (proper) visit, but I’ll make sure I’ll do my research first and actually check out the closing times etc.

Stonehenge and Bath

All in all, it was a great day out. And I’ve finally seen something of the UK outside of London, which wasn’t a BarCamp. I’ll have to figure out what our next trip is (I think Bath), but if anybody has any ideas I’m open to suggestions. I’ve got more photos up on Flickr and Cristiano’s got photos and this funny little video of our trip:

How Green Are You?

May 13th, 2008

I’ve been tagged by Cristiano with this green meme. The idea? This:

… to write about the ways (I currently picked 5, but you could pick less or more) you think you purposely handle things “the green way”, and then write about the things you know you should handle better.

Okay, how green am I? First off, my good points (I’m cheating a bit and stealing some of Cristiano’s stuff):

1. I don’t have a car.

I still haven’t been bothered to get a drivers license. Why should I? In the Netherlands I had a student travel card (free public transport throughout the week, major discounts in the weekend) and here in London a car is only more trouble.

2. I try to avoid using a hairdryer.

Since my new haircut 3 months ago, I’ve used my hairdryer once. The reason I stopped isn’t actually because it’s greener, but that is a nice side effect. I’ve noticed it’s healthier for my hair if I let it dry naturally; it doesn’t get that static, dried out and greasy. Plus with the way it’s cut now, I can easily put my wet hair up without it looking too “wet-looky”.

3. I buy long-lasting milk.

Again the main reason is not because it’s greener. Normal milk tends to go bad quicker than we can finish a pack, especially the milk sold downstairs here. By the way, long lasting milk tastes just like normal milk nowadays.

4. I use candles and water bottles.

I’m not sure if this is actually “greener”, but during the early stages winter I try not to turn the central heating on that often, instead using candles and water bottles. Mainly the latter is quite useful, because typically I’m cold and shivering, but Cristiano isn’t. Using a water bottle keeps me nice and warm, while not unnecessarily turning up the heater.

5. I don’t overuse plastic grocery bags.

In the Netherlands you have to pay for every plastic grocery bag, so almost everybody brings their own bags or crates with them (I don’t see anybody here in the UK with folding crates in their car; is that something Dutch?). So even here in the UK, I still bring my own bags with me and try to fit as much in them as possible.

My bad points?

1. I leave chargers in the wall.

I’m really bad with this. I almost always leave my phone and laptop charger plugged in, even if those gadgets aren’t connected. I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes I’m plain lazy. Shouldn’t chargers though be more smartly designed to realize when there’s no gadget hanging on them? The technology should be far enough to do something like that, right?

2. I throw batteries away in the normal trash.

Like Cristiano, I have no idea here where I should throw my batteries away. Back in Holland every supermarket has a special separated chemical waste bin; you just bring your batteries in a small plstic bag and throw it there away. Here, though? No idea.

3. I take long showers.

I think this may be my major transgression: my showers are way too long. Even if I try to hurry up, I’m still in there for at least 10 minutes. Shampoo, conditioner, scrub, soap, (etc) it all takes up more time than I want (but I do need it, otherwise my hair becomes a bat nest, Amy Winehouse, anyone?).

4. I don’t use a bike.

While I don’t have a car, I do use public transport a lot. Not that much of a bad thing, but for some distances using a bike would be easier and greener. I’m thinking of bringing my old bike over from the Netherlands. It’s already 8 years old, but still looks better than most bikes here.

5. I don’t reuse the water from my water bottle.

Pretty obvious, but I still don’t do it. Every time I want to fill up my water bottle, I fill the kettle with water from the tap and turn it on. Then when that’s hot, I realize I have to empty the water bottle and “throw away” the water. I’m at least thinking about it, but I know I should change this.

So those are my good and bad green issues. I’m tagging Too Sexy For My Books, Geek Chic, Geek Girl Friday, Geeks Are Sexy and A Consuming Experience.

I’ve read a couple of these ‘8 Things’ posts now with the writers tagging anybody who wanted (Patricia Hanrahan, Rosie Sherry, Rachel Clarke), so I finally thought why not give it a go. It’s turned out a bit longer than I expected, but then I didn’t want to say one fact and not explain a bit about it. Anyhow, here it goes:

1. I don’t like whipped cream, yoghurt, licorice and milk products mixed with fruit.

Besides the yoghurt, I’m not really disgusted or so by these foods. It’s just that I don’t appreciate their tastes and I don’t see them as “yummy” as most people do. Why bother with whipped cream on my ice cream? It’s not as if it’s going be more tasty because of it, it barely has a taste, it’s like you’re eating air. Yoghurt on the other hand… blegh. I cannot even stand the smell of yoghurt, let alone having to eat it (although as a kid, I obediently did).

2. I’m a collector.

If I was born in a previous generation, I think I would have ended up as someone collecting stamps. Or elephants. Or something tangible like that. Living in this media world though, I’ve got other resources to satisfy my collecting habits: video games. Specifically: Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Both are just perfect games where you have to find and gather certain items with the goal of completing your collection. I always have to find every single item, before I deem a game “finished”.

3. I hate umbrellas.

Okay, I don’t really hate umbrellas. I hate getting hit in the head by umbrellas carried by stupid people who act as if because they have an umbrella that gives them the right not to pay attention to where they’re walking (and where their umbrella is attacking people). Half of the time, it’s not even raining that heavily. Seriously, a little rain doesn’t hurt! Then again I’m one of those people who love walking in the rain (as long as it’s not too cold); there’s something oddly peaceful in it.

4. I’m not a girly girl and have no idea how to use most make-up and styling products.

Apart from a little lipgloss, I don’t wear any make-up. Mainly because the times I had, I only ended up looking worse or more fake than I was without it. It always looks weirdly clumsy. If I could pull off the natural make-up look, that looks as if you’re not wearing anything, I might give it a go, but so far I have no idea how to do that. Besides that I’ve never used a curling iron or a straightener in my life.

5. I draw lines and shapes in my mind.

Eh, yeah, I should explain this and I’m hoping you don’t find me crazy after I do. Whenever I’m looking at something in front of a uniform background, my mind keeps dividing the background into geometrical shapes. Most of the time I’m not even conscious of doing it, until I catch myself at it again. It even happens when I’m watching stuff on TV, when there’s a face close-up of a character. Or when I can’t sleep at night, I do the same with my ceiling, even though the ceiling never changes and my mind comes up with the same solutions every time. And yes, I say solutions, cause it’s not just cutting it all up into shapes. I’m always trying to figure out what the most efficient solution is for a certain problem, like using the least amount of lines possible, or using only squares or triangles. It’s like my mind is constantly processing these problems for no apparent reason. Okay, should I go hide in a corner now?

6. I’ve attempted to learn morse code, hieroglyphics and Elvish.

Besides being bilingual (English and Dutch), in high school I’ve had three years of German, four years of Latin and French and 5 years of Ancient Greek. Weirdly enough though, I’ve never had a real affinity with languages, so even after those years I still can’t speak French or German. But give me a text in some language and a dictionary… I think I could pretty quickly decipher it for you. I like codes and trying to crack them, which I think is again related to why I like programming and why (I think) I’m pretty good in jumping from one programming language to another. Anyhow, before all that, back in high school I attempted to learn the above mentioned “languages”. Never got so far to actually be able to do anything, but it wasn’t about being able to speak or understand the language: it was the thrill of cracking it and figuring out how it worked.

7. I’m named after a A-Team character and Jane Fonda.

Sort of. My given name is “Melinda Jayne”. The “Melinda” comes from Melinda Culea, who played Amy in The A-Team. My mother liked the name after seeing it for the first time and then wanted to change it to Belinda to make it a bit different. It changed back to Melinda, when another girl was born who they had named Belinda. The Jayne comes from Jane Fonda, but with the added y to make it more “special”.

8. One of my first memories is of the Care Bears movie.

I have no idea how old I was, but I remember seeing this movie in the cinema (the second was Snow White). I think I was about 3 or 4. Other memories around that time was: me walking in the rain, holding on to my brothers pram. And a weird dream in which the walls of an elevator turned into bricks. I’ve got a very vivid memory and can remember a lot of events in detail. Almost every period in my life has a certain smell and feeling to it, and both I can call to mind almost instantaneously.

I again am not going to tag anyone. Anyone who reads this and is inspired to a list like this themselves too, go ahead. I look forward to see what your 8 things are going to be.