Blood donation in the Netherlands

Blood donation came up in a casual conversation with friends. I’ve done it a few times in China and UK. Now it’s time to do something good again! So I registered online, got a phone call for a check up appointment, and went there on 26/06/2017.

In the appointment, as usual, you have to fill out a form with all the questions pertaining to the quality of your blood (disease, travels, health issues, etc.). Everything was fine till this point but unfortunately my iron level was too low on that day (7.7/7.8). The doctor said I need to wait till 3 months later to come for a checkup again and donate blood. (Never happen in other countries!)

That’s also why I’m writing this post now! I got the notice 26/09/2017 and went there 27/09/2017. This time I passed the iron and blood pressure test barely (7.9/7.8). It was late after work (around 7:30pm) and I’m surprised by how many people were still there! Lots of good-hearted people in the country! Everyone was full of smiles 😀

The doctor very kindly suggested a cup of soup before the donation. Champignons flavour!

I walked out of there a little after 9pm. With cookies of course 😛

It’s funny the doctors are so different in blood donation. The procedures and equipments vary slightly too. Good to have the experience!

After blood giving, I know I shouldn’t move too much. But I still challenged myself to some sports (as always). I didn’t push myself too hard this time so it was ok.

Now two days later, I feel like there’s something working up in my brain that makes my thinking different from before the blood donation: calmer and even more active with new thoughts perhaps? It’s a funny contradictory feeling… And I’d say it’s a good thing!

Lots and lots of spinach now!


In Hawaii

I can’t believe that I procrastinated almost a year to get this post done.

It has been in the draft forever. But I seldomly delete any drafts because I want to get them done, even though the quality won’t be so high… this thinking might be wrong ..

Anyway, here’s we I can remember (including the parts I’ve written before):

I have been resistant in writing traveling blogs, but this place encouraged me to write something enormously.

The conference was very nice, but then I realised there’re many nice things in addition to the conference!

Some places I visited on the main Island include:

Beaches, of course, beautiful sunsets, surfing, walking on the water, feeling the sea breeze

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Shopping districts: went to some malls to get essentials and have a look at local goods. And the tax rate is lower!

Pearl Harbour: went to a submarine. The whole tour needs a whole day and have to be booked in advance.

Hawaiian zoo: not very impressive. Saw a chimp playing with plastics. Could be dangerous…

The dinasour bay: snorkling was great, lots of pretty fish in the shadow water area. Even when it’s raining, there was something to see. First time got “rescued”.

The diamond head: good walk towards the top. Saw a rainbow on the way back.

It was definitely a mistake not renting a car at the beginning. Driving on the coast route on the island was great!

Met some good friends and enjoyed good food. That’s about it!

The end of a “busy” summer -2017

The summer in the Netherlands is coming to an end.  This is the first time I experience the Holland summer in full (well, strictly speaking, minus 2 weeks in the UK and Paris).

Five years ago, I spent 2 weeks in the Netherlands and I liked it very much. The weather was very chill back then but I thought it was because I went at the end of August, just coincidentally I didn’t get caught in the heat wave.  Now it’s been pleasantly proved that my thinking was wrong. And an average around 23 degrees is not bad at all, it’s great!

Ok, now, more things happened in the summer. I went to more festivals and meet-ups than usual. That’s also why I didn’t write many blog posts (0 in July, big excuse). More posts will come after (I’ve already posted a few, like this one, this one and this one. And as I wrote here, I’m going to schedule the new ones once per day so it doesn’t swamp people’s feed).

It was nice spending a summer day in Utrecht as well. Ice cream, frites and flowers 😀 ++ Books!

Five years, before and after in the Netherlands

As I mentioned it a few times in my posts, my first encounter with the Netherlands is 5 years ago. Back then I could never have imagined I would come back 5 years later and do my PhD here. It’s a funny sensation every time when I think about it. So I decided to write something about it.

Let me ask myself some questions in this direction and answer just in a few keywords (I love keywords. They are abstract and give rise to the possibilities of different interpretations. Ok, I don’t like this all the time. But in casual writing, it should be fine. ):

What I was thinking and what I am thinking: Poisson geometry and all kinds of physics VS. music information retrieval and  functional programming

Anything else different: train station, constructions on campus, devices I have, my skills and experience, people around me, etc. (these are some changes I realised, there might be way more..)

How about invariants, anything didn’t change: the layout of the cities, the weather, the sheeps, the parks, the canals, bus, dom, etc.

One thing in-between changed and didn’t change is where I’ve been staying for 7 months now (gonna move out soon though). I’m staying in the same building as 5 years ago but just on a different side.  The room feels so familiar.

It’s like having two major “commits” in life. Am I doing it right? Was I wrong back then? Or was it actually the reverse? It’s good to remember something which worked in the past, but I think I tend to take in new information and move forward, always…(unlike git)

One last funny thing is about the dutch language. I was back then with a group of physicists friends and I discintively remember the conversation was about the dutch language. I thought to myself, “it’s an interesting language, but I’ll probably never have the time to learn it”. Just one month ago, this was proven to be wrong. Time proves things!


On the left: Photos taken five years ago

On the right: My lunch a few weeks ago, ordered at the left bottom red cottage, local “tea house”

Blogging for about a year

Time flies! It’s been almost a year since I started “blogging”!

It all started with three things coming together: attending a polyglot gathering talks about blogging, encountered this blog (a really good blog/vblog by a CS professor Philip Guo), and actually got an invite to write a blog post for WiMIR (Women in Music Information Retrieval), my first blog post. I must say I mostly kept writing for myself and there are almost no “useful” posts, or posts direct to a certain group of audience (which I should probably do more). But I think I’m generally happy with it so far.

Life has been busy, and there are times when I just wanted to give it a break. But writing is additive. The urge to write comes back from time to time. How amazing there are times when one just want to run away from reading and writing to go out and play, while other time theabsorbing and outputting words on the screen or on the paper just seem to be the “superfood” of life.

I like writing on paper. But it has now become something special. It’s much cheaper, faster, stabler, and easier to use a device to type than to actually write something down on paper. I also had this discussion not long ago with a friend: there’s a big different in track, that is, it’s much more difficult to erase from paper than using “backspace”.

Ok. Now coming back to blogging again. My workflow is more like this: create a a title and write down some materials briefly, attach some photos -> leave it there for a few days, or weeks, or months, with or without ever coming back to it -> post. I like the writing titles part the best. It makes you realise how easy it is to generate ideas and it sometimes prevents the danger of stopping writing completely (well you still have to have the time and the motivations to do it though). And it makes the content better if you ever come back to it, iterations upon iterations, meliora! Algorithmically, one can check and add more leaves of ideas to the tree of the blog theme in this way.
In a more general and irresponsible way: Time always helps produce something interesting, right?

Through the time intervals between blog writing, one can connect with the current-self with the old-self, update your belief and see what changed in your self, what should have changed and what shouldn’t. I’m not very sure if this is in any way meaningful to others, but someone out there might be interested in seeing this? (My future self definitely, I think)

Now I have ~50 drafts on wordpress, mostly because of my slacking around in the summer while the ideas just kept coming. And there are 20 more topics on another list (I started use Wunderlist recently, it turns out to be surprisingly useful in organising myself and time management!). These are probably going to keep this blogging running for a while.

I recently also found out this nice feature of scheduling the posting of written blog posts. So now I don’t have excuses of wrong timing anymore. Will try to post something more regularly.

But for future, I hope I can do the following improvements:

Revise the posts more often.

Writing in different languages.

And maybe start a vlog!

Visa applications

I have applied for lots of visas so far. I’m not sure if I remember them all, but here are the ones which I can remember:

(Turkey): First time aboard, but with a group so I didn’t apply it myself

Swiss: First time aboard by myself, did all the applications almost just by myself

Germany: Second time application to Schengen visa, when I was attending Uni back in China

For my master studies and conferences, I applied to UK, Germany (in the UK), France (in the UK), and Singapore (in France) (+ Indonesia arrival visa)

For further studies (PhD -> Master, it’s complicated…), I applied to US and Canadian visas (in France), but during the summer, I had to apply to the UK and Schengen visas (in the US) again.

Finally, for my studies now in the Netherlands, the Utrecht University helped me with yet another Schengen visa application.

Recently, for recent conferences and personal reasons, I had to apply for the UK visa in the Netherlands yet again. I have to say the UK visa is the most pricy one. In addition, there’s a document (Residence Permit Copy) which is not stated required on the official document requirement list, but they the visa centre asked for it. I heard lots of people even paied 10 euros for copy this piece of paper at hotels which are close to the application centre. I was lucky enough to have a kind hotel host who helped me out without any charges…

And the most recent visa application is the Japanese one (in the Netherlands), much cheaper than the UK one and people are much more friendly at the embassy. Looking forward to the trip in November!

For the ISMIR conference, people around me are applying for a Chinese visa. I can see that they are not very used to this. I wish I could help more, I wish I know how their databases works, but since I was speculating in my application processes and each individual and country has a different situation, I don’t think I could help much concretly. Sorry..


All the bureaucracy. I understand they are necessary. At the same time, many improvements could be done there, but it as long as it doesn’t brake, few initiatives will be made..