Sunday, 31 August 2008

fundamental christianity and emptiness

These people have empty, empty lives.

Someone at a UU pot luck dinner last Sunday told me her view, that the majority of fundamental christians are afraid of taking responsibility for their own lives and would rather hand it over to an authority figure who can tell them just what to believe, what to think and what to do to avoid that responsibility.

I think she may have had a point. Although I must add that I believe the drive to do this may be ingrained in many more than just fundamentalists.

fish pie!

salmon, my dinnerMr. Busdriver doesn't like fish.

Go figure... *wink*

PS. Sorry guys!

you may kiss my feet

Must. Have. This. Clock.

PS. Damn the rotation of the Earth!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

easy money

Here's a little tale that shows just how far removed economic theory is from reality. The basis of conventional economics is the idea of a rational agent with perfect information, who maximises utility. According to these assumptions, a taxi-driver, for example, will arrange his activities to generate the most money for the least effort.

Now, the income of a taxi-driver depends on circumstances. On good days, with lots of passengers around, he will do well; on bad days, he won't. A rational taxi-driver will therefore work longer on good days and give up early on bad ones. However, a study of taxi-drivers in New York carried out by Colin Camerer and others shows the exact opposite. The taxi-drivers seem to set themselves a daily target, and stop working once they reach it. So they work shorter hours on good days, and longer hours on bad ones. They could increase their earnings by 8 per cent just by working the same number of hours every day, for the same total working time. If they worked longer on good days and shorter on bad ones, they could increase their earnings by 15 per cent. But they don't have a good enough intuition for economic phase space to appreciate this. They are adopting a common human trait of placing too much value on what they have today, and too little on what they may gain tomorrow.

From: The Science of Discworld II: The Globe

This is why I don't work regular hours, although I'm supposed to. I compensate bad days, when I'm just less productive, with good ones. (Fortunately, the good ones seem to outnumber the bad ones often enough for me to regularly take an afternoon off for the hell of it.)


I think I've found the cause of my eczema: K.'s apartment.

Or rather the stairs leading up to it. They're very steep and when I go down them, my legs always brush against the step above.

This, I believe, may cause skin-to-carpet contact, as my trouser legs ride up from the friction with the floor covering. Most of the patches on my legs are just above my ankles, above the top of my socks, exactly where thy touch the stairs. Apparently I'm either allergic to something in the carpet or there is a fungus in it. (The latter goes to show it doesn't always pay to be such a good hostess. At least not to fungi...)

slash dot quote

but little do they know that me and Chelsea are the most plutonic friends ever.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

slash dot quote

When he first seen him he knew something was up. The kid was the epitamy of perfection. Natural short blonde hair and the tanned almost olive skinwas like a magnet that demanded physical attention and then his eyes....... The were such a light blure and probably one of a kind or very rare.

I'm on a roll!

slash dot quote

His whole body shuddered, and he had never experienced an organism like this.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

too thin for comfort

One benefit of being fat is that you're the last person anybody sits down next to on public transport. Unfortunately that advantage seems to be fading; several times this past week people have made me pick up my bag - no use putting it away, I thought - and sat next to me.

I'm not used to it, I'm investigating the cost of going first-class.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

younger than McCain

younger than McCain

At today's pot-luck dinner that traditionally starts off our UU season, some - actually quite a lot - of the discussion was about politics. Somebody mentioned a website that listed things that are younger than John McCain and gave examples such as the Golden Gate Bridge (1937) and chocolate chip cookies (although wikipedia lists 1933 as it's apocryphal birthdate and 1936 as date of publishing in a cookbook...)

This site is also being published, in a book called "72 Things Younger Than John McCain".

And here's a song about things that are younger than John McCain:
Words and Music by John J King

John McCain will be 72 before the next election
Older than any other first-term president – I wonder if he still gets erections
He’s so old and seen so much, we thought we’d make a list and write this tribute song.
He’s older than a lot of things and so it’s really long

GI Joes, Barbie Dolls, The Air Force, Shopping Malls
The CIA and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Credit Cards, String Bikinis, Minute Rice, Hot Dog Weenies

Pop Tarts, Tupperware, Hula Hoops, Medicare
Nike Shoes, The Pentagon, Burger King, Teflon
Gatorade, Radar, Slinkies; and the urge to make it kinky

Irish Coffee black with a big shot of Jack is even younger than “the Mac”

Everything in this song is younger than John McCain
He can’t even get the facts right in his own campaign
He may be sleeping through the senate but hey I can’t complain
We could rent a better president…

Disney World, Disneyland, CocaCola in a Can
Sweet n’ Low, Tylenol, Batman and Thunderball
K-F-C, The Rubik’s Cube, Implants for your Boobs
The Atom Bomb, and “Under God” in the Pledge.

John McCain is older than the Golden Gate Bridge
He’s younger than Bob Dole but only by a smidge

Verse 3:
Frosted Flakes and Pizza Hut boyhood friends with King Tut
Alaska, Velcro, Air Bags, I guess that’s why his face sags
NATO, The United Nations; he’s as old as FM Stations
Israel, Rock and Roll, Keith Richards, Birth Control
He’s older than his wife and he’s younger than his mama
He’s old enough to be one and a half Barack Obamas

Bridge 3:
Spaghetti-O’s, Pinocchio, Firebombs in Tokyo
Casablanca, Bambi and the Wizard of Oz

Everything in this song is younger than The Mac
He calls himself an expert but he keeps mixing up the facts
He’s either forgetting or he’s smoking too much crack
We could rent a better president

Saturday, 23 August 2008

that's what turtles do!

I was reminded of this by a repeat of QI. Stephen Fry tells a slightly different version to the one quoted here, which comes from A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

The origin of the quote is unclear.

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."

The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"

"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

As a Dicworld fan, it seems the obvious answer would've been that the turtle swims. That's what turtles do!

diving for pearls of wisdom

A few days ago I was blogsurfing, rather mindlessly, and found another gem of a blog here. It's called The Gods Are Bored. Praise and worship suggestions for those longing to be Left Behind. In a recent post, she explained the workings of fundamentalist Christianity (and in my opinion any fundamentalism):

You want to travel from Detroit to Tampa. There is only one route from Detroit to Tampa. It is Interstate 75. You may not take any other route from Detroit to Tampa. There are certain exits from the Interstate that you cannot take, because they may lead you to a store that sells fireworks or some such. Or worse, those exits might lead you to an alternative route to Tampa.

There is no other destination if you are leaving Detroit, except Tampa. No other city is as great as Tampa. Don't listen if anyone tells you that, say, Indianapolis is just as nice, or that you can actually proceed past Tampa to Sanibel Island. Or that you can get to Tampa by taking a little detour and winding up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and maybe in comparison to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Tampa suddenly doesn't seem as appealing.

Have a look-see, she's good.

Also, one of the commenters and a great blogger herself, yellowdog granny, made a great point about how careless fundamentalist Christians are: they are forever keep losing track of their God, having to resort to asking others whether they've found Jesus...

PS. I just remembered that recommending bloggers you like is a bit like awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a living person. You never know if they're going to fuck up and let you down tomorrow. I'm just saying I take no responsibility whatsoever. Fortunately there won't be any messy business of reclaiming the prize money either.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Have you ever left a tupperware container of guacamole in the fridge that you meant to use immediately but completely forgot about?

If not, don't worry because I can tell you what happens. The container will expand with the gasses that are released and the guacamole will take on the look, smell and consistency of a new-born baby's poop.

With a dusting of little white hairs of mould on top.


Some little known facts about Michael Phelps:
  1. Michael Phelps once did a cannon ball. Atlantis was never seen again.

  2. Michael Phelps can break 9 world records in only 8 events.

  3. Jaws beached himself once he heard the Michael Phelps theme music.

  4. When Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was made and they needed a large whirlpool, they turned to MIchael Phelps.

  5. Michael Phelps doesn’t need to walk on water - he can fly through it.

  6. Every December 24th mermaid children everywhere stay up late hoping to catch a glimpse of Michael Phelps.

  7. Disco didn’t die, Michael Phelps killed it.

  8. It wasn’t a nuclear blast that made Godzilla emerge from the water. He was just trying to avoid Michael Phelps.

  9. It’s only “Davy Jones’ Locker” because Michael Phelps lets him borrow it.

  10. Michael Phelps can change the molecular composition of water from H2O to Au8.
Thanks David.

EDIT: somebody please tell me he's not really called Michael Fred Phelps?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

I'll catch you all later at the barbecue

"Male adulterers if you could just form a line in front of that small guillotine in the corner there..."

"No, I'm afraid we don't have any toilets. If you'd read your bible you might have seen that it was damnation without relief. So if you didn't go before you came, then I'm afraid you're not going to enjoy yourself very much. But then I believe that's the idea."

Aid groups as targets

picture by Daniel Stolle

FIVE years ago, at roughly 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2003, in Baghdad, a suicide bomber in a flatbed truck pulled up outside the lightly fortified office of the United Nations’s leading diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and detonated a cone-shaped bomb the size of a large man. The bomb was laced with hand grenades and mortars, and it carried more than a thousand pounds of explosives. Its force was so fierce that it shook the American-controlled Green Zone, three miles away.

While many United Nations officials were killed instantly, Mr. Vieira de Mello was not. For more than three hours, he lay trapped beneath the collapsed roof and floors of the three-story building, as he asked about the fates of his colleagues and complained about the pain in his legs. Although the Bush administration had not equipped American forces to respond to large-scale terrorist attacks on civilian targets, several soldiers heroically risked their lives to save him, submerging themselves in the sweltering, crumbling wreckage.

While many United Nations officials were killed instantly, Mr. Vieira de Mello was not. For more than three hours, he lay trapped beneath the collapsed roof and floors of the three-story building, as he asked about the fates of his colleagues and complained about the pain in his legs. Although the Bush administration had not equipped American forces to respond to large-scale terrorist attacks on civilian targets, several soldiers heroically risked their lives to save him, submerging themselves in the sweltering, crumbling wreckage.

In November 2001, Osama bin Laden declared, “Under no circumstances should any Muslim or sane person resort to the United Nations. The United Nations is nothing but a tool of crime.” Last year, Al Qaeda specifically denounced the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations as “direct enemies aiming to change the fabric of Muslim society.”

Mr. Vieira de Mello’s political team had come to Iraq in 2003 in order to hasten the end of the American occupation, but this proved to matter little to a man known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, who helped Al Qaeda plan the attack. “A lot of Islamic countries have been through injustices and various occupations and foreign troops using the U.N. resolutions,” he said afterward, referring to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

By this logic the 140,000 unarmed, civilian personnel who do political, humanitarian, development and human rights work for the United Nations would be blamed for the Security Council’s actions and inactions (over which these civil servants have little say).

New York Times

PS. Today in 1919 Afghanistan gained independence from the British.

current desired objective

go to sleep


Yellow is the colour of my true love's hair
In the mornin' when we rise,
In the mornin' when we rise,
That's the time, that's the time,
I love the best.
-- Colours, Donovan

Your Existing Situation
Defensive. Feels her position is threatened or inadequately established. Determined to pursue her objectives despite the anxiety induced by opposition.

Your Stress Sources
The existing situation is disagreeable. Feels lonely and uncertain as she has an unsatisfied need to ally herself with others whose standards are as high as her own, and wants to stand out from the rank and file. This sense of isolation magnifies the need into a compelling urge, all the more upsetting to her self-sufficiency because of the restraint she normally imposes on herself. Since she wants to demonstrate the unique quality of her own character, she tries to suppress this need for others and affects an attitude of unconcerned self-reliance to conceal her fear of inadequacy, treating those who criticize her behavior with contempt. However, beneath this assumption of indifference she really longs for the approval and esteem of others.

Your Restrained Characteristics
Feels listless, hemmed in, and anxious; considers that circumstances and forcing her to restrain her desires. Wants to avoid open conflict with others and to have peace and quiet.
Circumstances are restrictive and hampering, forcing her to forgo all joys and pleasures for the time being.

ColorQuizYour Desired Objective
Longs for tenderness and for a sensitivity of feeling into which she can blend. Responsive to anything esthetic and tasteful.

Your Actual Problem
Disappointment at the non-fulfillment of her hopes and the fear that to formulate fresh goals will only lead to further setbacks have resulted in considerable anxiety. She is trying to escape from this into a peaceful and harmonious relationship, protecting her from dissatisfaction and lack of appreciation.

Your Actual Problem #2
Wants to be valued and respected, and seeks this from a close and peaceful association of mutual esteem.

Found on The South Beach Bum.

Monday, 18 August 2008


Since Joe.My.God beat me to reporting that Jon Stewart (is) the Most Trusted Man in America, so instead, I shall tell you about the exciting news that - finally - Franz Kafka's papers may finally become public.

Franz Kafka’s final wish before his death in 1924 — that his papers be burned — was famously defied by his friend, the writer Max Brod. The world got “The Trial,” “The Castle” and the adjective Kafkaesque; Mr. Brod got the papers.

When Mr. Brod fled to Tel Aviv from Prague on the last train out in 1939 as the Nazis rolled in, he had with him a suitcase full of Kafka’s documents.

Brod left the papers to his secretary in 1968, who died recently, leaving them to her daughters Hava and Ruth.

Since her death last year at age 101, her 74-year-old daughter, Hava, has indicated that a decision about the coveted papers will be made in the coming months.

The world is waiting with baited breath and - just for once - I'm with the world on this.

Ms. Hoffe then described a sense of being pressured from all directions, especially the state of Israel, to yield the papers or come to a decision on their future. She felt under siege, caught in a web, she added.

Her blue eyes yielding no hint of irony, she said, “It is truly Kafkaesque.”

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Olympic romance

Not that I like guns or shooting, I just heard this story on TV, that's all...

Four years ago at the Athens Olympics rifle shooter Katharina Kurkova was commenting for Czech TV after winning a bronze medal. She saw American Matthew Emmons take aim for his final shot in the 50 meter rifle, 3 positions. He was out in front, practically all he had to do was hit the target to win gold. He hit a target, but not his. Gold gone, any kind of medal gone. I believe he didn't get an Olympic diploma and ended eleventh.

Kurkova took the time to talk to him afterwards. Four years after they met she's competing as Katharina Emmons. Katharina won the ten meter air rifle, the first medal of the Games and today it was her husband's chance to take revenge for that mistake in Athens. It was his last shot, again he was in a great position. He shot a 4.4 and finished fourth.

You'd think the romance and the drama would warrant more coverage, but apparently not. The Netherlands did well today, three medals on the water, I believe, one gold and two silver in rowing and sailing.

(I apologise for not doing it justice either, it's late and I'm half-watching Hellboy.)

small gods

house god is watching over youMeet K.'s house god. I don't think he has a name, although I secretly think of him as Ganesh. He lives on top of the kitchen cupboards.

The title refers to a book by Terry Pratchett by the same name. In Small Gods the god Om finds that, although many are Omnians in name, he has only one believer left and he is therefore relegated to small god status, generally reserved for gods who have never managed to gather a following, "the gods of slightly significant places; the hair rising on the back of your neck as you enter a suddenly still glade."

Om saves his only believer, Brutha, from execution by the false prophet Vorbis by dropping from the claws of an eagle in his turtle form.

"left left left up up left right a bit left-"
"- up left now, when I say three, one, two, THREE-"

House gods are also classed as small gods.


I want to knowThat's it for now as far as tinkering with the blog features goes, I think.

But what do you think? If you're not in The Netherlands, does some stuff still come up in Dutch, for instance? Or does the page take much longer to load?

Saturday, 16 August 2008

charity at last

Ever since the European UU Spring Retreat in April I've been meaning to become a donor of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. At first I kept forgetting, but recently I've been trying different ways to join their First Responder program. Frustratingly, somehow, their website kept refusing my credit card information, whatever I tried. So I printed out the form, filled it in and sent it by fax. But that didn't work, the fax machine wouldn't confirm the message had been sent. I don't think international calls from the faxes at work have been blocked...

Anyway, as I was sorting out my new link lists, I came across the site again and figured I might as well give it another shot. Finally it accepted me!

Giving money to charity can be hard and frustrating work sometimes...

improved euro coin

King HomerA Spanish sweet shop owner has found a unique one euro coin that had been skilfully reworked to depict Homer Simpson instead of King Juan Carlos of Spain. As he was counting the money from his cash register on August 8, Jose Martinez from Aviles in northern Spain found the vastly improved euro coin. I had never heard of this thing before, but there appears to be a tradition of hobo nickels. For a comparison with the original click here.

I wonder what other euro coins could be changed into. I have great hopes for the Dutch ones with a stylised Queen Beatrix on them...

Thanks for the story to Jockohomo

more BUTT

Good news for lovers of Scissor Sisters and Jake Shears in particular. The upcoming fall edition of BUTT magazine will include an interview with Jake from New York.

Here's the picture preview BUTT posted on its site:

"Jake Shears hanging out at home, photographed by Hedi Slimane, in the new upcoming autumn issue of BUTT."

I will get a copy. If anyone else is interested, it should be out in late August.

under construction

under constructionIf weird things happen to my blogroll or other parts of this page, it's me playing around and changing a few things.

I'm not happy with the Blog List gadget that Blogger provided. It tries to predict what you want, which isn't too bad, but then it won't let you override it when things go wrong. I tried to stick with it for a few weeks to see if I would change my mind and I haven't. So now I'm changing back to the old Link List feature.

Also, I'm just fooling around with some of the other features, few, if any will stay on this site very long I suspect, but I might want to try out how they look. You tell me which ones you like, which ones you hate and which are just meh. (I already deleted the internet-speak one, though, so if you don't know what "meh" means, tough!) Also, am I missing any blogs or sites that I really ought to know about? Why haven't you told me before?

I think this would be a nice widget for Little David:

Jewish Proverb quotes

PS. I'm also installing 3D Sudoku and possibly MSN Messenger on Precious...


So ever since I got Precious, I have had 3G turned off because it was simply eating into my battery without any obvious returns.

Can someone tell me what it does and why it's so special? I realise that certain people now desperately wanting a 3G iPhone has nothing to do with 3G in general - it's just because they're apple-freaks and will lap up anything that's thrown at them, if they really wanted to have 3G, Precious and other models have been on the market for over a year now...

agony uncles

As of this month, I have not one, but two gay agony uncles (I swear I didn't type "aunts" the first time round!) on my blogroll. Gay Banker has been there for a while, combining advise and other blogging and now Father Tony of Farmboyz fame has joined The Bilerico Project with a dedicated advise column.

Judging from the first two instalments and his thoughtful, compassionate posts elsewhere, he will help lots of people. I love his description as "a Roman Catholic priest who has been on an extended vacation from that vocation for many years". He may have walked out and turned his back on life as a priest, but he obviously hasn't lost the pastoral vocation; I would love to be one of his flock.

I bet Rome doesn't even realise what a treasure it's missing and the sad thing is that if they did, they still wouldn't be able to get over themselves and accept him.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

don't wait, procrastinate

Unlike the title of this blog would suggest, I'm actually being very good about doing what needs to be done, it just happens that there's so much needing to be done at the moment that I'm having difficulty prioritising. Top of the list right now is finishing a translation for a friend of K's who needs it for his exhibition next month.

We've met once or twice and he was really hard up looking for help (the original writer failed to deliver and then when it was finally done, the translator that had been lined up was on holiday.) He's been very nice and insisting he has to pay me for it, but I like doing this as along as it's only once in a while. I couldn't go back to editing full time, for instance. When we were chatting on the phone a couple of days ago he promised me a bottle of Pimm's, that's payment enough for me. I'm sure we'll have something of an Indian summer that will make it all the more enjoyable to drink.

I'm not sure if the book comes with the exhibition or the exhibition comes with the book, but either way, it needs an introduction and a biography. I've already translated the latter and am putting the finishing touches on the former. I just need to clear my mind once in a while so I can look at a particular sentence with fresh eyes. Right now, that sentence is the last sentence, so I'm not bothered too much about taking a short break to write this.

cup o' Joe

No, for a change this has nothing to do with Mr.My.God, this is about one of my favourite addictions: caffeine.

As far as addictions go, you could do worse. I never was a heavy drinker anyway and I've recently cut down to a couple of cups a day, if that. I usually start out with one cup of "real" coffee when I get to work, then for the rest of the day I drink decaf (it's all machine-coffee, all equally not-that-bad-but-not-great-either, so it doesn't matter much to me) and at night when I get home, I allow myself one big mug of good coffee - and since I stopped drinking so much of it during the day I often don't take myself up on that one.

But perhaps I should start drinking more of the hard stuff again. This recent article in the New York Times not only sums up all the ways coffee isn't bad for you, it even suggests a couple of ways in which it's good. With my weight I'm at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, so lowering that risk by 28% sounds pretty good.

EDIT: This post isn't about this Cup of Joe either.

I finally did it

Thanks to K for the inspiration, both getting me to cook in general and this recipe in particular. Quick, easy and full of goodness, necessary for someone who's wasting away (or at least trying to! I'm officially dieting again. It has no name, except moderation and being sensible.)

sparrow, not angel

I can't remember whether I blogged about this before, more than likely I did, but I was looking for the lyrics and came across this video, which is absolute genius. Also, if you have any sense you'll love to hear it again... *glares*

Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange

Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange.
Ne crois pas que ça m'dérange.
Jour et nuit, je pense à toi.
Toi, te souviens de moi
Qu'au moment où ça t'arrange?
Et quand revient le matin,
Tu t'endors sur mon chagrin.
Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange!

Johnny! Johnny!
Si tu étais plus galant,
Johnny! Johnny!
Je t'aimerais tout autant.

Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange.
Ne crois que pas que ça m'dérange.
Si tu me réveilles la nuit,
C'est pour dire que tu t'ennuies,
Que tu veux une vie de rechange
Mais, quand revient le matin,
Tu t'endors sur mon chagrin.
Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange!

Johnny! Johnny!
Si tu étais plus galant,
Johnny! Johnny!
Je t'aimerais tout autant.

Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange.
Entre nous, qu'est-ce que ça change?
L'homme saura toujours trouver
Toutes les femmes du monde entier
Pour lui chanter ses louanges.
Dès qu'il en sera lassé,
Elles seront vite oubliées.
Vraiment, vous n'êtes pas des anges.

Johnny! Johnny!
Depuis que le monde est né,
Johnny! Johnny!
Il faut tout vous pardonner.

Ahhh! Johnny...

Ahhh! Men...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

apartment update

I'm about to leave for the actual signing. I'll be able to move in from November 12th...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

more puzzles

Last week I bought a book of "Japanese puzzles", a rather broad term which, at least over here in The Netherlands, seems to generally apply to so-called nonograms. Series of numbers tell you how many squares in each row or column need to be filled in, but you have to figure out which ones. Usually they have a title which points to the picture that will appear when you finish it correctly.

What I didn't realise was that the book I bought had four-star puzzles, a bit more difficult than I was used to, at least on paper. Fortunately I had found a re-fillable pencil on the train a couple of weeks before, so the time I didn't spend on the train reading this last week, I spent puzzling.

At one point a conductor even made a remark about it. He pulled a folded copy of his own book from his belt (I don't think they have to wear it, but as an addition to their uniform many of them seem to wear this pouch which bears close - too close for comfort - resemblance to a fanny pack. Fortunately it's black or a dark navy, I can't remember, rather than fluorescent.)

I realised there was a website that I used to do these things online, but it seems to have disappeared. But I found another one, that provides random nonograms ranging in size from 5x5 to 25x25 squares. No pictures, but fun. Especially the smaller ones remind me a bit of playing Minesweeper. The larger puzzles are more logically challenging.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

sleeping in

Tomorrow morning I'm having a lie-in. I'm meeting with my mortgage advisor to talk through the details at 9.30 AM. I could go in to work first, but by the time I got there, I'd have to turn back...

It's the second time this week that I can sleep in, the third in two weeks, the first was when I went to see the apartment last week, the second on Monday to see the doctor, but this one is extra-luxurious because of the late time of the appointment.

EDIT (Saturday afternoon): Obviously the late mornings didn't do me much good, because I was so tired this morning that I slept right through my alarm - it has a default setting for weekends of 10 AM, in case I'm not awake by then - turned over and went back to sleep about four times and finally got up at 2 PM. At least now I'm rested...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

ten isn't perfect anymore

It hasn't been for a couple of years now, but this is the first time the new gymnastics scoring system will be used at the Olympic Games. Expect the masses of once-every-four-years followers to be confused.

Here's the New York Times cheat sheet for an overview of the old and new scoring rules, but for those who need a bit more of an in-depth explanation, this article may help.

Of course more likely than not nobody who reads this blog is remotely interested in gymnastics. In case there are other events you want to keep track of, the same newspaper provides a handy Olympics Tracker. (I would have to check tomorrow at work, but it seems the settings and favourites are not related to your account at the NYT site, but to your computer...)

Monday, 4 August 2008

novel experience

the writing on the wall

It's not unusual for me to receive compliments on my English (which feels nice, but I'm not fishing, thanks) but to be honest I still learn new words and expressions almost every day, I feel in no way accomplished. In Dutch, it doesn't happen all that often.

On Friday I bought two books at the station, Het Verdriet van België (The Sorrow of Belgium) by the recently deceased Hugo Claus - which I just felt I had to mention but has no relevance to this story - and Maerlants Wereld, the comprehensive sketch of the world and life of Jacob van Maerlant, arguably the first and best, but certainly the most prolific, Dutch language Mediaeval poet, by Frits van Oostrom.

LelievletThe latter almost stumped me today with the word "klapgijp", a nautical term that I didn't recognise at first. I do know what it means, however, and have even experienced a few as a Sea Scout. It's quite a dangerous thing to happen but there doesn't seem to be a separate word for it in English. A klapgijp is an uncontrolled jibe which occurs when one is sailing and the mainsail suddenly catches wind from the other side, causing the boom to swing across from side to side unexpectedly.

However just when I thought I had avoided that obstacle Van Oostrom tripped me up within the same paragraph as the klapgijp with the word "menetekel". If you're any kind of judge of character you'll have understood I can't stand not knowing the meaning of word, so I (eventually) found its meaning in the German wikipedia, it's - literally - the writing on the wall, because both these expressions are derived from the same part in the Book of Daniel. As Wikipedia tells us:

during a drunken feast, King Belshazzar of Babylon takes sacred golden and silver vessels, which had been removed from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. Using these holy items, the King and his court praise 'the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone'. Immediately, the disembodied fingers of a human hand appear and write on the wall of the royal palace the words מנא ,מנא, תקל, ופרסין (Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin).

When none of his scholars can decipher the writing on the wall, Daniel translates:

And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PARSIN, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Daniel's interpretation is based on divisions of currency, Mene, Tekel and Parsin are all Aramaic names for currency, which can also have another meaning:
  • Mene is literally a "monetary toll".
  • Tekel is literally a "tokenary weight"
  • Parsin is literally a "division" or "portion"
All this reminded me somehow of David's Yiddish lessons and yes, I'm aware that I'm juggling quite a few languages here. I managed to use the latest one, zaftig, in a sentence, this week. When K. said I needed to lose a few more pounds but that I should stay Rubenesque, I corrected him and said I wanted to be zaftig. (This caused some confusion with a guest, who assumed at least one of us had to be Jewish to be having that conversation.)

The picture at the top of this post is Rembrandt's 1635 work Belshazzar's Feast.

eczema - you're never too old to start



I can't believe it, I've slept in a couple of hours, been to the doctor, picked up my prescription at the pharmacy, did some grocery-shopping and took random wildlife snaps and a few pictues of my old neighbourhood and I still have an hour left before I can go pick up the package some eBay seller sent by registered mail (very nice and safe, but they deliver during the day time and if you're not in you get a message to pick it up at the post office - during office hours!)

Relaxing, having coffee and an actual (shock!) breakfast, a girl could get used to this.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

last night I met Ellen

No, not that Ellen, K's new car! She's called Ellen because the Ellen show happened to be on when K asked Sunshine what he should call her - but I like to think it's because Ellen is a Porsche.

Porsche, geddit? We only went into the parking garage, sat down inside her, took the top down and then put it back up again. Then he opened the hood, to show me where the engine wasn't. And the boot, where it wasn't either. It's a really strange sensation.

Anyway, as you may have gathered I went over to Amsterdam yesterday, it was the Gay Pride Canal Parade but I didn't really see any of it. The parade crossed K's canal a bit further down, so I stopped and put my stuff down at his place first, then got lured into sitting down and relaxing for a bit.

We did go out at night, after a quick stop at Ellen's, we went to Prik and then to Vrankrijk, a squatters' bar for a queer night. However, the show was set to start at midnight and K.'s friend's drag act wasn't on until 1 AM. We're not exactly nightowls to begin with, my leg was starting to get tired and K. was starting to get drunker, so we headed off just before the doors closed.

This is the distinctive façade of Vrankrijk, the upper floors were officially bought by a collective or something, but to keep the independent character intact the bar is still officially a squat.


O yes, I had to walk two blocks to find a (working) cash machine to get the 3,50 euro entrance fee, but I did it, for the Belgrade transsexuals.