Monthly Archives: October 2017

A serving from the catch-up buffet…

A Happy Halloween as well! It is still my favorite holiday, even if the only thing I have done today is drink a pumpkin flavored coffee (ugh) and am now listening to a creepy Halloween playlist on Spotify while I type this. It’s a pity, really, that I didn’t prepare some fun adventure for today. Time is at a bit of premium lately, with my school program, work, the househunt to nowhere, banjo, etc.

We leave on Friday for a week in sunny Portugal. I am really looking forward to it, even though we are going to a conference. We’ll meet up with Big C while we are there and some of my friends from the Portuguese office. Such nice people, a little shy but really warm!

I didn’t book anything except the conference tickets and the flights. GG is in charge of hotels and entertainment. I have noticed that over the past few years, my travel habits have gotten very lowkey. I only need to know where I am staying the first night. I remember the days when I wouldn’t get on a plane before I had a complete list (at least mentally) of everything I planned to see.

I kind of feel like October happened without me even noticing. I think November will be on that same speed setting as well. It’s the last month for two of my interns, which means our team will shrink. On their last night, I am having them all over to dinner for a Thanksgiving style menu. After all, I need to do something with those three boxes of pumpkin that I brought back from the US 😉

The pets are fine. Lientje is hanging over the keyboard as I type this, trying to find a way across the keyboard to my dinner plate. We’re all doing fine, just stressed out by the hunt for the house. We are really running into a remarkable streak of weird circumstances for all these houses. Last night, we agreed that I am going to stop looking. I tend to memorize all of the houses that come up in a search and can be counted on to spit out their square footage, distinguishing characteristics, last listed price and any other unique factoids. Useful in a pub quiz situation, not so useful in not getting obsessive in the daily life. 😉 GG is free to keep looking but I am breaking my Funda (the housing website) addiction!

All better…

We had a couple of days of anxiety this week. Henry was eating less and less and then he stopped. At first it seemed to be a sort of dachshund stubbornness in the sense that he knew I absolute had to run out the door and didn’t have time to play the breakfast game. But then he stopped eating his dinner and the final worrying sign, his tortilla. At the same time, right before I am due to present, Kate calls from the woods and asks if I know that George has a bulge on his leg that is the size of half of a tennis ball? NO, of course I don’t!

Fast forward through a great deal of stress about the boys dying and trying to figure out how I can get them to the vet before the weekend. I couldn’t but GG volunteered to take them late Friday afternoon. Well, George’s growth was much, much smaller than the size of a half tennis ball and the vet took two samples from it and said “Fat deposit. Don’t worry about it unless it grows”. As for Henry, he got a full check up and they sent his blood to the lab. He got a shot for nausea and by the time they walked home, he was ready to eat.

Oy. This didn’t do much for my tolerance threshold. I found myself being even more to the point than normal. However, if this is a culture that really values directness, then I guess they will have to live with it 😉

I gave my lecture to the computer science students this week at the university. We started the two hour session with their statements on the objectivity and scientific neutrality of algorithmes and data. Let’s just say we didn’t end the session with those same statements 😉 I enjoyed doing it. There’s a big part of me that likes to entertain.  I know, you’re probably saying “Duh… really??”:)

The next day I gave a less technical version (and an hour shorter) of the talk to an audience composed of NGOs. Heh, it’s fair to say that I ruffled some feathers.

Last night was the monthly social evening that I host for the meetup. This time we held it at Cafe Hermes which isn’t precisely an LGBT cafe but definitely an inclusive place. I think we will go there again. They were happy to have 15 women and apparently throughout the month they host other LGBT groups. As a plus, they also have karoake! I used last night to make connections to some of the women who work for other tech giants. Actually, it was much more of me telling them that I need help to build out this digital inclusion work and who in their company is busy with it? Those are the people I need them to connect me to. It landed with varying degrees of success. 🙂 I guess you could say that if I had to pick an image that represents what I have been doing this week, it would be of a porcupine!

The weekend is way too short. Our second house that we bid on and didn’t get has now gone on the market. In the meantime, one that was way out of our range has had a significant price drop so that it might now be a possibility. We’re going to try and see it after making sure that the price drop was not an error! I think I would like to know that we are actually making progress on that point. It will be good to have a place where I don’t have to worry about the neighbors hearing the dogs bark, etc.

More magic from Tante Snoep…

It’s rainy and cold this morning and none of us want to leave the house. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to finally let the boys unwrap their presents from Tante Snoep from last weekend’s beach birthday. As you can see, it was a big success and now they are sleeping off the excitement.

No movement on the housing front this week, which is slightly annoying. I know that we will find the right house. This morning GG suggested that we go for the house that has a theatre and cafe built into it and I perform regularly as an Elvis impersonator… I am not really sure where that idea came from since I am confident I have never really had a desire to be an Elvis impersonator. Apparently her logic is based on sitting hours in the car with me in North Carolina when I was singing along to the all Elvis channel on satellite radio and that I would probably really like to wear one of those flashy jumpsuits. Oh, and also that I am American, just like Elvis was 😉 I am not sure that this logic would stand up to closer examination!

I started my evening program this week. It was great. I was really nervous, got there 15 minutes before any other student. I had the usual dialogue in my head about whether or not I was smart enough to participate, etc. It’s being taught at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). I hadn’t been there before so I was walking through an alley and ended up looking right at this building.

Turns out, this is where my class is. I felt smarter and more inspired already! There are 20 people in my program, about 12 in their 20s and the rest going up the age ladder. I am going to be looking forward to Wednesday nights!

The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, passed away  late Thursday night. He was relatively young, 62. However, he had cancer that couldn’t be treated so around the middle of September he stepped down from active duty. In his letter to residents of the city, he wrote in closing “Zorg goed voor onze stad en voor elkaar. Vaarwel” (In translation: care for our city and for each other. Farewell.) Such a small sentence and so powerful.

Wishing you a good weekend, preferably a dry one!


I think that’s what they call uncomfortable…

Yesterday was my first trial run of my lecture on digital inclusion, which I have given the exciting title of “Digital Imperialism: What Not to Do”. It’s kind of a sassy title, which is my goal, to get people to think about the importance of community based and owned technology. I was giving this lecture to the professors from several African universities that were here for a conference. The speakers were really inspiring and I felt right at home with their messages.

It’s my turn to speak and my timeslot has been reduced to 15 minutes instead of 30 because academics tend to go beyond their timeslots and we are at this point more than 45 minutes behind schedule. I dive right in and one of the things I gave as an example was the story of my mentee and his journey to graduate school at the African campus of an American based university. I talked about the need to keep the talent within Africa and not lose those students to multi nationals – which is a problem. I didn’t get deeply into the details and only referenced that this was a trip of firsts for him. On my way out of the auditorium, this man comes running up to me and says quite quickly “I want you to know who I am. I am the director of that university in Africa. We are definitely not encouraging those students to leave. I want to know the name of your mentee.” OOPS.

Okay, number 1, he clearly didn’t hear what I was saying because I was referring to the methods that people find these students, like LinkedIn etc. Number 2, might I suggest that instead of you saying something that sounds very much like the “Do you know who I am?” paparazzi speech, you say something more like “I am so and so. I’d like to hear more about your thoughts on our program and what leads you to think that way” . This person is also an American so I feel comfortable saying that culturally, we probably understand each other a little.

I did give him my mentee’s name. Because it’s important for them to know that he has someone who stands behind him, externally and who has an understanding of things work. This director had a few other uninformed things to say, like talking about my employer as if he were the expert. I let those go because we were approached by another attendee who asked me for my contact info so we could talk further. 😉

I need to tell my mentee what happened so he is aware if he gets asked any questions. While I am deeply concerned that I might have caused a problem for him, at the same time, I feel like yesterday my mom was really close by. I feel like her trouble maker legacy is really present right now 😉

It’s not the first time this week I have had some interesting encounters with the academic world. On Wednesday morning at the ass crack of dawn, I was picking up the rental car at the airport and waiting for the interns. We were due in Groningen at 9am to talk to a movie theater full of IT students, from the vocational school. Some 400 of them.  Well, it’s a good thing I don’t get outwardly nervous! The talk was absolutely not what I expected, which was great. The videos I planned to show had no sound due to the movie theatre system, the students asked really interesting and tough questions – especially around ethics- where I was in complete disagreement with their teachers. They also had the chance to talk to the interns which was really great. Afterwards, one of them came up to me and told me in complete seriousness that he could understand me and my vocabulary and accent were very good. However, my grammer was terrible and he felt that I really should do something about that. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that so I asked him what he recommended as an improvement tool. That seemed to stump him a bit and then he finally suggested I should get a book and study. So, I will take that to heart.

I’m glad he said because he means he was really listening. 😉

In the afternoon, we were at the university, meeting with their computer science student’s association. It was over in 30 minutes after they told us that they have a pay to play model. I think they were rather startled to hear that we didn’t have any interest in their students and wanted nothing from them. The point of the work we do is to make connections between people having knowledge and people needing it. It was quite a contrast. One city, two educational institutions approximately 7 kilometers apart and a world of entitlement difference between the two.

I’ll take my chances with the vocational students.

We passed Marum both ways. I didn’t stop, only tapped on the window and said “love you, Mom”. My intern in the front seat, in charge of keeping me awake, asked me lots of thought provoking questions and wanted to know more. It certainly kept me awake and I think he was surprised that I answered his questions. Some of them were really hard, like thinking about what pictures you take when someone is ill and how do you remember them in your head?

This evening the interns are presenting their work at the Global Good Jam so I will head out in the rain to go and support them. Haven’t told them I am coming so they won’t feel under supervision.

There are plenty more things I want to write about from this week, like the whole good bye to Big C evening and the other things I have been working on but there is a moment of dry weather right now, which has been pretty scarce this week, so I need to get the boys out the door no! More later!



A visit from Tante Snoep…

George turned 12 yesterday and Henry did last Saturday. Yesterday afternoon, at the end of a long afternoon of open houses (six in a 4 hour window), they got their plain cheeseburger from McDonald’s served to them on the back deck of Astrid’s trunk. As with so many other occasions, this never fails to make them happy.

Today was the real birthday celebration. Their very own Tante Snoep (literally translates to Aunt Candy) and her little dog Mika came to pick up for a trip to the beach. As if the beach were not enough, they got an enormous doggy gift basket which I am not letting them open yet – might as well spread the happiness out to another day 🙂

The beach was wonderful: windy, grey, dry and perfect for getting the fog out of your head. The first of October is the first day that horses and dogs can be on the beaches all day instead of only after 7PM and before 9AM. Enjoyment could be had no matter what your size!

But of course, I know the question everyone wants the answer to is why has Little C suddenly been renamed to Tante Snoep? I think I have mentioned previously that if we go out with Mika and her mom, we never have to bring anything because Little C always has the dog dish, poop bags, water and most importantly – a never ending supply of dog treats in her pocket. WP_20171001_12_27_05_RichBelieve me, they know this…


After this picture was taken, George snuggled up beside her. Seemingly looking for a hug, but what he was really trying to do was get his nose into her jacket pocket where the dog candy was. George came to our family with an inborn skill for pickpocketing – we’ve tried to keep him focused on using his powers for good.

Right now, the boys have had their dinner and are practicing for the Snore Symphony, they walked a long way today.

As for me, I am trying to remember that today is Sunday, which is the weekend and not just a prep day for Monday and the week to come! I am drinking my tea and thinking about how much effort I want to put into dinner. I start my program this week, it’s kind of like a master’s program but without the certificate. It’s multi disclipinary. It’s 11 weeks in a row so I should be able to handle it.

The class I went to last week at Erasmus is really making me hungry to study again, to learn deeply. Part of this I can do independently and will continue to do so yet I would like to go back to a more formal experience. So maybe the Avondbildung program as it’s called will be a good starting point. The idea behind Bildung as education theory comes from the Germans in the late 1700s. It’s a method of education that is normally focused on teachers but they are trying an experiment with the public. I’m intrigued and I think it certainly will get me thinking!

Oh dear, someone just farted from their basket underneath my desk…

Going back to yesterday’s Open House Day – 6 houses in 3 different towns, we have been able to narrow things down a bit. We’ve made the choice for one city and from now on, we will only be looking there. I guess this is the best step I can hope for right now. Except waiting with patience for people to put their houses on the market that are what we are looking for is taking WAY too long 😉 It was also hard to turn away from the beautiful old house with the biggest garden I have seen in a long time, on a working harbor, surrounded by old houses from 16something because they are not well connected to public transit – which GG needs for the immediate future. However, that’s how it goes. It did help us both to decide on the city we have chosen. Green is important, so there’s going to need to be some sort of yard, not just a roof terrace. It’s going to need a few rough edges and not be sanitized for our protection if you know what I mean.