Time Flies

“Time flies” I know I use the phrase quite often, but it is true: time flies. Tomorrow it’s exactly a year ago since I left the Netherlands to start my internship at ISI in Marina Del Rey, but it’s still as fresh in my memory as last week. I can almost not comprehend how much has happened this year, how much I’ve learnt and that I had my proposed promotores sign the application for assignment of promotor form today and that already almost a month ago my last year as a PhD student started (this also means that I hope for time to go a bit slower every now and then in order to get all the work done that I want to do to bring this project to a good end).

My private life has also changed quite a bit. I swore I would never get into a long distance relationship again, but here I am emailing, skyping, iChatting, sending (and receiving! (see image)) postcards and hunting for cheap flights. But it feels good, I’m happy (with the person, not the spatial arrangement, but that’s only temporary). There have also been some less happy developments the past year concerning the health of some of my family members (for some odd reason it’s easier to share good things so I won’t elaborate…). I’m just hoping everything will work out but some things will never be the same.

There is so much I could write about, such as my first tennis class last week (and the ensuing 2 days of pain, but I’m going again on Friday), how we got told off for using our MacBooks at one of our work locations, how cool my dance classes are, random thoughts about everything and more and stuff that happens to me but I won’t. At least not for now, and I’m also not sure how frequently I will post in the near future as I will be devoting most of my time to my work (don’t worry, I’m very excited about it, it just takes up a fair bit of my energy and time). Frankly, most evenings the last thing I want is sit at my laptop after having spent already most of the day at it and when my fingers will be sore from typing intelligent sounding stuff about ontologies, information extraction and sharing…and you probably don’t want to hear about that anyway :). Actually, for a while I’ve also been thinking about what to actually do with this blog. I kind of started it as a travel diary, as an easy way to keep everyone updated of what I was up to on my worldwide travels or in the smaller space of the Netherlands. Maybe the format needs rethinking…

Anyway, I won’t go completely offline, so check back every month or so (or start using RSS damnit!) for reports on the status of my life 🙂

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All Beginnings are Difficult…

…especially when it’s something as important as your PhD thesis. But the first 4 pages are written now (of course they still need 50,000 revisions, but it’s something).

Today I also baked my first bread. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the instructions properly so I had it in the oven for too long which burnt the bottom, but it’s tasty (the upper, non-black part that is).

Friday Sept. 12: In the Old World Again

I’m sitting in a comfy chair in Terminal 5 at Heathrow now. I just brushed my teeth and I actually had a pretty decent sleep on my Transatlantic flight so I’m feeling pretty good. I arrived in London half an hour ahead of schedule, so that was good, but there’s still not enough time to finish this blogpost because I have to board now…

Part 2: Greetings from the Netherlands! I’m back home in Leiden, where we have new carpet in the staircases. Again I had a really annoying Dutch couple behind me, who were so surprised that we went to gate 8 instead of 14 at Schiphol airport because this flight “always goes to 14” urgh…Anyway, it’s raining here 🙁 and unfortunately the MITCH dinner we’d scheduled tonight is off because half of the team is ill, but in a bit I’m going to go to Steve’s for dinner 🙂

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Thursday Sept. 11: Soaking Up the Sun

My flight is to leave at 17:45 so I still have almost a whole day. I decided to cycle to Santa Monica to shop for a bit and soak up the sun some more. I scored a black t-shirt for $8 at Old Navy (I’m all for basic pieces of clothing) and a raspberry white chocolate scone. I looked for a nice rashguard but found them too expensive, it just feels wrong to pay $50 for a shirt, even if it’s fast drying and offers protection from the sun. Anyway, around 14:00 I got back to Paul’s apartment, quickly packed my bag and had a quick last swim in the swimming pool. Around 4 we left for the airport, fortunately I only needed to drop off my bag because the flight was pretty full. In fact I got told off for being so late, and was told that boarding would start in 10 minutes, which of course turned out to be more like an hour later.

Anyway, I had a nice window seat, BA is quite comfy. So after dinner (fruit platter, even the lowest frequent flyer mile rank gives you more choices for dinner :)) I finished the book I borrowed from Paul (above Denver, I just love being able to keep track of the route) and went to sleep.

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Wednesday Sept. 10: Abstracts, SWRL and Going Out

On Wednesday I ran 4k, I wrote drafts for two abstracts I intend to submit to some meetings, I read up on Semantic Web Rule Language and had my first very own raspberry pie for lunch (I had baked it the day before, but we had stuffed our faces too much with the pasta the day before to have the pie). It was good :).

When Paul got home from work he booked a flight to the Netherlands for November and then we got dressed up to go out for a nice dinner. We still had some time before our reservation on Santa Monica Main St. so we strolled along the beach for a bit and then we went to the little Italian restaurant, where the all the waiters speak with a superthick Italian accent. The food was splendid (I’m definitely going to have lobster ravioli more often if I can!) and so was the atmosphere. It was a great night out. Only the tiramisu was too much 🙂

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Tuesday Sept. 9: Sunset Surf Session and a Lovely Homecooked Dinner

Worked during the day, but late in the afternoon it got interesting. First I went to see Jerie, my old neighbour who’s had some serious surgery over the summer but is recovering. Then I went next door to pick up the surfboard that Laura had managed to borrow for me, so I could go for a sunset surf session with Kerstin. The board didn’t come with a leash which didn’t make me feel too comfortable at first, but since it was a big board I could stay on the inside anyway and work on my turns. Surfing without a leash also makes you more careful, although next time I travel somewhere I’ll put a leash in my bag just in case. A sunset surf session is a great way to relax at the end of the day. It gets even better when your boyfriend then cooks you a lovely dinner with pasta, Italian ham and scallops.

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Monday Sept. 8: Reading in Bed and Potatoes with Pineapple

Quiet day. First went for a run and then worked a bit while Paul was in the office. In the evening I cooked what I had meant to cook the day before (starter: salmon, cucumber and sour cream, main: mashed potatoes, fish and leek and pineapple from the oven) after which we went to Venice again for drinks with Laura and Mike at the Waterfront. To finish off the day in style Paul and I shared a piece of cheesecake at the Novel Cafe in Santa Monica. Life is good 🙂

Sunday Sept. 7: Going South

On Sunday the surf contest at Trestles (near San Clemente) would start so we decided to make a day of it and drove south via the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway passing through places like Long Beach (ugliest part), Huntington, Newport (a lot greener than LA) and Laguna (lovely). After driving around in San Clemente for a while (Spanish style city centre, otherwise a bit of a weird place) we found out that to get to Trestles we needed to get onto the motorway again and take the first exit in San Diego county. Unfortunately the contest wasn’t on because the conditions hadn’t been good enough to start it that morning, but we decided to take a look anyway. The cool thing about Trestles is that it’s really in the middle of nowhere, in a State park, on the top of the cliff there is a huge parking lot, and of course we had to park all the way at the back because the front was reserved for the surfers and VIPs (that part of the parking lot was rather empty). We wanted to hike down, but there was a shuttle bus (freezing airconditioning, why do Americans like to sit in the cold so much? It was even too cold for Paul, and he’s American!) going down, so we took it. We were a bit disappointed by the facilities, there were all these tents up and whatnot, but you couldn’t even get a drink (it was OK, as we had brought some sandwiches and water, but still, it would have been nice). The views made up for it though, the waves were great and so were the surfers on them so we just sat there and watched. After an hour or so we hiked back up the cliff, which was a lot faster than taking the shuttle as we could take a shortcut and then we drove to Laguna Beach.

Laguna beach is a bit of a weird town. It has a lovely beach, with pretty strong waves crashing in (which also bring in a lot of seaweed so after some playing around in them there was seaweed everywhere) and an insane number of art galleries. How they stay in business is a mystery, but it does make the town more interesting.

Back in Venice we wanted to try out the new Wholefoods supermarket that had opened up only the Wednesday before on the corner of Rose and Lincoln. I’ve honestly never seen a supermarket parking as busy as that, and bringing out the worst in some people (especially in arrogant Prius bastards). Anyway, when we were just about to give up we found a spot so we made it in, and it looked sweet. Of course we bought way too much, so instead of a proper meal we only had fish soup and the dessert (warm peaches and vanilla ice-cream) but that was OK.

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Saturday Sept. 6: Venice

I still hadn’t adjusted to the LA timezone, but at least now I only stayed awake for 2.5 hours (from 3:30 until about 6). Sleeping in didn’t happen though, so around 9 I got up and went to get some breakfast ingredients at the supermarket across the street. Even though it was slightly overcast we decided to go to the beach anyway and to pick up my old bike in Venice, that Laura had borrowed. Paul had found out that there’s a cafe on Abbot Kinney that sells Mexican coca cola (so with proper sugar) so after a quick stop there for a little cafeine shot for me we were went on to the beach. At that point the sun had also started to shine so that was good too. On the boardwalk I rented a surfboard (big pink foamie brick) to surf at the Venice breakwaters again while Paul was sunbathing on the beach. The waves weren’t too big, but the water was warm and it was good to be out again. After an hour and a half or so I got out and we played some frisbee on the beach.

In the evening we went to LA Flash 2008 at LACMA, basically a big party at the museum, all the galleries were open, lots of fancy dressed people (as there were also lots of photographers to capture today’s LA street style) and DJs and drinks. Once we got in (the queue was gigantic although we chose to sit on a bench for a while and hook up when it passed us) we had a great time, until my body screamed it needed sleep at around 21:45. Finally I slept through the night!

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Friday Sept. 5: Familiar faces

After my arrival on Thursday night I managed to stay up until 22:00, so I thought I wouldn’t suffer too much from the change in time-zones. I was wrong. Between 2:30 and 6:30 I couldn’t sleep so I could take in every detail of the ceiling above me. Anyway, after a few hours of sleep I got up at nine, went for a run (very proud of myself) had a shower and went to ISI for lunch (Paul managed to get me into the monthly ISD lunch :)). It was cool to see everyone’s surprised faces because no-one apart from Paul knew I was coming. After catching up with everyone and a discussion on the etymology of the word “Dutch” (my guess that it somehow came from the Dutch word for German was right, I looked it up later and found out that originally it meant German, later it got its current usage to denote all things from the Netherlands, although for a while it was quite a derogatory term, of which there are still remnants to be found in some expressions in English) I went home for a little nap. I couldn’t sleep though so I did a bit of work, cleaned up my mailbox and then slept until Paul got home from work. We then took off to go to the Waterfront, the cafe on the corner from where I used to live, to have dinner and drinks with Jason and Jon, from ISI. There we also met Kerstin, the girl who’s now living in my room. On the way back to Marina Del Rey we passed through Abbot Kinney blvd, where the shops were open because it was the first Friday of the month, so we stopped and indulged in watching people, listening to the music, visiting all the cool art galleries and browsing around the shops.

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