Arriving in Amsterdam

Leaving Seattle mid-afternoon on a Thursday and losing nearly a day to the flight and the time difference I arrive in Amsterdam very early on Friday morning. The flight took a polar route, going over northern Canada, Greenland, and Iceland in the night. At dawn I flew over the Great Britain.

The first day in Amsterdam consisted of a visit to the Rijksmuseum, pancakes, cheeses, fries,  and a lot of coffee. The city is made up of so many beautiful canals that it was challenging not to stop and take a picture when crossing every one.

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Looking out over Scotland

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Canals everywhere!

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Appreciating art

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Being watched

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Redbeards together

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Life imitates art

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The most interesting sculpture in the Rijksmuseum

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A view of the gardens

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Watch out for bicycles!

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A house on the river

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Jugglers in the park

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Much needed coffee

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We rijden in de trein

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Walking around town

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So many bicycles

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SO MUCH CHEESE

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This is as close as we got to Madame Tussauds

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Through the busy streets of Amsterdam

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Enjoying some icecream

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Big shoes to fill

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Time to try french fires with mayo

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Yum?

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Home Again

The vacation is over and I’m back home again. Its time to get back to my normal routines as I fight the jet lag. I still get to re-live the fun from the vacation with the chocolates and cheeses I’ve brought with me as I curate and edit all the photos I took.

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The Eiffel Tower at sunset from the Arc de Triomphe

The Journey Begins

Amsterdam is an amazingly beautiful city. Its been a wonderful few days here in the city where the streets are lined with pancakes and waffles. I have been taking enough pictures to keep me busy for weeks, but there are a few that are too good not to share immediately.

T Minus and Counting

Today I leave for vacation. This is the first time I’ve left the continent in more than 5 years. One of the best parts of planning a big trip is building anticipation leading up to the date. I took this anticipation and used it to try out the APIs for Alexa’s Flash Briefing, something I check every morning for my news podcasts.

Its very much a hack. The Alexa flash briefing it not so much an API as it is an RRS feed that you can push daily updates to. I didn’t want to set up a full RSS service just for the few weeks leading up to the trip so with some help from other blog posts I managed to use AWS Lambda behind an API gateway endpoint to mock out a bare bones RRS feed server. One that just decrements a number every day.

from __future__ import print_function
import json
import datetime

def respond(err, res=None):
 return {
 'statusCode': '400' if err else '200',
 'body': json.dumps({
 "uid": "1234",
 "updateDate": datetime.datetime.utcnow().isoformat() + 'Z',
 "titleText": str(days_to_trip()) + " days to vacation",
 "mainText": err.message if err else res['message'],
 "redirectionUrl": "https://yoururl.com"
 }),
 'headers': {
 'Content-Type': 'application/json',
 },
}

def days_to_trip():
 trip = datetime.datetime(2018,8,30,0,0,0,0,datetime.timezone.utc)
 today = datetime.datetime.now(datetime.timezone.utc)
 return (trip-today).days + 1

def lambda_handler(event, context):
 rawdata = "there are " + str(days_to_trip()) + " days until your trip to europe"
 reply = { "message": rawdata,
 }
 return respond(None, reply)

The date is hard coded the python is sloppy. But it did what I wanted, telling me every morning how many days I had left until my trip, and I was able to get it together in a couple of hours.

Soon they will start boarding for my flight and the adventure will start, the count down has reached zero.

A Spider’s Snack

I previously posted some pictures of a spider I found which had apprehended a wasp in its web. I also took the opportunity to take some video. It was very up close with a very small depth of field, making the video a little shaky and blurry. I have tried a little to correct for this with some post processing.

Outside of the shoddy camera work its still rather impressive, if you are not arachnophobic.

The previous post was Lucky Spiders

Subject Isolation

In photography there is a concept called subject isolation, which simply means make sure what you want people to see in your photo stand out. This is commonly done by using a narrow depth of field to cause an intentional blur of everything that is not the subject. This effect is often called bokeh, and its popularity is the reason that so many wide aperture lenses are being made to day.

I recently got the ‘thrifty 50’ 50mm 1.8 prime from Sony. With the aperture open to 1.8 this lens should have a very narrow focal plane and lots of background blurring. Throwing on a tube extender for some ‘macro’ shots narrows the depth of field even further. I went for a walk to the local rose garden, self assigned to practice some subject isolation and try out the new lens.

Finding a new Bug

My find this weekend while out for a walk is two new insects I’d not seen before. Unable to identify them on the spot I took some pictures and looked them up later. One was a Bald-Faced Hornet, walking along the ground. The other was a Mud Dauber, perched on a flower.

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Bald-Faced Hornet

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Mud Dauber

Lucky Spiders

Yesterday while walking home I cam across a seven legged spider. Like finding a four-leaf clover I’m going to regard this as a sign of good luck. I also found a spider which was lucky enough to catch a yellow jacket for a tasty meal.

Pink Haze

liDue to forest fires in Canada, Seattle has been covered in a haze of smoke. While we’ve been advised that could be damaging to breath for long periods of time, it acts as a massive light diffuser. In the early morning everything has an amazing orange-pink glow.

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