One of the reasons I had for reducing the junk in my office and cutting the bookcases in half was to give me some wall space to hang up some concert posters.

(The Ting Tings, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Gaz Coombes, Neko Case, Dananananaykroyd, The Joy Formidable.)

I am inclined to go a bit mad at the merch stand after a gig, but buying T-shirts can be a bit of a hit-or-miss affair. Tour T-shirt sizing is all over the map, and quality varies greatly. With some more space on my walls, I might start picking up more posters instead.


I think I might have fixed the problem that was causing IFTTT to choke on my recipe to auto-post new posts here to Twitter. Although browsers can display my RSS feed just fine, I noticed that if I tried to retrieve the feed using curl from my server (Ubuntu 14.04), it would refuse with the following error: curl: (60) SSL certificate problem: unable to get local issuer certificate. (Running curl locally on my Mac is fine as well.)

Turns out that the main certificate I use is enough for most circumstances, but some clients require an intermediate certificate before sufficient trust is established. In nginx you have to concatenate the two certificates to make this work. Ben Jeffrey’s article “Setting up Gandi SSL on Nginx” gave me all the information I needed. IFTTT seems happy with the recipe now.

I’ve just made a donation to the Internet Security Research Group for their Let’s Encrypt project, which aims to make acquiring and installing certificates faster and easier. I hope it works out, because adding certificates is still super annoying.

IJmuiden and back again

Before the gig in Zoetermeer, Abi and I had lunch with my parents at the Kop van de Haven restaurant in IJmuiden. The restaurant is located right at the end of the dock that houses the ferry terminal for the crossing to Newcastle. We ate there with Abi’s parents earlier in the year and enjoyed it. Seeing as mum and dad were taking the ferry yesterday evening anyway, it was a great place to have lunch just before they left.

We drove back over the locks, and along the North bank of the IJ. On our way we spotted a curious atmospheric phenomenon. Directly opposite the setting sun, there was a distinct glowing “V” shape, like a colossal searchlight just beyond the horizon:

We’re not sure what it was. My guess is that the “V” shape was just an effect of perspective, and that we were really seeing horizontal lines overhead converging towards (and beyond) the vanishing point. Maybe there was some kind of horizontal banding in the air above us (zebra-striped bands of particulates or moisture?) and the sun was shining directly along one of thebands, making it appear to glow in contrast to its neighbours. Whatever the case, it was very striking, and it persisted most of the way home.

Mostly Autumn at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer, Saturday 21 November 2015

Abi followed a friend’s recommendation, and we saw Mostly Autumn at their gig in Zoetermeer yesterday evening.

I felt an odd resurgence of something akin to impostor syndrome while we watched them. When I was younger I often felt like I wasn’t “cool” enough to go to concerts, or that I wasn’t “doing it right” when I did go. I like watching musicians, and I enjoy hearing songs performed live. I applaud, cheer, and whistle my appreciation as loud as I can. But I don’t mosh, dance, jump around, or wave my hands in the air like I just don’t care. I’m one of those folk you see apparently just standing around with their hands in their pockets or with arms folded.

This doesn’t mean I’m not having a good time! It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I feel I have as much right to enjoy a gig in my own way as someone who likes to shake their rump all night long. (I have a lingering suspicion that this might be connected to my merch habit: do I go crazy buying T-shirts afterwards out of a sense that I didn’t show my appreciation enough during the concert?)

Standing in the audience at Mostly Autumn I felt out of place again. Apart from being passingly familiar with the Pink Floyd songs they covered, I knew none of their songs. The gig wasn’t sold out. Anyone who wanted to (and could afford it) could have been there. But I still felt I was taking up space that should have been occupied by a true fan. I’ve shaken off the feeling now, but the fact that it emerged was notable.

Treasure Games in ‘t Twiske, Sunday 7 June 2015

(Still catching up on events from earlier in the year.)

On Sunday 7th June, Fiona, Abi, and I took part in the second (annual?) “Treasure Games”, a set of GPS treasure hunts organized by Recreatie Noord-Holland. Five nature and recreation areas around Noord-Holland offered treasure trails designed to show people around the area, and highlight spots that they might nit have come across before, such as adventure playgrounds, kinderboerderijen (petting zoos), inland marinas, picnic spots, and so on. Noord-Holland is heavily urbanized and densely populated, but the landscape between the cities is littered with carefully tended canals, polders, windmills, and nature reserves. It’s not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination, but the landscape is managed in such a way that when you leave the city behind, you can quickly find yourself in wide open countryside. The Treasure Games were a way to encourage people to get out and make use of the space.

Perhaps we should have gone further afield and explored a different area, but het Twiske is just a short bike ride away, and we like it. We showed up at the Twiske information in time for the 13:00 start…along with about 17 other people. When I saw so few people there, I thought we were late for the start. The organizers said that they’d hoped for more people, too. Last year they had about 50 people take part, and seeing less than that must have been a disappointment. Apparently posters had been distributed to all local schools to bring in a younger audience. I had heard about it on the radio. Earlier in the week, while dropping off Alex at school, I happened to hear someone from Recreatie Noord Holland being interviewed about it. So clearly there was some advertising budget behind the event. (I don’t think I saw any posters in the usual spots around the village, though.)

For us, at least, it was an easy sell. A GPS treasure hunt on foot and on bike around our favourite local nature area, on a lovely day? Fun! With a first prize of a hot air balloon trip around Noord-Holland? What was not to like?

Some of the people who had showed up disagreed. They didn’t realize that the hunt in het Twiske at least was primarily set up as a bike tour. To be fair, that was only mentioned in the small print of the PDFs we’d downloaded before the start. So when they decided not to take part after all, there were fewer than 20 people taking part in the tour. And apparently there were 20 prizes to give away…

When the puzzle for the first set of coordinates was announced, we were slow to start. Othere people got to their bikes and raced off well before us. And when we got to the first waypoint (the big adventure playground), we were the last group to show up. But our local knowledge of the rest of het Twiske paid off for us, because we recognized the coordinates for each subsequent waypoint (boerderij, marina), and we were the first group to show up at each of them. When we got to the end of the tour (near the beehives right behind the information centre, natch), we were so far ahead of schedule that the organizers hadn’t even set up a chair to await the participants.

The last part was a small-scale treasure hunt in a marked-off area near the beehives. We each had to locate a camouflaged geocaching container. When we found one, we could take it inside, and exchange it for a prize! The curious thing was that we could choose which prize we wanted. I had expected that each cache container would be associated with a random prize, so that the top 20 people who completed the tour would have an equal shot at the first prize. Instead, it was very much a case of first come, first served. Fiona, Abi, and I had each registered as individual partipants, so after finding a cache, we were each allowed to pick a prize.

One of them was the balloon trip for two, of course. I had thought that Alex might be interested in it, but in the end it looks like Abi and Fiona will be taking it. (I still haven’t got around to making the booking.) There will be photos of that when it happens…