Tuesday 31 March 2009

Rupert-proofing the house

After weeks of barricading doors with chairs, I finally found time this evening to stop by the hardware store to pick up a) Rupert-proof door knobs, and b) a Rupert-proof hook for the cupboard door. You might think that finding door knobs would be a simple task, but in fact, after 10 minutes of puzzled searching only found me 50+ styles of door handle - completely useless when faced with a determined Rupert, I had to admit defeat and ask for the help of one of the assistants. He also looked confused for a minute, and then triumphantly moved a display rack to the side, revealing the one single model of door knob that was stocked. The question now is, how quickly will he realise that throwing himself at the door will no longer work? Guess I'll find out when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately, it seems that as soon as one part of my life is Rupert-proofed, a new breach in the defenses becomes apparent. Now that Rupert is going regularly outside, I'm pleased to see that he prefers to use the great outdoors, rather than the litter tray. The only problem is that his favourite toilet spots seem to be the vegetable patch and the potato growing pot. Looks like the next step is to Rupert-proof the garden...

Sunday 29 March 2009

Haarlem Choral Evensong - 29th March 2009

6 weeks or so ago, before I realised that I would be singing in Amsterdam this morning, I offered my services for the Choral Evensong at the Anglican Church in Haarlem, another 5th Sunday of the month event. Martin wanted to have an up to date picture of the Haarlem choir, so here I am, sporting Haarlem robes for a change. This was the first time I've sung in the Haarlem church, and so I was rather surprised to find out that it was upstairs!

  • Introit: God be in my head Nicholson
  • Responses: Nardone
  • Psalm 51, Morley
  • Canticles: Wood in Eb
  • Anthem: Solus ad Victimam Leighton

Mass - 29 March 2009

Although the main role of the Nicholas Chorale is to sing choral evensong twice a month, on the rare occasion that there is a 5th Sunday in the month, we also sing at the Sunday Mass. Even if the clocks hadn't chosen this rather inconvenient time to change, it makes an early start for a Sunday morning, as I have to catch the train at 7.54 to get into Amsterdam on time.

The service itself was one I will remember for a very long time. Not for the fact that it was the first time I sang at a Roman Catholic mass, or because it was the first time I sang in Dutch, but for a less pleasant reason. During the communion, just before the congregation were invited to commune, a man moved swiftly to the altar, shouted at the priest and congregation, and then swept the chalices from the altar. It happened so quickly that it took me a second to realise what had occurred, by which time the man had already been removed from the church. Despite the interruption, the service continued, but I, and no doubt many others in the congregation will be pondering the why's and what if's for some time.

  • Domine Deus Morales
  • Agnus Dei J Haydn
  • Call to remembrance Farrant

Saturday 21 March 2009

Choral Evensong - 21st March 2009

After a quick stop at home to change my clothes into something less muddy, I was back on the train to Amsterdam for Choral Evensong. Given I was so tired, it was lucky that all of today's repertoire, aside from the anthem, was very familiar. It was a particular pleasure to sing the Walford Davies settings of Psalm 23, one of my favourites, and one that I've missed since I no longer sing regularly in Bowdon.


  • introit: Lord, for thy tender mercy's sake Farrant
  • responses: Ayleward
  • office hymn: Audi benigne conditor
  • psalm 23, Walford Davies
  • canticles: Dyson in F
  • anthem: Lord, how long wilt thou be angry Hayes
On my way home again, tiredness overtook me and some time around Leiden I fell fast asleep. I woke up, rather disoriented as the train pulled out of a station. Blearily wondering where I was, I read the sign as we trundled past a rather familiar looking Kiosk snack dispenser - Delft! Off at Schiedam, then, and a 20 minute wait for a train back in the other direction...


After a week of interrupted nights, early starts and a lot of traveling back and forwards to Noord Holland, I was more than ready for a lie-in this morning. Instead, I left the house at 5.15 to join a couple of my colleagues for a visit to the Oostvaardersplassen, a nature reserve in Flevoland province (about 100 km NE of Delft).

When we arrived at around 6.30, the sun was still just below the horizon, and as we had hoped, the clear sky had led to a misty morning, with the temperature just below zero. We parked the car by the side of the road and waited for the sun to come up, enjoying the bird song and fresh air.

Our next stop was a bird hide, where we lined ourselves up, 100-400mm lenses at the ready, and brought out breakfast. Thanks to the foresight of Arie, who was smart enough to realize that I wouldn't have prepared anything, I tucked into cheese and salami sandwiches and fruit juice. Although it's still early in the season, and according to Arie, fairly quiet, there was plenty to see.

Aside from the ducks, swans and geese, we also saw a great white egret (zilver reiger), a pair of grebes (fuut)and a grey heron (blauwe reiger). Sadly, no sign of a kingfisher (ijsvogel). No great bird photos to show, but at least some for the record.

After leaving the hide, we drove to the visitor's centre, stopping to photograph the wild ponies, and another (the same?) egret. Walking down to another hide, we spent some time with another herd of ponies, and then managed to track down a great spotted woodpecker (grote bonte specht) and a white wagtail (witte kwikstaart).

We ended the morning with a cup of coffee and browse around the visitors centre, before heading home around 11.30.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

SpringSource dmServer Training

After following the CoreSpring training course a couple weeks ago, I'm back in the training room this week for a follow up training on the SpringSource dmServer. This training is being given by the same company, and indeed, even the same trainer. Nonetheless, there are a few practical differences - this time we're based in in an old Herenhuis in the city centre of Amsterdam, a far cry from the tower blocks of Sloterdijk two weeks ago. Amongst the 8 course participants I am the exception to the all the rules - both the only girl, and the only non-native Dutch speaker. As a result, the trainer was able to give the presentations in Dutch - such an unusual occurrence for him that he occasionally forgot and lapsed back into English.

Like the previous course, this was a good mixture of theory and practice - beginning with introductions to OSGi and the dmServer, and then on the second day going into greater details in how to develop OSGi-enabled applications for the dmServer. Whilst the dmServer is still fairly young, and there are some important improvements & extensions planned for the upcoming releases, it looks like an interesting product to keep an eye on, especially given our own experiences at trying to deploy OSGi-enabled applications within the office without any additional tooling or application support.

Monday 16 March 2009

Leiden Marathon

Let me get one thing straight - I am not planning on running the Leiden Marathon. Inspired by a couple friends who ran the City-Pier-City this last weekend, though, I have signed myself up for the 5km race which is being held as part of the Leiden Marathon event.

Time to get those running shoes back on...

RSCM North West Europe

Amongst cat chaos, open university assignments, and of course, work, I've been busy over the last couple of months with another project - building a new website for the Royal School of Church Music in North West Europe.

After much discussion, and some pauses in the process along the way, I've just uploaded the new site, at http://www.rscm-nw-europe.net/.

The new site has been built using a content management system - Joomla 1.5 - which allows the contributors to update the site without having to worry about all the technical details. It's been an interesting learning process - dabbling a little in PHP and CSS, which are not technologies that I use on a day to day basis.

Sunday 15 March 2009

OU Study Group

This afternoon I hosted a small study group for my Biological Psychology course - of the six people on the course who are based in The Netherlands, we managed to muster up 3 participants (including myself). We spent about three hours chatting and discussing various aspects of the course - how the OU works, how to write essays, what a pain it is to try and get your head around all the terminology in the course. Having neglected study recently for other distractions I was concerned before we met that I might be out of my depth in the discussions, but in fact the three of us seemed to work well together, and coming from different backgrounds, all had different perspectives to offer. I found it a very enjoyable afternoon, and I hope we can have another meeting soon.

Ali's visit

My cousin Ali was attending a conference this week in Ede, and made a side trip to visit me on the weekend. Despite the grey (and wet) weather we had a nice time wandering around Delft on Saturday, and stopped for lunch at De Waag, the town's old weighing hall, in the market square. Last night we made a pizza (from scratch), shared a bottle of wine, and caught up a bit with each others' lives. She left this morning to visit a friend in Utrecht.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Natuurfotografieclub VNF West

I've fancied joining a local photo club for many years now (before I came to The Netherlands in fact), but somehow I've never managed to get round to doing it. A couple weeks ago I started considering idea again in earnest, and found that the national organization of nature photography has a group which meets once a month in Delft. Whilst there are a couple general interest photography clubs in Delft, the idea of a club dedicated to nature photography really piqued my interest.

As luck would have it, today was the monthly meeting, so despite the fact that my week was already looking a bit action packed, I made the effort to attend. The usual format of the meetings is a combination of theory and members showing and discussing their photos. Today was an exception, as the whole evening was given over to a presentation by one of the members of the use of layers in Photoshop. Not being a Photoshop expert, I certainly learned a lot, although how much I can remember is another matter. Whilst my Dutch was sufficient to follow the presentation, I had to concentrate hard to take in all the unfamiliar terms.

I was made very welcome by the club members, and am looking forward to attending again next month to see how a "normal" club evening progresses. A number of the club members encourage me to bring a long some of my own photos for the "show and tell" part of the evening - we'll see if I dare!

Sunday 8 March 2009

St Nicolaaskerk in HDR

Back at home, I've installed a trial version of Photomatix Pro and produced my first HDR images, shown below. In each case, I've taken 3 input images, and merged them to produce the final image. I feel, though, that I need to spend a little more time reading up on the process in order to truly make the most of it. Not this weekend though!

Saturday 7 March 2009

St Nicolaaskerk

My plans to take some photographs in the St Nicolaaskerk was nearly scuppered by the fact that my 40D died on me last week during the shoot at the Valkerij Manege (fortunate that I have the 20D as backup). My attempt to drop it off to be fixed on the way to Amsterdam (which involved a diversion into the industrial estates near the Ajax football stadium) was unfortunately a complete waste of time, so one of my tasks for the week is to contact Canon and find out what I need to do to sort it out.

Fortunately, despite the trip out on the metro, I still had an hour or so before the practice to take some photographs, and thanks to a prior arrangement with Michael, I was also able to escape the crowds and take some shots from the organ loft, giving a whole new perspective on the church.

There are plenty of features in the church that I would still love to photograph, but preferably on an occasion when the church is closed to visitors (I hadn't appreciated just how busy it gets when open). On this visit I concentrated my efforts on taking some photos with which to try out HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, although I still couldn't resist taking some shots of the murals on the wall. The results are shown in a separate post: St Nicolaaskerk in HDR.

Back at home, I've installed a trial version of Photomatix Pro and produced my first HDR images, shown below. In each case, I've taken 3 input images, and merged them to produce the final image. I feel, though, that I need to spend a little more time reading up on the process in order to truly make the most of it. Not this weekend though!

Choral Evensong - 7th March 2009

After two months in the Nicolas Chorale, I'm beginning to find my feet. I no longer get confused by the long walk to the vestry down corridors, through doors, outside and back in again, and then finally downstairs. Whilst I still don't know everyone's names, I at least recognize their faces, and after practices and services, I have companions with whom I travel on the train.


  • introit: Call to Remembrance Farrant
  • responses: Ebdon
  • office hymn: Audi benigne conditor
  • psalm 36, Howells
  • canticles: Child verse service
  • anthem: O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Howells

Wednesday 4 March 2009

CoreSpring (2)

Another interesting day on the course, covering the principles of Spring annotations, and then digging into the additional libraries supporting JDBC and transaction management. Depending on the approach we take at work in the future, this could become very interesting for us.

Generally one of the advantages of using Spring is that it tries to reduce the usage of boilerplate code (i.e. copy/paste) and enforce separation of concerns. I very much appreciate that the course materials so far have not only covered the details of Spring, but also discussions on application archicture. Whilst many of these principles seem like common sense, in my experience many developers do not follow them... I think this training would be beneficial to many developers, not only for gaining experience with the API, but in changing the way that they develop.

We have a group of 17 people on the course. Of these, 4 of us are female. Compared to the gender balance I normally experience in the Java development world, this is surprisingly high. There isn't a single blonde amongst us.... coincidence? or are all those stereotypes true? :-)

Tuesday 3 March 2009


For the rest of this week, I'm following the CoreSpring training course in Amsterdam on the Spring Framework.

My day didn't get off to a particularly good start as the queue at the train station meant that I had to catch my train without first getting myself any breakfast, as I'd originally planned. Thanks to the office's policy of travelling first class, though, I was at least able to find myself a seat on the crowded train and do some work on my laptop in relative peace. I arrived at Amsterdam Sloterdijk 45 minutes before the course was due to start, but thanks to getting myself disoriented and stuck on the wrong side of the train tracks, I made into the course room with 5 minutes to spare.

Ready then for the next panic.... found myself a laptop to use, and then the instructor mentioned that the laptops were only for those who had pre-ordered them. Had I pre-ordered one? Well, I have no idea, as the training was booked by our training department and no-one communicated anything to me about it. As luck would have it, no-one claimed the laptop, so perhaps it did have my name on it after all.

I've been using Spring for a couple of years now, and whilst I'm fairly familiar with the basic concepts and usage, I'm also aware of some gaps in my knowledge, especially concerning all the additional functionality that Spring can provide. Whilst I got off to an easy start this morning, which covered the basics, I still picked up some useful tips and tricks, both about Spring and the Spring IDE (an Eclipse plugin).

The course is split into 50% theory and 50% lab work, giving everyone a chance to practice the concepts for themselves. In addition to the core labs, there are some additional optional labs provided - perfect if like me you are a quick worker. Something I liked very much about the labs was that they were set up so that all the functionality is demonstrated using JUnit tests. A great way of introducing people to test driven development, without them necessarily realizing it.

3 more days to go on the course, and I'm looking forward to them!

Sunday 1 March 2009

Valkerij Manege

Despite the promises of the weather forecasts earlier this week, it was disappointingly overcast when I left the house earlier today to cycle to Berkel and Rodenrijs for a photography afternoon at the Valkerij Manege. In the end, I was relatively lucky, although the light was far from ideal for photography, the rain held off during the photography sessions, restricting itself to my cycle rides (an hour or so each way) to and from Berkel.

The session started out with an hour and a half or so of portrait photography - approximately 15 birds were spread out across the field awaiting our attention. Finding a good position was a challenge, as it was very hard to avoid getting a washed out sky as background. And of course, there were always other photographers to trip over. I particularly enjoyed the experience of getting up close to a bald eagle, after all my long distance sightings in Canada.

After a fortifying hot chocolate and piece of cake, we ventured out again to photograph the birds in flight - a big challenge! They flew a number of birds for us, including a couple of owls, and a couple bald eagles, which were really a treat to watch. The flight session culminated with a gyrfalcon - practically impossible to photograph, but amazing to watch in flight. As I had expected, I didn't get any good shots of the birds whilst they were flying, although there were a couple near misses! The experience of an owl's wingtip brushing against your shoulder has to be felt to be believed. I would certainly love to go back for another attempt.

To round the day off, 6 young owls were brought out for a run around the field. Curious about everything, not at all shy, they came running up to us, and nibbled on our fingers. Unbelievably cute!