Sound and Complete This is Sound and Complete, Piotr Kaźmierczak’s personal website. Enjoy responsibly. http://piotrkazmierczak.com/ Go vs. Scala <blockquote> <p>One of Go’s features is that it doesn’t have an excess of features, and frankly, I think that feature is undervalued.</p> </blockquote> <p>There’s an interesting <a href="https://www.quora.com/Scala-vs-Go-Could-people-help-compare-contrast-these-on-relative-merits-demerits">discussion on Quora</a> about the differences between Golang and Scala.</p> <p>As a former academic with tendencies towards functional programming, I used to be very tempted by Scala. It offered all the functional goodness without the exoticism of Haskell, and came with reasonably good tools and frameworks. Like Clojure, it’s a functional language you can actually do some work with.</p> <p>The problem with Scala is, the more advanced you get, the more unreadable your code becomes. I remember that back in grad school the dude who was able to doodle the craziest and mathematically most challenging solution to some problem in Haskell was someone everyone looked up to. But it turns out in the “real world” simplicity <em>always</em> trumps virtuosity and sophistication, which is one of the many reasons I love Golang so much. A language with no “magic,” good concurrency support, great documentation and community that compiles into machine code and runs faster than Python? Yes, please.</p> <p>Read the whole Quora thread, though, there’s a lot of interesting stuff there.</p> Sat, 16 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/go-vs.-scala http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/go-vs.-scala No more LaTeX <p>I made <a href="/2015/done/">jokes</a> about this before, but it actually happened: since I no longer use LaTeX, I removed it from my laptop and got rid of the config from my <code class="highlighter-rouge">.vimrc</code>. It’s nothing unusual, but I somewhat feel that the departure from LaTeX marks an important <em>(sic!)</em> moment in my life.</p> <p>LaTeX was my “gateway drug” to programming. I kid you not. Since I was interested in publishing as a teenager (even ran a small but successful magazine for a while), got very disappointed in MS Word’s DTP capabilities, had no money or supported OS to run Adobe or Quark, LaTeX was for me, sadly, the only option to put my magazine together. A Polish magazine called Linux+ published an article about LaTeX, I went through the tutorial, then through <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=lshort2e.pdf">lshort2e.pdf</a>, and got hooked. I was of course impressed by the quality of the output, but most importantly I understood the powerful concept of source code and compilation. LaTeX is of course technically <em>markup</em> and not <em>code</em>,<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> and it’s not exactly <em>compiled</em> but <em>parsed</em>, but still the process and concepts are easily translatable to programming. So then came going through <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AWK">AWK</a> tutorials, and later came C and Perl. And much later came a lot of other stuff, but it all started with LaTeX.</p> <p>I owe LaTeX a lot. It made my silly little magazine look <em>good</em>, impressing people at the printshop and everyone else who had the slightest idea about publishing. It made writing technical notes on formal logic for my classes in philosophy so much easier. I wrote my master’s and my doctoral theses using it. And yeah, it also made my blog’s most popular blog post.<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> It is then with a heavy heart that I am writing that I really, really hate LaTeX and am very happy that I don’t have to use it anymore.</p> <p>I’m not saying <a href="/2014/stop-using-latex-switch-to-ms-word/">“switch to MS Word”</a> or something silly like that, no. But it saddens me that after so many years the open source/free software community did not produce anything more modern, easier to use<sup id="fnref:3"><a href="#fn:3" class="footnote">3</a></sup> and simply more elegant. LaTeX is a mess, and the underlying TeX typesetting systems dates back to the 70s. It comes in <em>huge</em> tarballs or installers. It has an annoying syntax. Its fonts are as beautiful as they are painful to install. Its error messages are cryptic. The list of problems goes on.</p> <p>I was actually hoping that the academic community would adopt <a href="http://pandoc.org/">Pandoc</a> and restrict LaTeX usage to its math formulas syntax, but that didn’t happen. And I suppose Matthias Ettrich hoped the academic community would adopt <a href="http://www.lyx.org/">LyX</a> (which is actually surprisingly good), but that didn’t happen either.</p> <p>I guess the beauty of leaving the world of academia is that I no longer have to care.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Or rather: it’s most commonly used as a markup language, but is in fact a <a href="http://en.literateprograms.org/Turing_machine_simulator_(LaTeX)">Turing complete</a> programming language. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>It is actually <em>astonishing</em> how many people read and share this howto. I never expected to end up in lecture notes for CS and physics classes in places like Colorado State, not to mention reddits and HN of course. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:3"> <p>By “easier to use” I don’t necessarily mean a GUI. Having a markup language is good. <a href="#fnref:3" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/no-more-latex http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/no-more-latex Best Jazz Albums of 2015 <p>In the spirit of <a href="http://www.logophile.org/blog/2016/01/01/2015-reading-record/">2015 summaries</a>, I felt like sharing my recommendations for the best, in my view, jazz albums of yesteryear. The list is, of course, highly subjective and biased towards contemporary and European jazz.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> I also admit that the great majority of what I listen to comes from ACT Music label, since many of my favorite artists record for them, and thus it’s somewhat easier for me to explore their catalogue. Nevertheless, I tried to be broader in my picks, which was really easy this year thanks to some very surprising albums from relatively unknown artists. Below are my 6 favorites, with three in the “must listen” category additionally marked with a “💣” (how did internet function without emoji, eh?).</p> <h3 id="kamasi-washingtonepichttpsopenspotifycomalbum2j2q2ysuvk43ehb8wi5xqj-brainfeeder">💣Kamasi Washington—<a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/2j2q2ySuVk43eHB8wI5XQj">“Epic”</a> (Brainfeeder)</h3> <iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:6dZojGTd9QNpAulk8WUoeW" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>Ok, get this: a relatively unknown artist from Los Angeles <em>(wut?)</em> releases his 3-CDs-2hrs-52minutes-long debut which, in my opinion, is at the same time the best jazz album of 2015. Yeah, “Epic” really is, <em>nomen omen</em>, quite epic. Kamasi Washington achieved something unique here: he managed to create a very “mainstream” sounding, easy to listen, contemporary jazz record with a lot of free-jazzy, Ornette Coleman-inspired solos and hard bop rhythms. Oh, and he managed to do all this on a 3hr album and not make it boring in any way. Washington is known for recording with hip-hop artists (most notably for working with Kendrick Lamar), and arguably the biggest advantage of his debut is introducing free jazz to younger audiences, but regardless, the album is as exciting, refreshing and enjoyable to just about any audience I can think of.<br /> Play it at home, in the morning or evening, on the bus, on the plane and at work. Absorb it.</p> <h3 id="michael-wollny-christian-weber-eric-schaefernachtfahrtenhttpsopenspotifycomalbum7dfl5qajsme7dqo5qljov5-act">Michael Wollny, Christian Weber, Eric Schaefer—<a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/7DfL5qAJsMe7DqO5qlJov5">“Nachtfahrten”</a> (ACT)</h3> <iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:0oCyEUh2QT03XiYKgUXFkq" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>Michael Wollny is a well-regarded pianist, at least on the European scene, and his “Nachtfahrten” album solidifies his position as the band leader, improviser and composer. A much calmer, contemplative, and less experimental record than his previous <a href="http://michaelwollny.com/michael-wollny-wunderkammer-xxl/">solo albums</a> or <a href="http://michaelwollny.com/michael-wollny-wasted-wanted/">[em] trio</a>, “Nachtfarhten” brings beautiful melodies with a touch of melancholy, but never boring or smooth-jazzy. Wollny’s lyrical piano is actually closer to Jarrett’s “standards trio” than anything else on the jazz scene today, which makes me love his music even more.<br /> Play this album in the evenings. Enjoy with a glass of good wine, but skip the book and just contemplate the music.</p> <h3 id="adam-badych-amp-helge-lien-triobridgeshttpsopenspotifycomalbum7g7xihltjjzqi1praqyait-act">💣Adam Bałdych &amp; Helge Lien Trio—<a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/7g7XIhltJJzqI1prAqYaiT">“Bridges”</a> (ACT)</h3> <iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:4seF06uMElRFJo3zqDczR4" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>Another ACT recording artist and my personal favorite-of-all-favorites, Adam Bałdych, this year with a Norwegian trio led by Helge Lien. I am obviously biased towards Bałdych, because I’m Polish and a weekend-violinist, but I honestly think he’s the most interesting jazz artist of the European if not worldwide jazz scene. His folk-sounding acoustic violin, his energetic, sometimes post-bopish Seifert-like improvisations, and the wonderfully melodic support of Helge Lien’s piano-double-bass-drums trio make “Bridges” the most original and interesting jazz album I’ve heard in a very long time.<br /> Play it all the time and watch yourself head-banging to the sound of acoustic violin and acoustic double bass. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.</p> <h3 id="sons-of-kemetlest-we-forget-what-we-came-here-to-dohttpsopenspotifycomalbum6o23nb26aulo86kn7hug8y-naim-jazz">Sons of Kemet—<a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/6o23NB26aULo86KN7Hug8y">“Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do”</a> (Naim Jazz)</h3> <iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:6UljHQ0UnRGRhVwa929PDA" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>Sons of Kemet took the European jazz scene by storm with their 2013 debut <a href="http://www.naimlabel.com/recording-burn.aspx">“Burn”</a>,<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> so the expectations were really high for their second record. “Lest We Forget…” doesn’t dissapoint, but presents the band in a bit of a different style. Yes, they’re still a crazy combo of saxophone, tuba (albeit with a new tuba player) and two drum kits, but while “Burn” was pure energy with a small hydrogen bomb on top of that, “Lest We Forget…” is slightly more difficult and much more free in the sense of improvisation and form. To me, it’s also more rewarding.<br /> Play it <em>loudly</em>.</p> <h3 id="julian-argellestetrahttpwwwwhirlwindrecordingscomtetra-whirlwind">Julian Argüelles—<a href="http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com/tetra/">“Tetra”</a> (Whirlwind)</h3> <p><a href="http://www.whirlwindrecordings.com/tetra/"><img src="/images/julian-arguelles-tetra.jpg" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;" /></a> Julian Argüelles comes back with a new band called Tetra to introduce an album titled… “Tetra.” This is the most mainstream/conservative album of the 5 recommendations I compiled here, but it’s still full of Julian’s great improvisations and I’m pretty sure many of his pieces will soon become standards.<br /> Play it at a party, play it to people who say they don’t like contemporary jazz.</p> <h3 id="marius-nesetpinballhttpsopenspotifycomalbum5ckje48cz5ivc83efvllan-act">💣Marius Neset—<a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/5ckjE48cz5Ivc83eFVLlAN">“Pinball”</a> (ACT)</h3> <iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:3yV8O5NE72gPZldRVDmB6i" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="float:left;margin:10px 20px 10px 0px;"></iframe> <p>Marius Neset is a genius. He’s 30 year old Norwegian saxophonist (from Os near Bergen, mind you), and he likes playing with big bands. “Pinball”, his latest album, is full of complicated yet melodic pieces, youthful energy with a touch of “world music” sound. He’s got violins, cellos, vibraphones, marimbas, flutes and tambourines, so it is easily the most original sounding jazz album of 2015. And Neset’s virtuosity is simply <em>astonishing</em>. “Pinball” is fresh and engaging, and next to Bałdych’s “Bridges” the album I most frequently listened to last year.<br /> Play it carefully, it’s a noisy album. Don’t get districted, and don’t get carried away; you don’t want your neighbors hear you dancing to the sound of tenor saxophone and marimba solos.</p> <h3 id="honorable-mentions">Honorable mentions</h3> <p>There were of course other great albums I enjoyed. Get The Blessing’s <a href="https://open.spotify.com/album/5GlFE6RKXeCOMCB8G5flYT">“Astronautilus”</a> (Naim Jazz) was definitely decent, although much less spectacular than 2013 “Lope and Antilope” and their earlier “OC DC” (2011) or “All is Yes” (2008). Another interesting album was <a href="https://letspin.bandcamp.com/album/let-spin">“Let Go”</a> (Efpi) by a young, London-based punk-jazz quartet Let Spin. It’s closer to punk than to jazz most of the time, and much more spectacular (and <em>loud</em>) live than in the studio, but still worth checking out. Finally, Brad Mehldau released a compilation of his solo records called <a href="http://www.bradmehldau.com/10-years-solo/">“10 years solo”</a> (Nonesuch), which is definitely interesting, but to me somewhat exhausting to go through. His interpretations of rock music favorites are still spot on, though.</p> <p>I provided Spotify links to all the albums mentioned above (unless they weren’t available on Spotify) to make checking them out as easy as possible,<sup id="fnref:3"><a href="#fn:3" class="footnote">3</a></sup> but I would kindly ask you to consider buying the albums you enjoy. They are all available on iTunes and Amazon, and if you don’t like either you can always use my <a href="http://losslessfinder.herokuapp.com">LossLessFinder</a> to get quality files from other sources. Support new jazz, people, and have a great 2016.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Actually the bias is stronger and deserves a longer explanation, even if it’s just a footnote. I am slightly opinionated when it comes to jazz music, namely I feel jazz should remain exciting, energetic and involving, and expanding its reach rather than looking back. Thus I despise smooth jazz for its way too laid-back supermarket-friendly sound, and generally avoid swing and big bands. I also prefer jazz music being played in cramped clubs by young artists to concert halls full of older audiences in suits (with a notable exception of Keith Jarrett who can play wherever he likes for whatever ticket price and I will still be a happy camper if I get to go to his concert). <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>Easily the best jazz album of 2013. If you haven’t heard it, buy it immediately or Spotify it. And watch out for when the band comes to town. Go to their concert because they’re even better live, and remember to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:3"> <p>I even created <a href="https://open.spotify.com/user/pkazmierczak/playlist/2tCeDYticELqdUwx7PmOg0">a playlist</a> which consists of single tracks taken from all the albums recommended here and available on Spotify. <a href="#fnref:3" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Sun, 03 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/best-jazz-albums-of-2015 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2016/best-jazz-albums-of-2015 AWS Cloudformation template for OpenVPN server creation <p>Are you traveling for Christmas to a country where Netflix/Hulu isn’t available? Are you worried you might resort to violence against your own family once you’re fed up with them? Here’s a VPN server template to help the situation (and keep you away from prison).</p> <p><strong>update Jan 6, 2016:</strong> <a href="https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/netflix-is-now-available-around-the-world">Oh, well.</a> VPN servers can still be useful for other purposes.</p> <p>Netflix is brilliant and there’s no better time to catch up on your <a href="http://www.netflix.com/title/80002311?locale=en-DE">Jessica Jones</a> episodes than Christmas break. But what if your family resides in a country where Netflix isn’t available yet? 😱 Fear not, there’s a way to circumvent geolocation-based legal barriers that protect, in my case, Eastern Europe from excellent comic book-based television. First, you’re gonna need a <em>fast</em> internet connection.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> Second, a VPN server into the country where Netflix is available, e.g., Bundesrepublik Deutschland.</p> <p>To create one really quickly and cheaply (and destroy it as easily once it’s not needed), it’s best to use Cloudformation, an orchestration/templating tool that AWS provides. With Cloudformation, all the details<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> of your stack are included in one JSON file which, once uploaded via AWS Console, deploys the stack defined by the template. The JSON file below defines an EC2 instance together with a security group suited for OpenVPN:</p> <script src="https://gist.github.com/pkazmierczak/6886e01508c470934c4d.js"></script> <p>You can download it, and use it whenever you need to quickly deploy an OpenVPN server. In order to use it, you need:</p> <ol> <li> <p>an AWS account (this costs money, but not much, and only when it’s being used);</p> </li> <li> <p>to accept the terms of use for the <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/B00MI40CAE">OpenVPN Access Service AMI</a>; it’s free for not more than 2 VPN connections at a time;</p> </li> <li> <p>to have at least one key pair for the EC2 instance that will be deployed;</p> </li> <li> <p>to configure the OpenVPN server and optionally create another user (the default username and password is <code class="highlighter-rouge">openvpn</code> as defined in the template);</p> </li> <li> <p>to configure a VPN client software capable of connecting to OpenVPN servers; on a Mac I recommend <a href="https://www.sparklabs.com/viscosity/">Viscosity</a>, Linux users need the OpenVPN plugin for Network Manager, Windows users need to get a grip and change an OS (seriously though, I don’t know any VPN clients for Windows, but for sure there are many good ones).</p> </li> </ol> <p>That’s it! To access the control panel of your VPN server, browse to <code class="highlighter-rouge">https://yourEC2_public_IP_address/admin</code> and accept the OpenVPN license. To get the <code class="highlighter-rouge">client.ovpn</code> configuration file for your client software, look up <code class="highlighter-rouge">https://yourEC2_public_IP_address/?src=connect</code> (you may need to tweak the settings depending on the client you’re using).</p> <p>If you’d like to change the Cloudformation template, I recommend using <a href="https://github.com/cloudtools/troposphere">Troposphere</a> package for Python rather than editing the raw JSON file. Here’s the <a href="https://gist.github.com/pkazmierczak/54146775a1d8f45669c6">source</a> I used to generate the template above.</p> <p>Merry Christmas everyone!</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>Now you’d think it’s difficult to get a fast enough internet connection in the poor Eastern Block, but my experience shows that on average the quality of internet providers is orders of magnitude better in, say, Poland than in, say, Germany/The Netherlands/Belgium/Norway/UK. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>Ordinarily, yes, CF templates <em>should</em> include all the details of a given stack. The template presented here is as bare as possible, though, using a default VPC, default subnet etc., to keep it simple. <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/aws-cloudformation-template-for-openvpn-server-creation http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/aws-cloudformation-template-for-openvpn-server-creation Blogging Again <p><a href="http://www.manton.org/2015/11/a-diverse-community-through-writing.html">Manton Reece:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>By creating a blog, you’re making a statement that you care about something</p> </blockquote> <p>I haven’t been blogging on a regular basis for many months now, primarily because I was busy with my PhD, depressed with my PhD, depressed about looking for a job or busy with my new job, but also because <a href="/2012/11/06/blogging-is-hard/">I wasn’t really sure</a> there’s a point in having a blog in the first place.</p> <p>I’ve read Manton Reece’s post about female bloggers’ in the tech community (linked to by <a href="http://inessential.com/2015/11/16/blogs_by_women">Brent Simmons’ post</a> on the subject) and the above quote made me think that I do feel like I have something to say on the subjects I care about, and that I do have the need to put it in writing. I also notice a trend of some of my favorite blogs dying out slowly: <a href="http://marco.org">Marco Arment’s blog</a> has seen much less activitiy recently, because he <a href="http://atp.fm/episodes/145">prefers podcasting</a> as a medium, and <a href="http://www.logophile.org/blog/">Tikitu de Jager’s blog</a> is also rather <a href="http://www.logophile.org/blog/2015/10/10/rust/">inactive</a>.</p> <p>I’d like to go against the trend and resume blogging, then. I no longer care whether my content is focused on a particular topic or not, as I noticed that blogs which contents reflects the personality of an author are more appealing to me as a reader. This is the true essence of blogging to me, the somewhat personal relationship you can build between the reader and the blogger. I’ll do my best to achieve just that.</p> Tue, 22 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/blogging-again http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/blogging-again Positive experience as a woman in tech <blockquote> (...) when no positive stories get out, the overall picture painted is bleak, which could scare even more women away. </blockquote> <p>Lea Verou <a href="http://lea.verou.me/2015/12/my-positive-experience-as-a-woman-in-tech/">writes</a> about her experience in the technical community. While our community definitely has a problem with sexism, it’s important to bring out positive experiences like the one Verou has. In her own words, “who wants to be fighting an uphill battle all her life?”</p> Fri, 18 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/positive-experience-as-a-woman-in-tech http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/positive-experience-as-a-woman-in-tech London <p>A couple of weeks ago <a href="http://cloudreach.com">my company</a> sent me over to London for 6 weeks to do some project work for one of our clients. I’m back in Munich now, but everyone’s been asking me how it was and I have surprisingly many things to say about my stay in the UK. Thus, to ease my pain of having to tell everyone the same bunch of observations, I decided to group them all neatly into a blog post. Here goes.</p> <h3 id="london-is-big-and-crowded">London is <em>big</em> and <em>crowded</em></h3> <p>Depending on the definition, the London metropolitan area has between 8,5 and 14 mln inhabitants. By European standards this makes it a <em>huge</em> city, and having never lived in a place that had more than 2,5 mln people, you can really feel the difference. The most visible effect of that enormous size is of course overcrowding.</p> <p>I remember visiting London a couple of years back, admiring the architecture of old tube stations with the small, <em>nomen omen</em>, tubular size of the trains, and finding it all adorable. Well, tell you what, it loses all its charm when you try to get on a Jubilee line train at 8:30 AM.</p> <p>Moving around the city during morning or evening rush hours means standing in some sort of a line most of the time. You queue for the trains (I never managed to get on the first or even the second Jubilee line train in the morning, not to mention the Central line), you queue to the stairs, and then in many other places you also queue even when you leave the station; for example at Faringdon station if you want to cross the street in the direction of Leather Lane the queue (~50m long) to the zebra crossing starts right at the station exit.</p> <figure> <img class="wide" src="/images/london-canary-wharf.jpg" /> <figcaption>A queue to the first escalators, Canary Wharf station at 8:50 AM. People of Munich, if you think that U6 gets crowded in the mornings, think again. </figcaption> </figure> <p>This is not to say that <a href="http://tfl.gov.uk">TfL</a>, the non-profit organization that runs London’s public transportation system, isn’t brilliant. For the great majority of the time the trains run on schedule (and even if they don’t, TfL is really good at informing passengers about issues on any lines), and they run often, so if I say that I had to wait until the 5th train arrived to get on one it doesn’t mean I actually had to wait that long. The problem London has is that there is no limit to the amount of people that want to move there. An example that illustrates this is the contruction of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossrail">Crossrail</a>, London’s new East-West underground link. The company that builds it expects Crossrail to reach its full capacity <em>on day one</em> of operation, which will be sometime in 2018, and that Crossrail will improve London’s public transportation by mere 10%.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> Another line, Crossrail 2, is planned to alleviate the problem, but if the city’s population keeps growing at its current pace, London’s gonna need Crossrail 4 by the time Crossrail 2’s planned opening.</p> <p>The overcrowing obviously translates to traffic jams in central London. It is absolutely bizarre, but you can be stuck in a traffic jam on a Sunday at 11 AM, as well as on Friday at 11 PM, not to mention rush hours. The city center is permanently clogged, its narrow streets completely incapable of handling the amount of traffic despite the congestion charges.</p> <h3 id="londons-cultural-offer-is-unmatched">London’s cultural offer is unmatched</h3> <p>As much as annoying the huge size is, it comes with massive cultural benefits. For a jazz enthusiasts such as myself, the offer is magnificent. <a href="http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk">The Vortex</a>, <a href="http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk">Ronnie Scott’s</a>, and <a href="https://www.cafeoto.co.uk">Cafe Oto</a>, just to name a few, have great concerts every weekend (sometimes every day), they’re not expensive (modulo Ronnie), and they present a whole spectrum of jazz, from traditional big bands and swing, through post-bop influenced quartets, all the way to the latest avang-garde punk jazz trios. And that’s only jazz. There are dozens of classical, rock, electronic, r&amp;b and basically <em>any-other-kind-you-want</em> music concerts all the time. Visual arts fans can go to Tate Modern which always has great exhibitions, theatre afficionados can choose between 40 different theatres in the West End alone, and really, when it comes to culture, the sky’s the limit in the city of London. Or rather, your wallet.</p> <h3 id="london-is-beautiful">London is <em>beautiful</em></h3> <p>Londoners tend to forget about it, because they live their busy lives running from one tube station to another, but London is a beautiful city with magnificent history and a fantastic mixture of the (very) old and the new.</p> <h3 id="london-is-diverse">London is <em>diverse</em></h3> <p>The team in a project I worked on consisted of myself (Pole), a Finnish-Italian, a French-Portugese, an Indian, a Kiwi, a Canadian, and a Brit from South England. And it’s not unusual by London standards. The ethnic, cultural and national diversity of the city doesn’t just make it more exciting or interesting to be there; it makes becoming a Londoner much, much easier. As a person who left his homeland 7 years ago and has been living in many other countries, I have to say those 6 weeks in London made me feel at home very quickly. Being able to speak fluent English definitely helped, but being surrounded by locals who were either (a) expats like myself or (b) used to interacting with the likes of me really made me feel like I could become an integral part of that, if you pardon my expression, melting pot. Something I cannot really say about Munich or Norway, or Belgium, or The Netherlands, sadly.</p> <h3 id="wrapping-it-up">Wrapping it up</h3> <p>When I visit places for a longer period of time, I also wonder whether I’d be happy to move there. I came to London in the summer of 2012 and back then I thought it’s an absolutely perfect city in every way, and that I’d move if an opportunity came my way without hesitation. Now, after living there for six week and experiencing the life of an ordinary Londoner,<sup id="fnref:2"><a href="#fn:2" class="footnote">2</a></sup> I’m not so sure any more. Staying in London for a couple of weeks only made me appreciate Munich’s laid back atmosphere much more, and even though I don’t have solid data on the subject, I’m pretty sure the average living standard here in Bavaria is much higher than in London. Still, even with its terrible overcrowding and ridiculously expensive beer, I can see the appeal of living there. And given many work opportunities for K, we might relocate to London some day.</p> <p>Until next time, then.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>This is what <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2013/dec/31/london-underground-writers-on-tube-future">the Guardian article</a> says, but apparently it’s <a href="http://www.londonreconnections.com/2014/happens-crossrail-full-part-1-problem/">controversial</a>. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> <li id="fn:2"> <p>Well, not entirely ordinary, I got to live in <strong>Zone 1</strong>, my company got me a really nice apartment. Did I mention <a href="https://www.cloudreach.com/gb-en/careers/">we’re hiring</a>, and that we have a picture of a naked man on our careers page? <a href="#fnref:2" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Mon, 14 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/london http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/london Dropbox shuts down Mailbox <p>Yesterday <a href="https://blogs.dropbox.com/mailbox/2015/12/saying-goodbye/">Dropbox announced</a> that they will close their <a href="http://mailboxapp.com">Mailbox</a> app and service in February.<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup> This is yet another case of <a href="/2012/07/20/sparrow-has-been-acquired-by-google/">a big company acquiring an email-client startup and shutting it down</a>, and it doesn’t surprise me. Nobody wants email clients (except for me and my girlfriend), because GMail’s web interface is good enough or even great for most people. Writing an email client is <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10691960">deceptively hard</a>, and yields relatively small payoff. Also, Dropbox needs to concentrate on its <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/paper">collaborative tools</a> efforts in order to be able to compete with Google Drive (a game it’s late to, if you ask me) and now that <a href="http://inbox.google.com">Inbox</a> copied most of Mailbox’s features, there’s simply no point in trying to win GMail’s userbase.</p> <p>The only thing that bugs me with situations like this, i.e., when a big company decides to shut down a niche product (especially a product of an acquired startup), is that they don’t release the technology as an open source project. What could possibly hurt Google to release Sparrow’s source to the community, or Dropbox to do the same with Mailbox? We’ll never know I guess.</p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p>They are also <a href="https://blogs.dropbox.com/dropbox/2015/12/saying-goodbye-to-carousel-and-mailbox/">shutting down Carousel</a> in March. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Tue, 08 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/dropbox-shuts-down-mailbox http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/dropbox-shuts-down-mailbox New Atheism <p><a href="http://www.stephenledrew.com/">Stephen LeDrew</a> wrote <a href="http://blog.oup.com/2015/11/legacy-new-atheism/">an interesting post</a> about the influence the so-called “New Atheism” movement had on society, pointing out some intriguing similarities between our militant atheists and, surprisingly, the far right wing conservatism. The one observation which I don’t find completely accurate, and I think it’s because I live in Europe, is that the “New Atheism” isn’t regarded highly in well-educated circles any more. I found a surprising number of people working in philosophy, logic, computer science and especially in natural sciences to still cherish Dawkins <em>et al.</em>, which was always rather surprising to me. It most likely has to do with a rather loose coupling between “New Atheists” and any political movements in Europe (modulo UK perhaps?).<sup id="fnref:1"><a href="#fn:1" class="footnote">1</a></sup></p> <p>In any case, the article is worth a read, and <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-evolution-of-atheism-9780190225179">LeDrew’s book</a> lands on my wishlist.</p> <p><small><em>Thanks for the link, Truls.</em></small></p> <div class="footnotes"> <ol> <li id="fn:1"> <p><a href="http://karolinakrzyzanowska.com">K</a> made a good comment here by pointing out another difference between aggressive atheists in Europe and in the US: here they don’t have an aggressive counterpart. Religious fundamentalism especially in its protestant form is extremely rare in Europe, and there isn’t much political debate in which Christian fundamentalists would be visible. This may also explain why “New Atheists” don’t see themselves as <em>avantgarde</em> on the old continent. <a href="#fnref:1" class="reversefootnote">&#8617;</a></p> </li> </ol> </div> Wed, 02 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/new-atheism http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/new-atheism How the web changed <p>Hossein Derakhshan <a href="https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426">writes</a> about how reading on the web changed in the last few years and makes a ton of great observations:</p> <blockquote> <p>The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.</p> </blockquote> <p>I’m not a huge fan of social networks myself but I understand the appeal of <em>the Stream</em>, as Derekhshan calls it. The web became too big, and no one was able to earn any money on RSS, <a href="http://googleblog.blogspot.de/2013/03/a-second-spring-of-cleaning.html">not even Google</a>, so social networks like Twitter or Facebook became the preferred way of consuming web content for many people. It is ironic, though, that his insightful article is posted on medium.com, which is itself a social network, and which is guilty of many of the faults he mentions.</p> Mon, 14 Sep 2015 00:00:00 +0000 http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/how-the-web-changed http://piotrkazmierczak.com/2015/how-the-web-changed