A detailed chronicling of before, during and after my study abroad experience in Amsterdam and Switzerland.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Songs I'm Really Feeling

I just added a new section on the right under "3 most recent photos" called "songs i'm really feeling". I hope you can guess what this section will contain.

Anyway, "North" from Phoenix's new album is really changing my whole perspective, and I highly recommend you take it for a listen.

Phoenix - North

Update: If you subscribe to my video podcast, it will automatically download the songs i'm really feeling as soon as I start feeling them

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Bike

If you have ever been to Amsterdam, you know that bikes are an essential part of life over here. Nearly every person that lives in the city uses a bike as their main source of transportation. Before I left, I had decided that I would definitely buy a bike as soon as I got here! Lucky for me, I found a guy selling one on Sunday. Check it out:

My Bike!

For only 40 euro I got the bike, a lock, and I have already lined up another student to sell it to when I leave at the end of August! I took it around the city for a nice ride yesterday, and let me tell you, it is amazingly fun to see the city by bike! Every aspect of Amsterdam is designed to be bike friendly, and it really is the most efficient way to get around.

Unfortunately though, I made an amateur mistake. It is pretty common to ride around with someone riding on the storage platform over the rear wheel. I offered Kathy a ride back from the grocery store, and we made it 99% of the way back, but when I pulled into the courtyard I hit a bump followed by an unpleasant sound. As I continued riding, I noticed the back wheel was now rubbing on the bike frame with each revolution. Taking a closer look, the rim was definitely bent.

After spending about 20 minutes trying to bend it back, I gave up and decided to take it to the bike shop. Lucky for me, there is a bike shop that is about a 5 minute walk from my room, so I'm taking it in tomorrow to have it fixed. I also learned that even though it's fun to give people rides on the back, it's definitely not worth it when you're riding an old cruzer like this. I'm hoping that after it is fixed I will have many exciting bike stories to tell that all have happy endings!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Making unexpected progress on my research

For my friends, family, or anyone else reading this blog, I just wanted to throw out a warning that there are going to be a lot of posts (like this one) that are about my research rather than fun and exciting tales of my travels in Amsterdam. If you still want to read these posts, that is great and I hope you enjoy them, but I won't be crushed if you don't find them interesting and choose to skip over them :)

My roommate that is moving out tomorrow asked me if I wanted to come down and hang out with him and some friends down in the courtyard for a little while tonight. I wasn't really doing anything too important, so I went down to meet my roommate's friends. We got to talking about the research that I am doing while I'm in Amsterdam, and one guy in particular had some really great insight that gave me a few ideas.

First of all, he is from London, and has been living in Amsterdam for the past three years, so he has had a chance to get a feel for Dutch culture from an outside perspective. He is also pursuing his master's degree in Economics, so he is well educated. I was basically presenting my research by explaining how I am looking at the relationship between Amsterdam's urban planning and Dutch culture. Specifically the fact that the city from an urban planning perspective isn't modern, and in fact quite old. At the same time Dutch culture is very modern and progressive in many ways.

He brought up the point that Amsterdam's urban planning is in fact extremely modern. The primary reason being that cars are strongly discouraged from entering the city center. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: the roads are extremely narrow, the roads are very bumpy, bikes and trams have dedicated paths that have priority over cars, if you do manage to get your car into the city center parking is nearly impossible to find, if you do find parking it is extremely expensive, and there are thousands of people walking on sidewalks that usually can't even fit three people across which pretty much guarantees people are walking in the streets. Basically after a person tries driving in Amsterdam one time, they will realize that it is not worth the effort.

To see why not having cars is modern, consider a city that encourages cars into its center. It is the thinking of many urban planners that you want to bring in as many cars to the city as possible because bringing in cars will bring in people that spend money, and this is needed for a city to thrive economically. As anyone who has lived in a big city knows, lots of cars means lots of traffic. This means it takes an extremely long time to drive short distances. Furthermore all of the cars make for a considerable amount of pollution that leads to lower air quality. Now, Amsterdam which is for the most part car less, it is actually very efficient to get around the city using public transportaion such as the metro/tram/bus system. If you need the autonomy of personal transportation, you will be quick to find that nearly all Amsterdammers own bikes, which are also very efficient. What you end up with are no traffic jams and very clean air, while at the same time allowing for quck transportation.

This idea of a pedestrian only city is very modern and not widely accepted in many other cities. The interesting thing is that to implement this modern way of thinking, the Dutch utilize the aspects of the city that are very old. This interesting contrast is something that I would like to explore more as I delve deeper into my research.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I have arrived in Amsterdam!

I arrived in Amsterdam at 11:00am on Friday, July 28th! It is amazing here, and the Dutch are incredibly hospitable. The city is absolutely beautiful! I haven't really taken many pictures yet, but I posted a few. For example, check out this street performer blowing fire in dam square:

dragon man

This was basically the first thing I saw after we dropped off our bags at the Bulldog Hostel. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the Bulldog was. My previous mental image of a hostel was something pretty rustic with just the bare necessities. Even though I was staying in a 12 person room, it was surprisingly nice with comfortable beds and personal lockers to keep our valuables. Additionally there is a lounge in the hostel that is for guests only. It serves breakfast and has big comfortable couches with a plasma TV playing movies. Overall I was very impressed with the hostel experience.

Even though I enjoyed the staying in the hostel, I am glad to have moved into my new dorm room. It is ridiculously big compared to any dorm rooms at UW, which is weird because everything that I have read about Holland has indicated that the Dutch typically have very compact living quarters.

my dorm room

Overall, things have been excellent over here, and I am loving this city! You can expect many more posts, and I also hope to take a lot more photos, so keep your eyes on my flickr account. I put a link on the side so that people can subscribe to my photo feed with a program like iPhoto (I'm not sure what photo podcast software there is available windows). Finally, if you didn't notice under my links, I have added this cool flickr script that shows the three most recent photos that I have uploaded.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

test podcast

library podcast

Monday, May 15, 2006

Domain Analysis Method

For my site of domain analysis, I chose to focus on the UW Waterfront Activities Center. I started with the semantic relationship of strict inclusion of the form X is a kind of Y. I began with the analytic term casual participant, in which I meant all those that looked to have a goal of relaxation or the intention to utilize the WAC's facilities. Using this semantic relationship, I came up with some included terms, such as children, parents, college students, pets.

Using the cover term "problem" as described in the Spradley reading, I came up with another set of included terms. This was a similar situation to the doctor's office, because in both situations, there were sparse resources with a lot of people waiting to use them. In the doctor's office, the sparse resource is the doctors, where the WAC had sparse resources due to many more people wanting to use canoes than they had available. The result of both situations is a lot of people sitting around waiting. So this problem of waiting is one of the included terms.

Coping with the heat also seemed to be a problem. This was manifested in people migrating from sunny areas to shaded areas, people removing articles of clothing, and people applying sunblock. Also because the wait was so long, hunger seemed to be a problem for people as they would leave and come back with food.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Montlake Cut

Our group chose to do our urban studies method assignment on the Montlake Cut. I was a little aprehensive when I first arrived at the site, and I wasn't really sure how to start. To make it look like I was actually doing something, I began taking pictures from up on the bridge, but I felt like the pictures I was taking had no focus or relevancy. Then a really huge yaght began making its way towards the bridge, so I hurried down the stairs to the lower level to try and take some pictures of it. As the boat passed, I longboarded down the sidewalk following it taking more pictures.

By this time I had gotten pretty tired, and decided to sit down on a bench to rest. I sat there and began looking at some of the notes from last wednesday's lecture to get some ideas of where to start. Colin arrived shortly after, and it was at this point that I actually began exploring some research methods that I think have some definite potential. We sat on that bench for a good 25 minutes looking at the area around us trying to make sense of it. The brainstorming started out a little slow, but slowly we started to build momentum and really began to explore the intentions that went into designing this unique area.

We then decided that it would then be helpful to look at everything from a different perspective, so we walked up the stairs to the bridge. Looking down on the Montlake Cut a second time was much more enlightening having analyzed it from below. There were a lot of valuable insights that I think we gained from switching perspectives. Here is a short video clip of the Montlake Cut from the bridge (this video is also available by subscribing to my videopodcast).

I only spent an hour taking in this urban setting, but it really got me excited about what I will be able to accomplish in Amsterdam when I have much more time to explore these methods more fully.