Amsterdam Again

After a night spent in our dank and musty subterranean AirB&B we emerged rested and reset to the new time zone. The day holds visits to the Van Gogh Museum, the Microb Museum, the Botanical Gardens and stops for all sorts of tasty treats. In the evening we found a tall building with a rooftop bar to watch the sun set over the city.

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Emerging from the cave

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Croissant

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So flakey

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Enjoying a cookie

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It’s a very good cookie

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Taking a nice pic

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Lovely greenway for the rail cars

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Walking through the Botanical Gardens

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A flying being drawn to its doom by a carnivorous eating pitcher plant

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The botanical gardens

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A wild bee!

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This european bee has noticeably different proportions to the ones back home.

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Butterflies in the garden

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Another-fly

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Hiding out in the butterfly room

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A giant tardigrade, BLACK ALERT!

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Looking at the exhibitions

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Algee or magic potion?

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Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

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Omer in his natural environment; the lab

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Leafcutter ant

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Trying a local brew

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Grilled cheese for brunch

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Enjoying his avocado

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Justin had my camera

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Photo cred: Justin

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This is Amsterdam’s version of a shopping mall

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A nice row of houses

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Canals

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More canals (Anne Frank house on the left)

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More cheese

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Bars extending their seating into the canals

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Nice clogs

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Crossing a canal

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Crossing the tracks

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In old Amsterdam houses were taxed by the width and number of windows, contributing to tall narrow architecture of the city

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Another Amsterdam street

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No long exposure needed; this canal was closed for construction and was smooth as glass

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The sun is going down

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Watching the sunset over the city from the Hilton skydeck

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The Church of St. Nicholas at sunset

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Looking out over the city

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Amsterdam at night

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Enjoying a noodle break

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A restaurant across the canal.

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Known for its red lights, Amsterdam at night has lots of orange and blue as well

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Night on the canal

 

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.

Snow Lake and the Seven Dwarfs

Last weekend I hiked up to Snow Lake. This was as an unofficial work event, with many team members showing up. This is not unusual as in Seattle this is a common summer weekend activity. This hike was different as it was the last time many of would see one of our co-workers.

One of our team’s founding members work visas has expired and his every attempt to get another via the annual lottery had failed. Our friend and co-worker is no longer allowed to work in the US and so soon would be leaving us. Those with citizenship, myself included, often don’t understand how unnecessarily complicated and frustrating our immigration system is, but these cases are not rare. I work in an industry where most of my coworkers are not born in the us, many are working under the last year of their student visas or are H1B. They can’t plan more than a few years in advance because it is not a certainty that they will be picked in the Green card lottery before their current visa expires.

This is now the second of my co-workers who has gone through this. We are lucky that we work for an international company that has offices in Canada and other locations where one can move with job security. As the argument over illegal immigrants continues to dominate the media I want to remind us all that its not easy for legal immigrants either, and maybe improving the process would help both problems.

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Like Bigfoot; wandering off into the forest perhaps to never be seen again

You’ve got Mailbox

Mailbox peak is a famous hike in the Seattle area, know for very steep elevation gain and beautiful views. Mailbox peak has been so popular there are now two trails up the mountain. We hiked the new trail which is better maintained and takes a gentler path up to the summit, though going back and trying the old trail is still a possibility.

The hike was challenging, but it was not as hot as the week before and most of the trail was under a protective canopy of trees. The last mile climbing in the sun was hard, but by that point the end is so close.

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Start with a sturdy bridge. Not very steep.

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Fording the ‘river’

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Into the woods…

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…and through the trees…

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…to the top of the mountain, please

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Stopping at the first overlook

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Not a bad view, but there is still a lot of elevation left.

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Does this count as rock climbing?

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Scaling this rock slide really feels like we are going straight up

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Climbing the rocks in the the hot sun does provide a nice view

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I thought the rocks were the top of the mountain but it keeps going up

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Saying hello to the natives

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Looking out over the edge

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THE SUMMIT! Those post workers really have it tough.

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What a good spot for a new profile picture

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Someone should open up a portrait studio here

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One for me too! Photo by Mark

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Rainier is the true star of the photos

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Even the locals like to stare out at the mountain

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Need to take a selfie to make it official

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The gang. Photo: Sean/Shiwani

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Time to do it all again in reverse

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Mark, Sean, and Anthony far ahead on the trail

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Wondering through the trees

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So many trees

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What a beautiful forrest

 

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Required: Picture of a Bee

Dirty Harry

This weekend, though I have not done enough hiking training this summer, I set out on a very hot day to summit Dirty Harry Peak.

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Seems like AT&T signal should be good around here

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Though some trees

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A small, easy to miss, cairn that is the different between the easy and hard hikes

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The view of I-90 from a brief break in the trees

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More trees

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The heat and sun isn’t stopping this slug

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Though it was a hot summer day the wild flowers were in bloom

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More trees

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Following the old logging road mean that we were in the sun wishing for the trees

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The valley on the other side of the mountain as seen from the peak

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Beth hanging out at the cliff’s edge

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On the long way down

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Bonus: A fuzzy bee on a wild flower