Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Laundry, Tacos and the Red/Blue Bandits

Hello avid readers!

Welcome to another exciting chapter of my summer life. The last two days in Rotterdam have been pretty average, at work I have been helping out with some construction as well as come research for the naval architecture of the project, however some of our progress has been slowed down because our marine advisor for the project (a Naval Architect in Chile) has been unable to communicate with us because his university was shut down due to student protests (typical latin american university issues). However, today I got the joy of playing with a sewing machine from the 1940's, it is a beautiful machine, swiss made and super tough. One of the coolest things I saw in the machine is how it handles different stitching patterns. In order to get a different stitching patterns you load one of this "cartridges" (basically a cylinder with a hole in the middle and a special pattern in the curve surface.) then when the machine runs, this cartridge rotates and the curved part moves this other part thats spring loaded to it and that moves the needle around (basically a cam mechanism). It was awesome to see, and I think I have added a vintage sewing machine to the things I have to buy for my future collection (in addition to a centrifugal governor and a planimeter.)

After my day at work I went over to my friend apartment to have some tacos! It was good to have some homemade food! After dinner we went to Kralingen Paas (the nice park I talked about last week) and looked for a sailing club so I could rent some boat for a couple of hours in the afternoon. After a bit of walking we found a sailing club!!! The club we found is not in the best state (I'll upload some pics when I go there again) but they have a good amount of boats, its close to my house and it has affordable rates so I'll be able to sail after work a couple of times a week. I will try to sail next week. In the meanwhile me and my coworkers are going sailing in the weekend (for free) so stayed tuned with the blog for some pictures!

Also something funny happened while walking to the sailing club. We were in this neighborhood and then this little dutch kid starts talking to me and my friend in dutch, his mom came after us and asked us if we had stolen the keys to a bicycle that was on the street (yeah... I know what you are thinking damn dutch people always going for the hispanics!....thats what I thought at first) we told her we had no idea of what she was talking about and she took it well, she told us someone had told her that two people, one wearing red one wearing blue were seen taking the keys to the bike (yep... just our luck, my friend was in a red "thing 3" shirt and I was wearing the blue "go greek! 2010" shirt) the lady was nice and she told us to look out for "white dutch people in blue and red" , after that we walked away...

I took the cheap route again and did my laundry at my friend's this time I took a lot so it was a little problematic to carry it on the way back, but almost every bike here in holland has a little space at the back where you can tie your "cargo" so it was not too bad. Apparently no one has a dryer here in the Netherlands so all my clothes are outside drying (hopefully they will be ready for tomorrow!).

That been my life so far! Please don't hesitate to put any questions or any other thoughts in the "comments" section below, I'll do my best to answer/address them. Also if you want me to make an entry on something specific don't be afraid to ask!

Ciao kids!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Legality and Beach Beasts

Hey people,

It is my great pleasure to announce that my work permit was finally accepted! This means now I will get paid! Although this means I won't visit home till December it also means I can stay in Europe and travel! Unfortunately before I get paid I still need to register for a tax number (surprise surprise), seems like the government never ceases to want to get the best from you.

Apart from that today has been pretty uneventful, I hacked some power drills at work today and did a little bit of research. I also had a general meeting for the project today (through Skype) and had to convince people not to put fixed wings (instead of sails) in the boat (there is a reason why sailboats with wings are only used in the america's cup). Good progress today overall.

I don't really have much about my life to tell you guys today so I will talk about a recently found hero of mine: Theo Jansen. Let me start off with a video:

Jansen is this dutch artist that makes crazy stuff. He started off as a Physics student in TU Delft (the MIT of Holland) but dropped out to become an artist. He is most famous for his strandbeest ("beach animals"), these are kinetic sculptures he builds out of this electrical conduit tubing (sort of like thinner PVC pipes, that can be molded). His beasts are powered by the wind and walk through a very ingenious linkage system. His machines are essentially lots of these linkage systems and a crankshaft to make sure they are all timed right. He has been working with these machines since 1990, however in the last 5-8 years he has added pneumatics to his machines. He uses a "sail" and a linkage system to power a pump (which is also built of these tubes) to store air in 2 liter plastic bottles, after the bottles are at a high enough pressure he can use this "potential wind" to power the beasts forward. However the amazing-ness does not end there, using simple pneumatic concepts Jansen, "programmed" into his animals the ability to change direction of travel if they sense that they are walking on water as well as a pneumatic binary counter to count how many steps the beast have traveled (remember this is PURELY MECHANIC NO ELECTRONICS WHATSOEVER)... yep this guy is insane, he also has a book called "the great pretender" in which he describes his motivations and his years building the beach beasts. One of my coworkers has the book, and I read it a couple of weeks ago, and it was really awesome. The way he describes his motivations and way of thinking is remarkable and super hilarious at times, i definitely recommend the book to anyone!

I was so impressed by this guy, that I took a trip to Den Haag to see his workshop two weeks ago. We saw his working space, its at the top of a hill that divides the residential area and the highway. He was not there unfortunately but there was plenty to see. He has a "boneyard", essentially the remains of all the "extinct" beach creatures plus he also has a beach animal that you can push and pull to watch it walk. Here is the video:

It took us about 90 minutes walking in the middle of nowhere to get to his place but it was totally worth it!

Here is a 10 minute long video where he explains his work at TED (here he talks about the counter and the pneumatics and stuff):

I encourage you guys to look up more information about this guy if you are interested!

Au revoir!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frustration, Catamarans and X-Men

Hey guys!

Im back at the end of a very quiet weekend. I STILL haven't heard anything from the permit. Frankly its INSULTING that these dumbasses are giving me such a hard time trying to work the legal way (no wonder why there are so many illegal workers in the world, cause if you try doing things the right way they make it impossible for you. They must be "yeah... so you go to MIT, one of the top engineering schools in the world but you are still not good enough to work in our country (ASSHOLES)".. but whatever if i dont get paid in the next 14 days im going to pack up my stuff and head back to Boston and then visit El Salvador for a little bit

My friday was funny, we put our ghetto-ass catamaran in the water and we took turns floating in it in the dirty harbor water (we did not have a sail so we had to pull it from the shore to check the double rudder steering) check out the pics:

After that I went back home and had some beers and pizza in the roof with one of my coworkers Henrik.

Then on Saturday i spent the day in Rotterdam with my friend Ale reminiscing and laughing about our high school years. Then we got together with two other friends and went to watch X men, it was a really good movie (the best of the series in my opinion) and i recommend it to anyone!

Today... I woke up late and started my look for a catholic church. It was a failure, I did find a catholic church but it was completely closed and they had no information in the outside, I also found a Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church and a Pakistani-Christian church but still no open Catholic church very annoying but I will try again next week.

I'll keep you guys posted on the ordeal that is my legal status here in Holland!



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sun and Windmills

Hey guys!

Another day at Holland and another day that the work permit people keep me waiting, I haven't heard anything yet, but hopefully I'll hear back tomorrow (I know I have said that many times but one can only keep high hopes). I already planned that if the work permit does not work out and it turns out I cannot get paid then I'll head back to Boston to work (and live with my awesome friend Christian) and go back to El Salvador for a couple of weeks to see family and friends, but yeah I like being in the Netherlands so I hope that I don't have to leave soon.

Kept working on the catamaran hull today, we fixed the mast and the keel and tomorrow we are going to build the sail and the running rigging. After work, I wanted to take advantage of the sunny day (well sort of sunny) and go to a really nice park called the Kralingen Paas where my friend has his rugby practice. In the middle of the park there is this huge lake (where people go sailing yeah!) and right by the water there are two windmills, these are some pictures!

I went up this observing platform and spent like 20 min. contemplating the wind and the sailboats on the surface of the water, it was nice but I was hoping that one of the sailors would look at me and invite me to join their crew. Did not happen but on the bright side I will go sailing next Saturday with my co workers for FREE!

After hitting up the park I went back home and got a Tiramisu Gelato in the way (delicious!). While I was eating my ice cream and walking my bike, this sketchy white old guy started saying stuff in Dutch to me. I tried to signal that I could not understand and he was getting closer and still talking shit so I got on my bike and got away from him while he kept on screaming gibberish. I was so close to my apartment and I did not want him to see me entering my door so I went past the apartment in the bike and then killed some time to make sure he was gone. Then after no further incident I went into the apartment and had an awesome rice and pork dinner with Q (he just came back from Denmark yesterday!)

Unfortunately I wont be able to go to Belgium this weekend because my friend is super sick, but we'll try to set up something cool and cheap to do (i only have 40 euro left,,, after that I need to start changing $ into €), however I plan to go NEXT weekend and drink some good quality beer (I heard it makes Heineken and all American beers taste like water).

Thank you putos for reading yet another day in my Dutch life, I'll keep you guys updated on the status of my work permit!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On work permits and cherry stems...

Hey guys!

Just got back home today. I spent the day working on a catamaran hull that we are building in my workplace. It is super ghetto, the hulls are made from styrofoam and wood for the frame, we have a pvc pipe for the mast and we don't even have a good sail cloth to use to we used some kind of tarp that was too heavy but whatever! I'll deal with that mañana! I'll put up a picture in the blog once its done.

I know many of you were wondering if I got my work permit or not... but I did not hear anything from the lady in charge today so I'll have to wait for tomorrow to find out. I can't believe its been more than three weeks here in the netherlands, it feels like more! But yeah it'll probably be sooner than I expect so I have to use my time here in Europe wisely and travel (hard to do if I am not getting PAID!! ARRRRR...)

Also... I found out that doing 1 load of laundry here in the Netherlands costs 4 euro (6 bucks) so like a good latino I carried my dirty clothes around town and did the laundry at my friends place while playing Carlos Duti (CoD). Also... yesterday I became a more accomplished person by doing this:

So yeah! A food order came to the workspace and it had a box of cherries so I challenged one of my coworkers to tie a knot with the cherry stem and he did!! He actually tied three different stems in less time that I took tying one, also his knots were much better... but nevertheless I felt good about myself...

I'll keep you guys updated about my work permit tomorrow! Have a great day/night/evening!


PS: Please don't forget to comment on the stories so that way I know who is reading and who I can make fun of in my entries!! Thanks!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Dutch and their ways...

Hey guys!

So after a long day of work (got back to the house at 2230), I have decided to make this entry about peculiar things I have found in Holland.

First, the Dutch really seem to love Ben and Jerry's and KFC I have seen more KFC's here than in Boston and every little store has a big Ben and Jerry's sign outside. Beer is not that exciting in Holland, apparently Heineken bought all the small breweries so the only beer you can get is Heineken (of course there are some exceptions like Jupiler and other but they aren't great). Fortunately I'll be visiting Brussels soon, and my friend is taking me to Europe's best place to drink beer, more of that to come in a later entry.

Also, there is a huge Turkish/Moroccan influence in Rotterdam and so far I have been able to find 2 or 3 mosques but no catholic church! (im sorry Will!). Also my friend informed me that some of the "typical" Rotterdam foods are actually stuff like Shoarma and Kapsalon (or even Turkish Pizza) which are Turkish. The dutch don't seem to have a food of their own, the only thing that comes close is this fish they eat every friday called Herring, one of my coworkers says its half-rotten and a delicacy.

Rotterdam is incredibly bike friendly, bikes get their own road (separated from the car roads and painted red) and there are places to leave your bike all over the city. Also, Rotterdam is pretty flat so that makes getting around in a bike easy. However they are also strict on bike laws, for example, if at night you dont have lights in your bike you can get a 50 Euro fine! (thats about 75 bucks!).

But bike laws are not the only thing that the Dutch are strict on... They are also VERY strict with non-EU immigrants!! (surprise, surprise... seems that I don't get a break anywhere I go...) So, yep from my very first moments at the airport the dutch apparently cannot believe that a latino kid (half palestinian) got a job in the Netherlands that does not involve illegal activities!
Some guy at immigration wanted me to open up my email and show him my e-ticket back to the states before he let me in the country, also they did not stop asking me if I had a green card, even though I told them many times that I DID NOT NEED ONE BECAUSE I AM NOT A RESIDENT OF THE US. But yep, apparently the words "latino-USA-green card" form a love triangle anywhere you go. But that at the airport was just the beginning!

The dutch authorities have been denying my work permit for weeks now. My first week in Rotterdam I tried to go to the City Hall to register as a resident (so I can get paid and insurance) but NAAAHHHH... after two times in the city hall they tell me I need to go through a ridiculous VISA process that requires getting MIT to agree to give me credit for the internship (so it can satisfy my unrestricted electives, I am getting 1 credit P/F at the end of the summer). Then two days later I get a letter from the police (in Dutch so I had no darn clue what it said). But I asked almighty Google and she said that I had to go to the "Alien Police" (this is what it literally translates to) and get a sticker in my passport that showed I was a valid visitor... so great! I got the sticker thing done last week (it was actually less of a hassle than I thought) but they also denied my work permit again because they say that they don't want the internship to be "extra credit", so my advisor wrote them a letter that says that the unit I will be getting will go towards the number of unrestricted electives that I have to fulfill (1 credit! yay!) I hear back from them TOMORROW (Wednesday) so please pray that it gets approved so I can get paid and avoid changing my remaining dollars into Euros (very bad deal let me tell you...) And after tomorrow, I really don't know what else to expect from my permit, I think I am going to have to go back to the city hall (for a third time) and hope for the best.

AND on top of all this stuff I got stopped by customs about two weeks ago. So... the van that the project leader drives is this sketchy-ass white van with a french license plate (it is so sketchy that the owner has been offered drugs on the street about 5 times... and not the legal kind). It also turns out that where I work is close to the big ports in the west of the city so apparently the police have the right to check vehicles whenever.

But yep... there we were coming back home on a friday afternoon, when all of a sudden this car comes up to our left and stations itself in front of us with "STOP!" flashing in red lights. Some policemen/women get off the car and start talking to us in french. They ask us to step out of the car and they start questioning the driver and inspecting the back of the van. Meanwhile, a female officer comes to me and m friend (also an MIT student) and starts asking us random questions (where are you from? what are you doing in the netherlands etc) after she heard that I was from El Salvador all the other questions where directed to me. She also asked me if there was anything "special" in my backpack and I had to open it and show her my super "illegal" laptop and notebook (racial profiling at its best!) Finally they lest us go without any hassle .

After they left we learned that one of our coworkers that was cycling along with the van was able to catch this precious moment in camera! so yeah you can watch our "ordeal" here:

You can't really hear or see very well, but at least you get a view of the sketchy van and the interrogation going on. (the extra sketchy part where I am behind the tree is when I am showing the contents of my bag to the officer). So yeah those have been my interactions with Dutch culture so far! I will keep you guys updates with what happens next!

The entry is getting pretty long so I will stop there and I will write to you guys again soon!



Monday, June 20, 2011

Cooking a la chino and a lil bit about my job

So here in Rotterdam, I live in a flat with 6 other project collaborators. They are pretty cool and they are all really nice when it comes to cooking and sharing food. Among these 6 individuals, there is a mechatronics engineer from China, lets call him Q. Q is really nice and makes really good food (his rice with pork is AWESOME), it was because of him and and my other housemates that I decided to try cooking something chino today. Q showed me how to use his rice cooker before he left for Denmark so today I put myself up to the challenge to make some white rice with pork, eggs and onion.

Here is my odyssey in pictures!

The end result was a partial success, the rice was not as good as Q's (obviously) I actually had to cook it for more time because it was undercooked, but after the second half-cycle it was eatable. Hopefully by the end of the summer I'll have the technique down and make some good chino food in the weekends at MIT.

Apart from that, today was a pretty average day. In my job, we continued making some boat prototypes and I learned a lot about sailmaking which will be very useful when we build the final prototype of the boat...I just realized I haven't really talked abut my job too much so I'll elaborate on it a bit.

I work in the "Protei" initiative, Protei's goal is to develop a fleet of autonomous oil cleaning sailing robots. This summer we are building the first "full scale" Protei (about 6m long). The project is totally open source so anyone can contribute (YES even YOU can contribute by checking out and giving feedback on designs and stuff), there are engineers, industrial designers, oceanographers, naval architects all collaborating in the project. However the "Protei Core team" is about 8-9 of us here in Rotterdam and a lot of our collaborators are scattered all over the world (Chile, Italy, Norway, US, France and more) so we are responsible for coordinating everything and keeping the website up-to-date so people can watch almost in real time what we do and give us feedback. (if you are interested in the project and have more questions, don't doubt to contact me).

So far in the last three weeks we have done a lot of setting up the workspace and a lot of brainstorming and prototyping on many design concepts for the boat. I am the "Marine Engineer" so I mainly work with the Naval Architects in Chile making sure all the decisions (length, beam, draft, sail area, rigging, keel etc) are in accordance to Naval Architecture principles. I also maintain myself involved in the electronics group and help out with the fabrication. I'll have more to say about my job as the summer progresses.

But yep, that was my day today, work, cooking and lots of blogging!

Paz y Amor,


I'm back!

hey guys, i have been out of the blogging sphere for almost a year now and thanks to the inspirations and suggestions of William el nalgón Morejón and Aaron "putón" Ramirez i have decided to re start my blog.

I'll dedicate this post to updating what's happened with my life since I left for Hawaii last summer.

I arrived in Honolulu the 26 of June 2010, we spent that weekend watching the world cup (games were at 4am Hawaiian time) eating good food, and of course going to the beach a lot. I absolutely loved Hawaii and I would definitely live there if given te chance. Unfortunately I did not get to see anything outside the Honolulu/Waikiki area but from what I see and hear, the rest of the islands are even more amazing and more natural.

My favorite day in Hawaii was the day we celebrated my friend Robbie's 21st birthday in the beach. It was hilarious and probably one of the most fun days I have had in a while. (my S-230 folks have more to say on this but I'll leave it at that)

After the short stay in Hawaii, me and the rest of the S-230 gang headed off to board the beautiful SSV Robert C Seamans and thus begin our 4 week voyage to San Francisco on the 29th of June. The four weeks I spent at sea may have been the best 4 weeks of my life. I loved being in a totally different atmosphere than I am used to, and I absolutely loved the fact that I did not have to carry keys, a phone, an ipod, a wallet around. My trusty leatherman and a harness was everything I needed. I think I will be putting in posts about my adventure at sea because I definitely cannot do it justice with only one post so stayed tune to here about:

-Swimming in the middle of the pacific (with a 360 degree horizon)
-Seeing dolphins, sharks and sea lions.
-Living in a ship and adjusting to the ship schedule
-Navigating using the stars
-Seeing amazing stuff out at sea (midnight rainbow, bioluminescence etc)
-passing under the Golden Gate bridge on top of the foremast 30m high in the air.
-Awesome people I got to share this experience with
and more...

Also... here is a link for the best pictures of SEA Semester:

After SEA Semester, i stayed a week in SF and hung out with my boy "the flying hawaiian" Julian Yuen, we had a great time, eating at In n Out for the first time (it was not that great as people claim it to be), we went to the California Academy of Science and saw an Albino crocodile and we had some good Chinese AND Salvadorean food (unbelievable but they make pupusas de arroz in SF, probably the best pupusas I have had outside El Salvador).

After SF I visited MIT for a couple of days and then back to El Salvador for two weeks to take care of some family stuff. And after all of this it was time for my junior year at MIT! Junior Year as a Mech. and Ocean Engineer is special because you finally start taking some OE subjects apart from the regular MechE subjects. So my fall 2010 semester was full of fluids, thermo and water. Overall it was a good semester but not the best, it definitely dragged on for way too long and one of the classes that I was looking forward to (2.016 Hydrodynamics) turned out to be not so good. However 2.005 was awesome and definitely made my semester enjoyable (please don't hate me Ade). 2.671 was a lot of work but I was glad to get it done in the fall plus I got to use a mini wind tunnel and play around with interferometers and dynamic analyzers for the labs. I also took this kinda cool class called: "People and Other Animals". The class is exactly what it sounds like, it focuses on the history of natural history or in other words the history of the interaction of people and animals. The class was small (12 ppl on a good day) and it was half grad, half undergrad it was discussion based which is why I liked it (you don't have to know me very well to know that I love talking and dislike writing). It is taught very well and the teacher is very nice and knowledgeable so I recommend it to anyone that is looking for a history elective.

Christmas came and eventually the spring semester came. I think Spring '11 has been the semester that I have looked forward the most to, mainly because I would be taking 2.017 (Design of Electromechanical Robotic Systems) and 2.14 (Analysis and Design of Feedback Control Systems) both turned out to be very good classes and had a hell of time going through them. I especially loved 2.14 and the way it was taught and this has inspired me to continue taking classes of this time (like 2.151 and 2.171 in the fall). This probably means that I'll turn out to be more of a control's engineer than an ocean engineer but that's really fine with me.

Then after the spring semester... I arrived HERE in Rotterdam to work on Protei! Ok, you might be saying "wtf, Roberto in the Netherlands? he does not go well with the dutch i must have read that last sentence wrong", but yep it turns out I am in the Netherlands for the whole summer (I'll be blogging about my adventures here too!) So far its been really fun and it has helped a lot that I have friends from my high school in El Salvador studying here (yes... another wtf moment). Another question you may have is "what the hell is Protei?" and here is the long answer:

The short version is that I am here in Rotterdam to help develop an autonomous articulated awesome oil collecting sailboat that can be easily mass produced. You can keep an eye on the development of this project at the website above.

So yep... I think that is all that I have to say today to update you guys on my life! I'll be trying to post at least 4-5 posts every week with most of them being about my life in holland and life at SEA Semester with the rest dedicated to random cool stuff I want to share with you!

That's all for today but please keep visiting and checking up on the blog regularly!