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Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

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Goal #1

I don’t really do “New Year’s Resolutions”. I prefer to pick up and pursue challenges as I go along. It’s a while since I have set myself a good one – something that will take a bit of effort to complete. But here it comes. – the first formal personal goal for the coming year.

The lake in (what I call) our back garden is Norvikken. It’s a decent sized freshwater lake north of Stockholm, about 7km long, and about 400-500m wide. It freezes in winter. And when it does it is supposed to be one of the best skating lakes near the city. The kommune even clear the path all around the outside so there is a 17km distance ice skating track.

Norvikken lake

My goal is to skate the full 17k before the winter is out.

To do this I am going to need to:

  • Learn how to ice skate
  • Get the right distance skating gear (including safety equipment) and get proficient at using it.
  • Find a person/group to do this with (never skate alone)
  • Do it.

I also need the lake to freeze again. It has ice at the moment, but a recent thaw has thinned things quite a bit.

I’ll keep you posted on how things go. The first step should be the easiest. Our little housing development has 2 small playing areas – bigger than basketball courts, smaller than a full astro turf pitch. In the winter they flood them and let the water freeze. This gives a safe skating surface for the kids. Once I get some skates I can go and embarrass myself there. I may need wrist guards, knee pads, a helmet and a dignity hiding bag as well though.

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Debating lefties – No, I won’t roll in the muck with you.

We all know the moment. You are surfing on the ‘net and you see something you feel you just have to comment on. Maybe you have personal experience. Or a strongly held opinion. You jump in and state your piece. Quite often it goes nowhere. You might get one reply, or a like, thumbs up, or some other minor validation. If you are on TheJournal.ie you will come away feeling as if you swam in the raw sewage of stupidity, ignorance, and small mindedness. Occasionally you will have a good backwards and forwards. Sometimes you may even change your views.

There are certain dogmatists it just doesn’t pay to debate though – unless you are a masochist, or fancy some trolling. The sort of ones that hold their views regardless of evidence (true believers). Perhaps they have formed a world view so divorced from reality it is hard to know where to start engaging them (conspiracy theorists). And there there are the ones, who just don’t know how to debate.

For most of us, debate involves taking and defending positions, posing questions to your opponent, and using stuff like evidence to make your argument. I have not run into a Trump supporter online yet (they must be out there), but I do get pretty frustrated at a lot of the Left wing commentators you encounter. They just don’t seem to know how to have a discussion. The danger is that you don’t realise this, and you tie yourself in knots trying to engage them on their terms.

My most recent example was in a discussion online over Syria. The details are not important (they weren’t to him). This person kept describing anything as I said as being part of “the Washington Wall Street consensus” (I think that was what he called it). And then pretty much refused to accept it in any shape or form. I tried work with these parameters – understanding what was this worldview he held. And seeing how I could talk around it. This was a mistake. I was effectively letting him get away with whatever gobbledegook he chose to take as a given.

Frankly his position was childish – trying to dismiss a line of argument out of hand because of “stuff”. I was told that I had to go read 2 books so I would understand where he was coming from. Sorry that is not the way discussion and debate works. For their faults Right Wingers (I debate them as well), don’t tend to reject you with a “your view is just a restatement of the discredited flumpty goop position. Read Gruber and Jones to see how you are wrong”.

I don’t fancy going down that road again. So the next time see this behaviour I will be saying:

“No, I don’t know know what you are referring to. And no I don’t feel the need to complete your recommended reading list before having a discussion. Your argument needs to stand on its own merits. In the mean time please stop with the dismissive childish name calling, and debate like an adult”

Nah, nah, na, nah, nah! That will show them.

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Stop it with the WiFi bashing

 

There is a bit of schadenfreude going on over the problems with WiFi at the WebSummit in Portugal. I am amused at this. It is a total red herring. I have been to a lot of big tech events in the last year or two. Huge ones like Mobile World Congress (MWC), and CES which have about 100,000 attendees. These are serious tech events, that have been running for years. And the wifi doesn’t work there either.

I am heavily involved in the planning for our presence at MWC 2017. A few weeks ago I had a discussion with the guy responsible for our floor demos. In jest I said I wanted him to allocate me space for something 50m long, 10m high, which would need 4MW of power. His only reaction was:

“Will it need WiFi? As long as it doesn’t need WiFi anything is possible”

The reality is WiFi is not designed to handle massive numbers of concurrent users as you get at huge trade shows. When you put thousands of people on the same limited amount of shared spectrum it will go down.

Perhaps Paddy Cosgrove actually believes WiFi is an issue. I think it is far more likely that the reason he took his circus on the road was it had outgrown Dublin. There is no conference venue in the city that can take 80,000 people. The RDS was a cobbled together option that had reached it’s capacity and was barely suitable. I have seen proper conference setups in Las Vegas, Barcelona, Austin, London, San Francisco. They are purpose built for these things. And they look nothing like repurosed 19th century show grounds.

It Dublin wants to attract the big tech events (and I think it can) then a real conference venue (start with something capable of handling 50,000 attendees, served by rail links) is needed. And not gloating over an ongoing tech problem that can’t be solved anyway.

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Mortification!

I am really enjoying Adam Zamoyski’s “Rites of Peace – The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna” (which reshaped Europe, cementing the position of the old guard, and gutted the aspirations for a new liberal  order). It has loads of wonderful sketches of life back them. This one really amused me:

An 1813 ball

I am sure the lady was embarrassed at the time. But imagine if she knew that people would still be reading about it 200 years later!

 

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Blockchain, IoT and trust. They all go together

I just had another blog post published at work. This one is in in support of an eBook I have been working on for a while – with Mads Becker Jørgensen and Michael Bennet Cohn of course! Lets call me the editor of it. 

The ebook is about some things that are “hot topics” these days – the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain technology. Blockchain is often just thought of as something for crypto currencies. But the intrinsic nature of its distributed database, makes it an excellent platform for an integrity assurance solution. The eBook talks about that in the context of IoT.

In a lot of ways Integrity is the poor child of the security trioka. The other two being Confidentiality – is my stuff secret. And Availability – can I get to it when I want. Integrity is about do I trust it. Has someone tampered with it. These are the differences between “is the bank’s internet service up” so you can get to your money (availability), “have account balances and transaction details remained private” (confidentiality), and has someone changed my balance to read €0 (integrity).

Pretty important when you get down to it. But read the book for more information.

The important thing though is that this is a real application of blockchain technology. And it is in use today. It’s not just hype.

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Children’s classics – may not work as well today

I finished reading JM Barrie’s original Peter Pan book this evening. My girls asked me to read it to them. But I quickly discovered the classic text wasn’t really suitable for a modern 4 and 6 year old. You do find it is not the book you think it is, especially if you have grown up with the Disney version. Peter Pan is a selfish shit. Tinker Bell is a scheming shrew who actively tries to murder one of the children. And the whole thing is laced with a rampant sexism that is hard to overlook even with the most generous eye (women/girls are just there to cook, clean and generally act as skivvies for the boys).

On balance I would have to say that it is not suitable for children today. You need to find some other sanitised version.

As an adult though, you can draw a smile from some of the slightly dated language. This passage amused me on the plane this evening:

“The little house looked so cosy and safe in the darkness, with a bright light showing through its blinds, and the chimney smoking beautifully, and Peter standing on guard. After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter’s nose and passed on.”

I know the word meant something else a century ago. But if I read that to my 4 and 6 year old’s I just know that at some stage they would state in public (mortifying their father) that they wanted to take part in “a fairy orgy”!

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Still the best (brief comment on Brexit)

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Camping in Scandinavia – what’s it like?

We got back from a family camping trip in Sweden and Norway a little over a week ago. I thought it would be useful to let people know what the experience was like in case you are considering bringing the tent and a car to Scandiavia.

We had a 2-week camping holiday in the south of France last year. That was a pretty good experience, and we were hoping for something similar this time around. It wasn’t. For a load of reasons.

On our trip we headed west from Stockholm to Karlstad where we spent a night. And from there we continued on to Oslo. The plan had been to go all the way to Bergen. But although we had not seen rain at that stage the forecast was dire for the coming week on the west coast of Norway – 8-10mm of rain each day. And having now seen what the local camping experience was like we decided that it we were to see the Fjords in the rain, it would be with the comfort of a hotel to greet us each evening.

The setup for campers

There are no shortage of campsites around. What we quickly discovered is that they are primarily intended for people with caravans and camper wagons. Our first inkling of this was when we rang up to book plots and were told that if we had a tent we could just turn up.

When you do turn up, the camping spots are pretty unsophisticated – usually some green spot at the edge of the campsite. There are no designated plots. You don’t get power, shade can be hit and miss, and you usually are stuck in a spot that is on the edge of the campsite, leaving you far from the shower and toilet facilities.

Those facilities were in excellent condition, clean, modern, with loads of hot water. But there was a definite impression that servicing people in tents is something of an afterthought.

Even when you pay there is none of the careful calculation you would see in France for text size, car, number of people, etc. It tended to be a flat rate each time. No one asked how many people, what size tent. We would just be told this is the rate, go down here, and pick any spot you want. Just stay 3m away from anyone else.

Who were we pitched alongside?

When you camp in France, or Italy, or even Austria (no experience of Germany) there isn’t the impression that it is something just for penny pinching students. Families do it, couples do it, and the people in the pitch next to you could be driving an Audi S6.

But in Norway and Sweden I don’t think we saw any natives with children camping. Most of those in tents were from outside the region. There were ubiquitous French and Dutch, and others from as far away as Slovenia and Spain. But family camping seemed to be the exception. And those that did it had older children than our 4 and 6 year old.

 

Would we do it again?

Nope. Not on your nelly. We were lucky with the weather. But we were eaten by mosquitoes in one place, and nowhere did we appreciate the trek to the showers and loos each day. Generally we had more privacy as we were 5-10m from anyone else. But it just felt like a rougher standard of camping that we had before. And it was not comfortable for a family holiday. Maybe when the children are older. But you won’t see us under canvas as a family in Scandinavia again anytime soon.

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Breakfast

Homemade granola

Homemade granola

I finally found a way to enjoy oats in the morning – turn it into home made granola. Then eat with some yoghurt. Yummy.

To make it take:

  • Two cups oats
  • Half cup seeds (I used pumpkin)
  • Half cup raisins
  • Three tablespoons maple syrup
  • Half tea spoon vanilla extract
  • Two tablespoons coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt

Mix it all up, and give it about 10-15 minutes on the oven on a baking tray at 150C.

The smell alone in the kitchen afterwards makes it worth it.

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What’s the difference?

I’m a Sex Worker, and This is What I’ll tell my Child.

I worked in the service industry as a consultant. I kept long hours. I traveled at the whim of others. They rented my body out to clients for what they felt like. I sacrificed hobbies, friendships, and family relationships for this. I put my health at risk.

I have yet to hear a decent argument against prostitution that could not be applied to some of the work that I have done.

 

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