Monday, 30 June 2008

nothing happened in oosterpark

Beautiful weather today and I walked to the Amstel Station to catch the #40 bus. On Krugerplein you can find Nicole's clothes cleaning and repair service. I've been there twice to have a zipper renewed and they did a good job.


Across from the Amstel Station is a rather new little neighourhood. It was built only a few years ago and, since I'd never been there, I walked through it today. The main street is called Maliebaan. You can find a Maliebaan in Utrecht where it was named after the sport that was played on that spot centuries ago. There they would play 'malie' or 'pall mall' as it was called in English, a precursor to the game of croquet. To play the game you would need a long, straight stretch of road which would also be called a 'mall'. This is where you get the modern use of 'shopping mall'.

I don't think, however, that 'malie' was ever played across the Amstel Station. The street they've built there isn't long enought and doesn't run straight.

maliebaan; neither a shopping mall nor a playing field for mallets

In both the UK and the USA people are getting paranoid when photographers make photos of public buildings. In the London the Metropolitan Police has posters out asking the public to warn them when they see 'suspect persons' taking photos. In the USA people have been arrested for doing what tourists do: make photos. It is actually worse now in those countries than it was during the height of the cold war in Moscow!.

In the spirit of solidarity with persecuted photographers worldwide I marched into Amstel Station and took a shot of the monumental mural, made in 1939 by Peter Alma, right in view of three security guards. They didn't blink an eye during my photo session. I walked back and forth, left and right, asked one of them to move out of the way and then took the shot.

mural in amstel station

The security guards were very friendly and cooperative. Of course, I might not look like a terrorist on a recce mission.

do i look like a terrorist?

The recce into the security of the gates at work is progressing nicely; in the bus I was talking with colleague O who explained they had managed to crash the computer which controls the access gates. The gates have sensors to see if there is still a limb or other body part in the path of the sliding doors. If there is, the doors don't close. A piece of tape across a sensor means the gates don't close either. If you then try to open another gate with the same key the system crashes. It doesn't understand how the same key can be used twice at the same time. What I don't know —but what to me seems the only reasonable way of working in case of failure— is if all gates open when the system crashes. After all, when there's a fire or power failure they do open automatically. A crash should yield the same result. So now you know how to get a large group of terrorists into the building: use a piece of gaffer tape and (steal/use) one key.

The morning was used to do a bit of maintenance on the website. In the afternoon I got forwarded an email by colleague P from a site in Germany that claimed to have seen a break-in attempt by our webserver. I started digging in my log files and found that the break-in attempt had occured at our site too. What is worrying, is that I can't find a trace to the German attempt in my log files. This might mean that my site is compromised. I discussed it with colleagues P and T and we're going to sleep on it tonight and talk again tomorrow to see if and how we can find out what really happened.

I left work and walked through Javastraat into van Swindenstraat. There's a ladies fashion shop called Manzara catering to those of the muslim persuasion. They've got the most hideous colours on their sign that ever caused me an eye sore. The photo doesn't do justice to the brightness of the greens used. Imagine a sort of day-glo green of the hue used in horror movies.

ouch! the after image is still burned on my retina

Oosterpark was the scene of a photo shoot with a bunch of girls dressed up in multi-coloured tutus. One girl stood in a shopping trolley and was trying to stop her tutu from falling down. It wasn't autumn yet, so nothing happened…

tutu shoot

At the other side of the park some guys were trying to shift a tent by balancing it on a truck-pulled flatbed trailer. I watched them for about 10 minutes in which time they made about 5 meters. Every time the truck moved, the tent started shifting on the flatbed and threatened to fall off. Then the guys would shift it back onto the flatbed. I waited for the tree branches to swipe the tent off, but it didn't happen so I walked on to the ThaiCoon for a meal.

tent swipe

When I got to the ThaiCoon is was still early and therefor quiet. Peter, the owner, was still having his own dinner. He's the guy in the green shirt on the left hand side.


I had Tom Yam Kai, which was basically a complete chicken that had sweated the broth from all the chillies it ate, with some green stuff thrown in for good measure. I like spicy food, and this was done to perfection.

tom yam kai

After the soup I had the Yam Woon Sen salad. Glass noodles, made from mung beans, with vegetables, shredded chicken and prawns. De-li-ci-ous! I just found out on wikipedia that if you let mung beans sprout you get taugé. I didn't know that; I always thought that taugé was sprouted soy bean.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

the excorcism

Some days, like today, my foot hurts and I have to take a painkiller. Normally I'd take an ibuprofen since it works as an anti-inflammatory drug as well. My doctor told me to take paracetamol instead. Apparantly NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and anti-diabetic drugs don't mix well. I took a paracetamol, which didn't kill the pain and it didn't stop the inflammation in my ankle bones. It still hurt after dinner when I wanted to go for a walk.

I went for a walk any way since you see a lot of fat people and you see a lot of old people, but you see very few fat old people.

I didn't go too far; down the Afrikanerstraat to the Wibautstraat.

wibautstraat looking north

I walked through the Graaf Floriszstraat to the Amstel. Near the boat house I saw the sun shining on the water with the old Amsterdam Council Archives building behind it. The archives have now moved to the "Bazel" building in Vijzelstraat where they have more room for their collections. I wonder what is going to happen to the old building. Before it came to house the archives it was the town hall of Ouder-Amstel.

the old archives building

I walked through Buhrmanstraat into Oetgensdwarsstraat. The apartments here look like they were transplanted from 1960s East Berlin. They gave them a coat of paint on the Oosterparkstraat side, but I think the paint job should have stretched along the whole building.

paint job potemkin village style

Crossing back over Wibautstraat there was a barricade, at least I understood it to be one. It sure is clear you can't pass here.

no passeran!

I walked into Blasiusstraat where you have an excellent view of the back side of the OLVG hospital. The elevators in the glass tower under the logo have different bright colours, which looks very nice when they're going up and down.

OLVG back side

I sat down for a well earned cola light on Maxwell's terrace and gave my ankle a rest. The pain had actually lessened while I walked and now that I'm home again it has gone away completely. Maybe the exercise exorcised the pain demon…

Saturday, 28 June 2008

oba public library

One of the things that happened to me after the diabetes diagnosis was that I had to take my medication at a set time. This means popping a pill every morning at 08:00. I was used to sleeping in on the weekends but that is history now. Last year, before I was diagnosed, I would go to bed around 02:00 and wake up (with the use of multiple alarm clocks) around 08:00; a six hour sleep. Now I usually am tired enough to go to bed around midnight, and I wake up spontanously at 06:00; again six hours sleep. But now I can turn onto my other side and snore on for another hour and a half. I sleep in every day…

When I got up this morning I discovered the only food item in the house was a muesli bar. I just had to do some shopping. I looked out of the window and saw that the weather wasn't looking too good, so I had the muesli bar and some coffee and waited for the weather to improve.

the outlook this morning from the fourth floor

I went downstairs to the AH to get milk for the muesli I had bought at Dekamarkt earlier in the week. AH must have restarted the Polish nuclear reactor, because they now had loads of €0.99/kilo bags of muesli. Of course they would stock it when I don't need it. Here's an item they don't stock, but which they should get on their shelves (Tip for AH: just order it from the North-Korean nuclear reactor complex):

nestlé's nuclear chocolate

I got the milk and some salad and went off in search of bread at my favourite Turkish bakery around the corner. They were closed for holidays. I got some bread at the Ekodis supermarket instead. Their bread is a lot nicer than the chewing gum that AH tries to flog as bread, but the multi-grain from the Turkish bakery beats even the ecological bread. I'll have to wait only another six weeks for the baker to come back from Turkey. Maybe I should try living exclusively on AH muesli during that period. It would probably loose me 30 kilos.

I stayed home all day, until after dinner the weather picked up and I went for a walk. I took the #22 bus to Wittenburgergracht and walked towards the Maritime Museum.

the museum steam wharf

Next to the NEMO Science museum is the museum harbour. This is where all sorts of historical ships are moored. One of them is a so called stevenaak and was owned years ago by my work-roommate Fred. He still remembers every rivet with great fondness.

the stevenaak 'maria'

I walked into the new Public Library, the second largest in the world. Only Madrid's public library is larger. How do I know this? Marion told me. She works there and I paid her a surprise visit. She took me on a tour of the building and told me all the little details like a good tourguide should. One of the architectural niceties of the building is its double skin. In the photo you can see the distance between outer- and inner walls.

double walls

Marion then took me to the 7th floor for a drink and a view from the terrace. You have a really nice view from so high. In the photo you can see the NEMO science museum (the green ship-shaped building) with the 17th century three-master 'Amsterdam' moored in front of it.

nice view; Amsterdam looks nice too…

Last week Marion had bought an aquarium and she told me all about it. She's going to breed guppies, and her colleague Remco is giving her a few more. He's got about 200, so he can miss a few.

my guppies are so big!

After the drinks we went to the basement floor where the children's library is located. They've made cozy corners out of the book shelves where kids can relax with a book.

relaxed reading or asleep?

I left Marion around 21:00 and walked to Central Station where I took the #9 tram to Tropenmuseum.

st. nicolaas church opposite central station

From there I walked home through Oosterpark. I was home about 15 minutes when Danny called and asked if I wanted to come to Mulligans. She had just returned books to the library and had heard from Marion that I'd been there. I didn't feel like going back into town and I still had to update the blog. That's why you can read it now.

Friday, 27 June 2008

I'm evil…

When I left the house this morning the clouds looked ominous. Not your nice fluffy clouds at all, but nasty clouds, pregnant with rain.

rain clouds seen from my balcony

I walked to Frankendael, but instead of going straight to Middenweg I turned right towards the Jeruzalem neighbourhood.

frankendael, still cloudy

On Hugo de Vrieslaan I saw this range of squashed piramids. It's probably art of some sort. If it was in my front yard I'd ask the council to remove it.


At work the clouds were still in force and the wind had picked up as well. The institutional flag stood tight in the wind.

nikhef's flag

In the morning I did a bit of work on a couple of websites for conferences and summer schools which we're organizing. After lunch I went with Jo, committee chairman for the conference we're organizing in September, to town to check out Restaurant Sluizer in Utrechtsestraat. We have to provide lunch for 200—250 people and since Sluizer is normally closed for lunch I thought that maybe they could be persuaded to open just for us. They could and they will. We can fit all of the participants in Sluizer and the owner said he would be happy to feed them all. One more problem out of the way. I'm still waiting for answers to monday's and yesterday's networking questions, though.

ritzema bosstraat

After work I got on the #40 bus, wanting to get out at Middenweg. I wasn't paying attention, so I got off one stop too late. I decided to walk straight on from the bus door, and so walked into Ritzema Bosstraat. A nice enough street in a nice enough neighbourhood. Very quiet; almost no traffic. I walked more or less straight north and found myself back at the Frankendael gates I had come out of this morning. The clouds looked very friendly and fluffy this time.

fluffy frankendael

I just kept going in the same direction and crossed Frankendael south to north, exited the park at the Kamerlingh Onneslaan and still walked in the same direction. This led me to the Bessemerstraat in the Don Bosco neighbourhood, after which I could go no further in a straight line since that street stopped at the Ringvaart (where have I heard that name before?).


I took a left at the Ringvaart, crossed the bridge and was back in my own street. I went to Maxwell and sat on the terrace to wait for Anna who had called me earlier in the day asking if I'd like to go out for dinner. She was delayed a bit since Marina B. had asked her to help booking a ticket to Bulgaria at the last minute. When Anna arrived we had a quick drink and then went to the ThaiCoon for a great meal. We started with springrolls; Anna then had tofu and vegetables in a red curry sauce and I had chicken, veggies and cashew nuts with peppers. Delicious.

anna smiling with a springroll

Anna's laptop, an old MacBook, is dying. The thing is about six years old and needs to be replaced. Anna is in denial. "I like the metal looks; a new one is too expensive; bladiblah…"

I told her she should have a look at the new 13'' MacBooks; the cheapest one is only (after all the discounts she can get) about € 850. Depreciated over three years the laptop would cost about € 0.80 per day. A cup of coffee costs more.

contemplating the mac

She still wasn't sure, so we went home where she could play with my MacBook. After playing for about 45 minutes she told me I was evil 'cause I was giving her bad thoughts such as "I want to buy a MacBook" and "It's not that expensive". When she left she said she was glad the shops were closed. I told her the on-line Apple store was open. I'm evil that way…

Thursday, 26 June 2008

walking away from work

Adaptable as I am, I was in total denial this morning, just like our managers. So, instead of walking towards work I walked away from it. To the Amstel Station to be exact. I walked along Ringdijk (again!) but this time on the other side and into the other direction. You first have to descend some steps and then, when you are on terra firma, you have to climb up again to walk on top of the dike.

ringdijk looking west

At Amstel Station I took the #40 bus to work. I hadn't been here in a long time, and they had changed all the locations of the bus stops. It took me a while to locate the place where they had hidden my bus, but through sheer perseverance I did find it.

amstel station and rembrandt tower

As regular readers know, I am never bothered with work-related emails while I'm actually at work. People seem to prefer to wait until its my day off before demanding my undivided and immediate attention.

Monday and Tuesday I received a grand total of two work-related emails. Yesterday, my day off, I got twelve. Today I got two, both of which were 'thank you' emails for work done. I wonder how many I'll receive tomorrow, compared to the whole following weekend.

At least I had work to do today, sorting out the questions posed in yesterday's emails. After I got all that out of the way, I got on the phone to two companies who pretend to be able to deliver mobile ethernetworks. I had emailed them on Monday on the email address advertised on their websites: 'info@...' but hadn't gotten any reply. Both said they hadn't received the emails.

They both asked me to send the email again, but Company #1 was so smart to ask me what it was about, waited while I sent the email, saw it coming in and then emailed me to say it was received and would be handled by mr So-and-So. Company #2 said they always follow up on mails sent to the info account, but didn't even ask what my request was. Bad move. If you want to sell me something you've got to sound hungry. Company #1 made the right noises. It could get them a contract worth more than € 10.000 for a few days work.

#12 tram

After work I kept running away from it. I took the #40 bus back to Amstel Station and got on the #12 tram there. I left the tram at the corner of Ceintuurbaan and Fedinand Bolstraat. I was walking past the most dense concentration of computer shops in Amsterdam when I thought I was being attacked. I spied a guy in an agressive stance from the corner of my eye. I turned towards him and then realised it was a life-size dummy. The round glare you see in the photo is the reflection of my gun's laser pointer reflecting off of the dummy. Just joking!

agressive gamer

Ceintuurbaan has a break where the street is called Sarphatipark. Here I saw a very unappetising shop window. It's a violin repair shop. Everything in the window was dusty and layed out in such a way that it was obvious the owner wanted to show you how violins are made, but he missed the whole point. The way he layed it out made it look like a bunch of broken rubbish. A bit of cleaning and another way of showing his wares (display cards explaining what you see, a la museum info cards?) could make this an interesting display of violin construction and repair.

dusty rubbish

I thought of eating at the Indian Roti Room in Oosterparkstraat, but in the end walked on to Maxwell. The last time I had eaten there was with Danny, Marion and the rest of the crowd. This time I sat by my lonesome self and read the newspaper while munching away on a very decent sirloin steak with mushroom sauce, broccoli, string beans and roasted Roseval potatoes.

entrecôte aka sirloin steak

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

love potions

I needed a new battery charger; the old ones I have can only charge NiCad and I now have some more modern NiMH batteries. So I took a walk to the Kijkshop on Kamerlingh Onneslaan near Middenweg. I walked along the Ringvaart, which doesn't seem to be boring to regular readers, and almost walked into a scaffolding somebody had placed across the pavement. I had to backtrack and walk around the contraption.


The Kijkshop didn't have the type of charger that I needed, so I walked back along Middenweg towards the Hema. I walked past a travel agency which advertised cruise ship holidays by placing a model of the Titanic in the shop window. I wonder if they advertise flying holidays with a model of the Hindenburg.


Then on to the Hema, where I found a nice fast charger which came with four 1900 mA accus for only €29.95

By this time it was getting near dinner time, so I started looking on the east side of Oosterpark for somewhere to eat. I walked past all the restaurants since there was nothing on the menu that I liked. I did see a decoration on a wall in Wagenaarstraat. Pharmacopolæ were sellers of love potions in ancient Rome and had a bad name. I don't think they had email addresses in that period. BTW, exists and is a training institute for wannabe webmasters. I don't see the connection between pharmacopolae and webmasters, exept for the bad name.

I walked back to van Swindenstraat. There's a Greek, a Caribean and a Surinamese restaurant there. I went to the Surinamese, the 'Sweet Asia'. I ordered a chicken soup and a beef roti. The soup was nice, the roti acceptable. The restaurant is a cross between a take-away and a would-be American 'diner'. They've got these stalls a la the diner where you can sit. The benches are very comfortable.

wannabe diner

After dinner I walked back through Oosterpark. The blue sky had those typical Dutch 'fluffy' clouds in it.

fluffy clouds

The walk had a total distance of 4.2 km according to and cost me 497 kcalories. I've just discovered this site and I like the way they let you calculate your walked distance and burned calories. Recommended.

i feel more secure now

Breaking news: at work management have announced they've listened carefully to my remarks yesterday and, after consulting with security experts, will expand the gate system to be more secure than was previously planned.

we'll get a front gate

and a back gate

and camera surveilance

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


The weather was nice. I walked through Pretoriusstraat and saw that the Moroccan bazar still had hopes that the Netherlands would win the European Football Championship. The Moroccan tea houses were also still festooned with orange.

hup holland hup

On Linnaeusstraat the ETOS drugstore was being gutted. A guy was trying to drive his digger into the shop. When he tried to get the arm inside he couldn't stretch it enough. This caused the digger to balance on its tracks. I was just too late to capture the best part on photo, but you can still see some of the action.

a non-australian digger

Feeling adventurous, I walked into Linneausplantsoen for the first time in my life. I don't know why they called it Linnaeusplantsoen, it would have been better named 'Boring street'. There's absolutely nothing to do or see, but it did bring me to Muiderpoort Station.


At Muiderpoort Station I liked the looks of the old signal shack above the station. I don't think it's in use anymore. It would make a nice office for a train spotter, though.

muiderpoort station

At work I continued the war with Typo3. I found out why it didn't work as expected. It wanted version 5.2 of PHP. Scientific Linux (which is based on Red Hat) only comes with PHP v 5.1. This meant I had to roll my own version of PHP and, while I was at it, also of the Apache webserver. That took most of the morning. Then, when I tried to reinstall Typo3 I noticed that the date and time of the Virtual Machine were not anywhere near real time. It turned out that the hardware clock of the box that runs the VMs is probably broken. Nobody had noticed anything wrong with the time/date on any of the other VMs before…


We had a free lunch. In his book "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" SF-writer Robert Heinlein coined the phrase TANSTAAFL, 'There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch'. He was right. In exchange for a few 'broodjes', bread buns, with cheese or ham and a piece of fruit we had to spend more than an hour listening to a manager giving an explanation of how our new 'secure' admission system would work. Basically they've put gates behind every entrance which will only open when you wave your electronic key at it.

When you're a manager with no IT or security background and you're trying to tell people (IT-pros, physicists, mathematicians, etc) how secure the system is, don't be surprised when inside of five minutes they will have found at least three different ways of going around the 'secure' system using the exceptions to the universal sign-in system. The managers replied that the exceptions had to be there. That makes the system totally non-secure and therefore security theatre.When I tell them it is just security theatre and they go into denial I get pissed off. When I explained how security ought to work and that their 'security' isn't secure I got applause from the audience and more denial from the managers. "It's not theatre!", they keep saying, but they fail to tell you why not. Further, they wouldn't tell us how part of the system worked: security through obscurity. That doesn't work either. For my colleagues who read the blog: the secret is 10 minutes. I just asked another manager: social engineering. At the end I walked out of the meeting, not wanting to listen to more nonsense.

The whole affair pissed me off so much that I got a fierce headache and went home. I later saw that a colleague had emailed the picture below to all at work with the title "overall impression of today's presentation".


I just noticed that I still had a T-shirt that I had bought a while ago and hadn't worn to work yet. I think I'll wear it on Thursday.

the truth will always out