Got a chance to look around Amsterdam a bit after the NERDI lecture. Julia hadn’t had a chance to do much touristy, so we tried to get a bus tour of the city to hit the major sites, but they were all booked. Instead walked over to the university that is hosting her for the year.
The University of Amsterdam is located, basically, within the red light district. The XXX symbol, which shows up in such incongruous places as church steeples, is also part of the university’s logo. It stands for the three deaths of Amsterdam: flood, fire, and plague. But it’s still a little disconcerting.
We then caught a boat tour that circled some of the canals around the city. I’ve always liked canals, and I like Amsterdam as a city. Admittedly, it’s easy to like cities which you are visiting; tourists get a particular perspective by design. Nonetheless, I liked the people and the feel of the city. I’ll save the essay on anarcho-capitalism for another day, but I also have to like a culture that is willing to experiment with greater freedoms for its populace. It’s a shame, in some ways, that Amsterdam is so widely known for its legalized “soft” drugs and prostitution, since these are integrated into a larger framework that aims for inclusion and freedom. These ideals are what drive creativity and innovation.
After a quick tour of the city, Julia and I chatted at a cafe on the Dam square over a pint. If only all my office hours could be so picturesque, overlooking the palace and the people. We talked about the oldest of problems, sampling methods for the web.
Afterward, we met up with Han for dinner and a show at Pompoen: nice Spanish wine, and a decent creme brulee. Amsterdam at night has none of fevered hurry of many other cities its size, yet all of the life. I would definitely like to come back in a warmer season.