Friday, January 18, 2013

Progress on the resolutions

Wolfson Main GateI’m a month into the new year, and things are going pretty well despite the cold, snow, and experimental issues.   I know, it’s only a month if I count the time off on Christmas break.  But, since it is the point where I make some clean breaks and started making some changes, this is a good time to take stock and share some notes.

- I got going on regular exercise and the conditioning finally kicked in this week.  It takes a month for me to feel like I’m able to perform at the customary level on the machines without feeling winded during the session and sore at night. My theory is that, since cardiac tissue replenishes of a 30-day clock, it take that long to see a difference in strength and endurance.  Now that I’m there, I need to keep it rolling.

- I’m up to H on my address book project, culling lost and irrelevant contacts and forging LinkedIn connections with those that remain. I’ve had some really nice notes from people, news updates and photos, and its having a lot of side benefits besides just a cleaner contact list.

Wolfson Back Gate- I’m gradually integrating the Nexus 7 into  my life.  So far I haven’t cut the cord and left the shoulder bag at home, but I am trying to reach for the tablet instead of the laptop when on the road.  A few learning points:

  • A tablet just isn’t functional unless it’s connected, so I bought a data chip through Roamline that makes data-only connections at low rates in 135 countries.  So far I really like it: I turn it on when I need it and it really extends my reach.  Recommended.
  • The internal microphone is small and poor-quality, so I wanted to add an earbud-microphone combination.  A London wholesaler had a good one for 10 gbp, but it utterly failed to work with the Nexus.  Apparently it needs a proprietary pin-jack: I’m going to have to try a Bluetooth earphone.  With noise canceling.  Wasted.
  • I connected the tablet to my email sources and the Google client combined the feeds into a nice working mailbox with 3-day history.  But it also erased the originals on my server for one source, splitting my mail across devices.  Tech support says that can’t be avoided for that particular server: I lost about 3 days emails.  Wasted.
  • The reading experience is really good.  I veg out with the newspaper, a magazine, and, lately, the included copy of Pride and Prejudice.  It’s crisp, clear, responsive, not much different than a book.  I may even warm up to Darcy.  Recommended.
  • Connectivity has been hit and miss.  It’s pretty good on WiFi (although it would not connect in a Starbucks yesterday) but I’m baffled on how to use my Nokia mobile as an access point or modem for it, as I do with my laptop.  In the UK I’ve got an unlimited mobile data plan with O2, so it would be nice to use it to the fullest.  Wasted.
  • I’ve gotten a cover which does a great job, making the tablet easy to hold onto and protecting the screen.  I’ve (so far) resisted getting a cover with a keyboard, forcing myself to use the touchscreen, and it actually works well for small notes and replies.  I need to make more use of OneNote to replace / supplement my written notes, but I like what I’ve been able to do with it.

So, still a work in progress.  But we’re coming to terms and I like the form factor and the capabilities.

Wolfson court- Finally, while I’m dong a good job of keeping up with daily reading and listening to Dutch, I’ve made far less progress towards doing more reading and speaking.

And my resolve to stay detached from stresses and irritants crumbled this week under assaults from Board members and accountants.  I had a long talk with a good friend mid-week about how to handle bad behavior: turning the other cheek seems to just insulate people’s actions from their consequences.

The two things that I decided would solve it are to face people with specific cautions when they cross bright lines, and to pass through at least some of the consequences rather than deflect or absorb them all myself.  I don’t know if it’s effective yet, but it is making me feel better.

Photos via Wolfson College, Cambridge

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Midweek Miscellany

I can tell I’ve been studying Dutch too long…

…when I looked at this sign in London and thought the injured gingerbread boy must be named “Deets”.


passion-moneyThere’s a lot of simple social dichotomies being drawn in political discussions these days. I’m not sure how the Dutch are phrasing it, but the Americans use  Makers/Takers, the British prefer Strivers/Skivers.  Either way, it’s shorthand to separate the unrewarded working from the undeserving shirking.

Now Mary Meeker includes entrepreneurs with Missionary/Mercenary: those with deserving passion for their ideas vs. those out to make a quick undeserved exit.  She borrowed it from John Doerr, who clipped it from Jeff Bezos, who picked it from Randy Komisar’s book The Monk and the Riddle

Komisar’s message was actually much different: “Make work pay not just in cash, but in experience, satisfaction, and joy”.  I agree with that more that version of the quote more than with Mary’s judgment on the undeserving entrepreneur.

It’s interesting how meaning gets distorted as each teller makes their point.  And the distinction is no cleaner in business than in social class: I have my days where I swing each way.



I was inventorying all of my biometrics and permits today – it’s turning into quite an array. 

I’m not sure if I should feel accomplished or saddened with the results.  More broadly, I’ve been thinking about travelers (never really leave home), expats (leave home long-term), and immigrants (leave home permanently) and how the three states relate to each individual’s self-perceived identity.

It’s something I want to reflect on here, sometime soon.  But, in the meantime, my identity exists in my pink cards (appropriately blurred).


I’m focus my flight miles on Delta: it usually goes where I want to, it delivers good service, and my prior years mileage give me nice perks. Delta wrote last night to tell me that they “wanted to create an even more exclusive experience”.   Their solution is to require passengers to meet spending criteria and to raise the service class required to get miles.

Translation: Too many people are getting perks, so we’ll make it much more expensive to qualify.

I feel backhanded at a time that the airline should be saying thanks for flying 124,000 miles with us.  Like so many of the petty insults airlines inflict, there’s no good reason for the penalty and no offsetting benefit.  Delta earned $1.05 billion in Q3 2012: a simple opportunity to upgrade on Transatlantic flights would be wonderful.


I’ve long known that my capacity for different types and intensities fork varies throughout the day.  I’m good at dreamy generalities in the morning, excel at focused, convergent tasks in the afternoon. The October US issue of Wired echoes this n a 24-hour clock that shows the rise and fall of substance that affect mood and thought.

Apparently the best time to learn a language is between 3 and 6 pm, when long-term memory is strongest.


enbAnd, finally, the London Evening Standard (my favorite evening train reading as I rattle north to Cambridge) reports that the English National Ballet  is being hit hard by the new points-based visa system.  

The culprits are the income thresholds, a problem for low-paid young dancers, and the level of English that they must be able to speak.

I sympathize.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And now for some snow…

I was out of position this weekend and missed the snowfall in the Netherlands that iced the cobblestones, snarled traffic and trains.  Usually I’m among the first out for a morning skid on my bicycle.

But I’m in Brrr-ington, outside Cambridge, this morning – as luck would have it, a morning that I have to get across town for a Board meeting.  The trains are a consistent half-hour late, the busses have stopped.  ‘Nothing to do but enjoy the  icing on the plants, wait for the traffic to clear, and find a flat path to the M11.

Still, it’s a nice morning to enjoy the show.




Sunday, January 13, 2013

Starting the year with good news

canal houseI was catching up with expat blogs this morning and was particularly charmed by the retrospectives on 2012 that a number of Netherlands-based expats posted.  Lily posted snapshots,  Jessica compiled lists of favorites, Meredith shared vacation (and wedding) pictures, and, my favorite, Elloise posted some wonderful reflections. 

After a wearying week of teaching, visa-ing, business-ing, traveling, and untangling a host of pretty petty issues, it was really nice to read everyone’s good experiences.

I enjoyed an extra cup of coffee and smiled a bit looking out the windows, thinking of the many remarkable people, stories, experiences, and opportunities of the past year.

‘and the many to come.

Many thanks!