Saturday, 29 March 2008

Hugo Claus stirs up trouble even in death

I think he would have enjoyed it a lot.

The catholic church has got its knickers in a twist because Claus, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, chose to end his life on his own terms rather than await the consequences of the disease. At a ceremony today author Erwin Mortier told Cardinal Danneels he ought to be ashamed of himself. "Celebrating your own moral superiority over the body of a dear departed is no heroism." ("De eigen morele superioriteit celebreren boven het lichaam van een geliefde dode is geen heldendaad.")

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium. The Belgian Alzheimer's organisation also placed a footnote on the one-sided coverage, arguing there are other options for sufferers of the disease which are being ignored by the media.

Five hundred invited guests, many great surviving artists from The Netherlands and Belgium, and some 400 members of the general public attended Hugo Claus' final appearance on stage. Both Belgian and Dutch TV and radio covered the farewell.

Late last year fantasy author Terry Pratchett announced he is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

the other Doctor

Heads up, everyone!

Next Saturday, April 5th, the Doctor will return to our TV screens. Doctor Who resumes at 6.20 PM in the UK, 7.20 in Western Europe.

Don't forget: the evening before will see the season's finale of Torchwood on BBC2.

In other news, K and Sunshine are at John O'Carroll's opening in Amsterdam right now and I wish I could've joined them.

EDIT:
Torchwood: Access Denied

grumble

Sorry to be such a miserable person these days, I'm having another "cold", the third time this year. Thanks to the coughing, which drains my energy and prevents me from sleeping, I'm finding it hard to think about anything else, or to concentrate.

Fortunately I already had a doctor's appointment for yesterday. I was the first patient after lunch and he was out in the hall, talking to his assistant when I came in, coughing and spluttering (excercise exacerbates it and I had just ridden my bike through the rain and gale-force winds). So when he saw me, the first thing he said was "I don't have to ask why you're here, do I?"

Then I went on to explain that actually I wanted a referral for therapy, but could he please also do something about this incessant coughing! The doctor thought it might be an allergy, but I've never been allergic to anything. If it had started after I started my current assignment it might have been worth investigating. He wrote me a scrip for something (on condition that I was no trouble going to the bathroom because it might cause constipation) and I rode through the rain and wind again to pick them up at the pharmacy. On the way I saw an old lady standing in a parking bay, trying to lift her rollator up onto the kerb, so I had to turn around and lift it for her.

When I got to the pharmacy it turned out he prescribed codein, which has helped a lot, even if it has made me drowsy (possibly even a little bit 'silly'). It's annoying that I can now concentrate even less, so reading is not really an option until it starts to wear off again. I'm happy to report, however, that my bowel movement has been unobstructed so far.

O yes, he did write a letter to my shrink of choice (now I can go shopping around). I love how he starts his letters with "Amice," literally "Friend," a form of address between (legal) professionals. (I assume it's standard practice between doctors too, but I don't have samples of those.)

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

methylphenidate hydrochloride

Parents may know what I'm talking about, I confess I did not until I looked it up.

Walking out of the train station tonight with my work bag slung over my left shoulder and carrying a - paper! go Albert Heijn To Go - bag of groceries in my right, I noticed two segments of a blister pack for medicines on the steps leading outside.

On closer inspection (picking something up on the stairs with said bags isn't easy, mind), there appeared to be pills still in them. The foil said "methylfenidaat hydrocloride", which didn't ring any bells, but I didn't think that it was a good idea to leave them there so I put them in my pocket.

Of course as it turns out, I probably needn't have worried about kids getting their hands on them. All the cool kids are taking them.

Googling* revealed it's generally known as Ritalin.


* Note the remark that the OED mentions the older verb 'to google', meaning to bowl a googly. I love the language of cricket.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

I'm dreaming of a white Easter

Friday when I drove K home, we saw a car covered in snow - or I did - and thought how odd. They must have had a very localised snowstorm or driven a long way.

Saturday was clear of any snow-sightings, but Sunday it seems the entire country was covered in a thin layer of the white stuff.

I meant to post a picture I took this morning, but unfortunately it seems to be too big in its current state to either upload directly or send by mail.

There was plenty of time to take the pic, as the rail company seems to be taken by surprise by the snow. It's only been there for two days before this, after all... How were they supposed to know this might freeze up the signals?

It seems the more alert I am when I wake up and the earlier I'm awake, the less I need to bother being on time. Something is bound to go wrong. Hopefully I'll only be half an hour late. It's not like I have to be there on the dot. But still. I'll have to make up the time.

But at least it made for pretty pictures. Not least the ones of the fruit trees which have been sprayed with water. Strangely enough, the layer of ice surrounding the tender buds keeps the temperature inside at or above freezing point, protecting them from the worst cold.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

quick hello

Hi there, just saying a quick hello. I stayed over at K's last night, he wanted me to play nursemaid for his cold, but as it turns out, he couldn't find some of his pills - we searched the entire apartment plus the basement - so it was a good thing I was there to go drive to the emergency pharmacy for enough to tide him over the Easter weekend.

I suspect I won't be online much for a few days, we're just relaxing now. I'm glad he can.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

An Embuggerance

Here's something I completely missed when it was announced: Terry Pratchett, the author of thirty-six Discworld novels and several other great books to date is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

"I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while," he wrote in a letter headed 'An Embuggerance'.

"But because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news."

The author said work was continuing on his latest works, Nation and Unseen Academicals, and that there was "time for at least a few more books yet".

"All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments."

"Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful," he continued, saying it was "too soon to tell" if the condition was immediately life-threatening.

"I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think.

"I know it's a very human thing to say 'Is there anything I can do?' but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry."

Apparently Pratchett has decided to help those experts along in their studies, by donating $1m to Alzheimer's research.

"It is a shock to find out that funding for Alzheimer's research is just 3% of that to find cancer cures."

In total, an estimated 700,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer's disease.

However, the Alzheimer's Research Trust estimates that just £11 per patient is spent annually on research into the disease - compared with £289 for each cancer patient.


I can't say I blame him.

Geek Love



After the death of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, the New York Times published this contribution by Adam Rogers.

Geeks like algorithms. We like sets of rules that guide future behavior. But people, normal people, consistently act outside rule sets. People are messy and unpredictable, until you have something like the Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. Once you’ve broken down the elements of an invented personality into numbers generated from dice, paper and pencil, you can do the same for your real self.

For us, the character sheet and the rules for adventuring in an imaginary world became a manual for how people are put together. Life could be lived as a kind of vast, always-on role-playing campaign.

Mr. Gygax’s game allowed geeks to venture out of our dungeons, blinking against the light, just in time to create the present age of electronic miracles.

But I wasn't one of those D&D-players (although perhaps I could've done with the practice it provided!), the part I liked best about this article was the accompanying diagram. Especially the bottom left, which is why I used that as a cut-out at the top of this post. Please check out the whole thing and see if it makes you giggle like it did me.

bricks 'n' mortar

You'll be glad to know that this is the final selection of pictures from Precious - for now at least... We're talking 'bricks and mortar' here.

This is a picture I took last year out of K's window, I like the combination of red-tiled roofs and trees. The quality isn't great, I think I was still messing around with Precious' settings.

chim-chiminey

These façades I shot the day Sunshine moved out of his student digs in Rotterdam. It was such a contrast between the dingy interior of his building (not his fault, the guy that sub-let it to him was a crazy cat lady at heart) and the surrounding buildings which all looked well-kept, inside and out.



A bit of a deviation from the bricks and morter theme, this is a question of interior design. It's the ladies' bathroom of the Amsterdam Hilton on the Apollolaan. It was quite tricky to take this picture without anyone around - I didn't want to look like a lunatic!



And since we're on a detour, let me take you for a short trip along the tracks again. I don't know why, but I am absolutely fascinated by the patterns and the geometric forms created by the overhead lines. I've taken literally dozens of pictures like these at train stations around the country. Another favourite is pictures taken along the tracks themselves, but I don't have an example available at the moment. This one is from station Den Haag Laan van NOI.

overhead lines

This picture was taken at the side of a hotel in Amsterdam, I think it was the American. I was trying very hard not to look at something else (I can't tell you what, why do you think I was trying not to look?!) and suddenly I noticed this turret and its stained glass windows.

the writing on the wall

Another selection of pictures I took with Precious over the months. The third category is called 'the writing on the wall'.

I first took notice of this sign on the door of my favourite bar, Prik, because of the missing apostrophe following "neighbours" and the way driveway is split into two words, however I haven't sent it in to Apostrophe Abuse because English is not the author's first language and the sign makes up for its mistakes by being funny. I'm comforted by the knowledge that quiet sex is still okay. (Tip for those cold and/or rainy days: the ladies' room at Prik is quite spacious...)

quiet sex is okay

I've had ample opportunity to take a better picture of this, but I keep forgetting. Every time I take the 21 (or 51) past the hour train from The Hague Central to Venlo, the sign in Delft where I get off says it's an international train. I think this is funny because it's a bit of a joke to call people in Limburg, where Venlo is located, "reserve Germans". Venlo is almost on top of the border, but it is still in The Netherlands.

the train to Venlo, Germany is now boarding...

I copied a map from the Dutch rail site to show you where it is. The route from Delft to Venlo is marked in green. Then I felt I might as well add the places I do visit (most often) by train. Which are also the four major cities in The Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

my train journeys

I've worked in the last three of those towns within the last year and I visit Amsterdam regularly. Right now I work in Utrecht and some kind soul at my present job has put up this nicely framed poster on the wall facing the personnel entrance. It lists the departure times to and from twenty cities.

where are we going today?

Did I post this before? It is some graffitti on the doors of a little transformator building (also near the pool, enlarge to see the whole thing) that puzzled me at first. The enlargement of the text isn't great. It reads:

"Martin = anti-drug = homo"

glorious nature

This is the second instalment of a selection of pictures I took with Precious over the months. I split them up into categories so that the posts wouldn't get too big. This one is 'glorious nature', I really thought I had more nature pictures, but I can't find them. Perhaps I'm remembering times I wanted to take a picture, but for whatever reason, didn't.

First up, a couple of pictures I took at my old job in The Hague, which always had spectacular skies in the morning. During most of the time I was there I got in before sunrise and I had a front-row seat. This one is very dramatic with the crepuscular rays breaking through an ominously cloudy sky.

crepuscular rays break through the dark clouds

The next one could be called dramatic too, with its sweeping colours and contrasts, but it feels a lot more friendly than the previous one. You can see the lights from the office reflecting in the mirror, unfortunately I couldn't turn them off for the picture (although usually I got there around 7.15AM as the first of my team, I was generally not the first on the floor.)

the sky turns all kinds of pretty colours

Finally there's the picture of this weeping willow I took recently. I've known this tree for as long as I can remember, it stands across the street from our local swimming pool, on the edge of a canal. That is to say, a man-made channel, not the ones you see in the old city. This one has grassy banks - and geese, lots of them. Fortunately they tend to stay to the other side. It's been through the wars a bit, it's missing a huge branch, but it seems to be healthy enough otherwise. The shadow you see across the road is the swimming pool's. I thought it was pretty how the sun shone over it and hit the tree.



It occurs to me that I could have added the flowers from the previous post to this one instead. But they were cultivated, cut, arranged and placed somewhere.

pretty things

Here's a selection of pictures I took with Precious over the months. I split them up into categories so that the posts wouldn't get too big. The first one is 'pretty things', snapshots of objects I thought looked nice at the time.

To start with, here are my brother and sister-in-law last August. This was taken on their wedding day, but the big star in this picture is the car. They left from their former apartment in her parents' house on one of the canals and my lucky bastard brother got to drive it (the guy from the rental company was following right behind them in my brother's car) to city hall. Which was only just around the corner - in fact, the guests walked there, which is why I took this from the bridge over the canal - but they took a bit of a detour. I know I would have! It was a spur of the moment picture, so my apologies for the quality.

the happy couple drive off in an Aston Martin

Here's a bit of a silly one, this is the scarf/blanket/whatever that I'm crocheting at the moment. I love to crochet, it's very relaxing, okay?! Sometimes it's difficult to see the pattern, so I messed with the colour and contrast a little to, hopefully, bring it out a bit more. My mother brought me this huge spool of white yarn from my grandfather's (my grandmother died 3,5 years ago and it's a testament to her hoarding capacities that there's still this much stuff coming from her 'sewing' room...), I've crocheted an area of about 90x90cm (3x3 feet) and it still doesn't look like there's anything gone from it! The picture is a close-up of a small area.

look what I made!

My current assignment is at the international office of a major bank. Every week there is a huge bouquet of fresh flowers in the central hall and lots of smaller ones spread out over the surrounding area, like the reception desks and in front of the mirror of the wardrobe. The week before last they were huge yellow tulips, this last week I was on my way out when I noticed these pretty ones in the wardrobe. I liked the lighting and the dramatic shadows. (Shame about the coat racks in the background, though.)

flowers

Last December, between Christmas and New Year's, after I had my hair done in Amsterdam, I saw this kitty in the window next door to my hairdresser's. At first I thought this was a very lifelike display. Then I realised it was real. I have no idea how he/she got there, guess you'd have to be a feline to manoeuvre between all the trinkets in the display, but that is one gorgeous cat.

How much is that kitty in the window?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

food, glorious food

It will probably come as no surprise to you that I recently found I had taken quite a few food or food-related pictures. After seeing Stash getting lots of comments when he posts about food, I figured I might as well collect all of them and see what happens. Some of these have been posted before, others are new.

My first ever attempt at making sushi:

maki

Random content from my fridge (okay, not that random, I mentioned it to Stash and took a picture for him):

Holy (Smoked) Mackerel!

This carton was left on the train. With a name like that I wouldn't have drunk from it if it had been sealed:

hell no!

A couple of months ago I simply felt like baking, I baked cakes, pies, brownies. Here's a picture with plain hotel cake, brownies, cherry cream and cherries:

cake

This is just something I thought was funny on the bag I got with my bagel and cruesli yoghurt:

bag

don't get the shakes!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

rainy days and Mondays

A great storm raged over northwestern Europe last might, there were flood warnings in the UK, fatalities in France, but over here, as far as I know, nothing happened but for a few gusts.

I take the same train now that I took to my previous assignment, only now it's just the start of my journey. Suddenly it doesn't really bother me that the train is already so full at this hour that I have to stand for the entire trip, after all, it's no longer the entire trip. There's still another train ride three times as long waiting for me at the other side of a two- or three-minute change.

Once there, I blog, I read, I nap.


PS. Today is the start of my new monthly pass. Instead of just the route between home and work, I can now travel all over the country. It was only 17 euro more, less than two trips to Amsterdam.

Monday, 10 March 2008

tap tap tap

Like most of my recent work experiences, the work-spaces at my latest assignment are so-called flex-spaces. In theory this means you can sit at any desk in the building, although in reality each team has a number of desks assigned to them. It makes sense to sit together, after all, especially because despite the high level of computerisation we still work with paper files.

The main area of my team consists of two rows facing each other separated by an aisle. That is, there is a block of six - three facing three - then an aisle and then a block of four - two facing two. Although nominally flex-spaces, in reality people like to sit at the same desk. Another complication is that three of the ten computers on those desks are not suited to run certain programs which are necessary for the actual production - these are therefore generally used by our team leader and by technical support people.

Today I found myself on the corner of the six-desk block, on the most exposed corner, to be precise. (Don't ask how this one can be more exposed than the others, it just is.)

I don't know if you recall, but I have blogged about my tapping-habit before. Not tap dancing, but tapping things with my fingers. Like the desk in front of my keyboard just before I start to type, or - and this was a particularly pleasing one - at my previous job the metal wastebasket with a shiny dome, or any flat surface - desk, side of a cupboard - that I walk by.

As it turns out I am not alone. One of my colleauges has walked by at least four times today, tapping the corner of my desk (I told you it was exposed) as he passed. At first I was going to say something, not to criticise him, but to recognise him as a kindred spirit; but I'm afraid it may still be taken the wrong way. I know if I were told such a thing I would suspect they were not really happy with me.

And I don't think I am ready to seriously commit to changing my tapping ways yet...

a chorus of bloggers

After Joe posted a picture from yet another blogger meet-up I have decided that from now on I'll use "chorus" as the collective noun for bloggers.

I'm not sure if it'll stick (actually I'm pretty sure it won't), I don't think my "flower of Mormons" has caught on... (Perhaps for smaller numbers a "berry" would suffice.)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

puppies!

Dryske with her pups

As promised, here are the puppy pictures! They were exactly seven days old when these were taken this morning. Their eyes aren't open yet, their legs are little pink sausages and they look good enough to eat. They've already been named, roll over the pictures to see the names. The first one, Hertog Jan, is apparently named after a brand of beer...

Hertog JanHannes Dobbe

Hanne BarthaHanneke

HildeHester








Puppies this age aren't very active yet (they can't see much with their eyes closed) and love to cuddle up together:

cute little puppies

more cute puppies

And here are Mom and Dad. I'm not sure if this was before or after conception, although they do have a certain satisfied look about them:

Taeke and Dryske

vegetative state

Blatantly stolen from Willym:

MY LIVING WILL


Last night my sister BETTY and I were sitting in the cellar and I said to her, 'I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle to keep me alive. That would be no quality of life at all, If that ever happens, just pull the plug.'

So she got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine.

She's such a bitch.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

my parents are PIMPS

They're coming back over this weekend (in an hour, to be precise), earlier than they normally would but not quite unexpectedly, because they're going to look at pupppies.

Not to buy one, but to check out their dog's handiwork. Although it wasn't exactly his hands that did the work. (I know, he doesn't even have hands, let's just say that was a major clue for me too, okay?)

Because he's a purebred, handsome fellow with a clean bill of health, it sometimes happens that owners of bitches ask my parents to have him service them - the bitches, not the owners, I'm sure my parents would stop at that. Also, those are completely different circles than the ones my folks travel in.

Anyway, they've only said yes three or four times, and they get paid for a succesful pregnancy (officially they get paid for a succesful coupling, but my parents don't think that's fair and won't ask for money if there are no babies). He certainly took to it like a pro and pretty soon there were two litters. Then a lady from Sweden came all the way over for him. This was a tricky operation because she had to wait until the bitch was ready and then get over here and my parents had to be available with the dog. I think she came over twice and it just didn't work. He would do his business, but no puppies.

Then there was nothing for a while, possibly from disappointment, but earlier this year they had another request and this time things went off without a hitch. What they do is put them together on consecutive days and both times they were at it within seconds. She conceived and last week the puppies were born. Since this place is closer, my parents will be staying the weekend with me.

I thought that in this day and age everyone had access to a digital camera, but apparently the bitch's owners don't, so I'll have to wait until my parents come back with pictures of the puppies tomorrow to see if there's a likeness.

too cool for school

I got this from WUM's OH. Whether he is simply taking all his clues from WUM or not, I think he's pretty cool to mention Blind by Hercules and Love Affair. It was new to me and of course I love the voice of Mr. Hegarty (aka Antony) - the song ain't bad either.



Speaking of voices, what about that Duffy?

Friday, 7 March 2008

wake up and smell the coffee

Every morning when my train is about to roll into the station, you can smell the coffee.

There is a Douwe Egberts factory just a few minutes before the station which serves as the perfect wake-up call when I'm snoozing on the train, or too engrossed in a book to notice my surroundings.

I am also - very slowly - coming around to the idea of "seeing someone", an analyst or some such. Whilst the happy pills have helped me cope with life in a way I could never before, there are still some fears and insecurities that I haven't been able to figure out on my own.

I don't like the thought of having to ask for help when I can't fix things (or me).

Thursday, 6 March 2008

a present from my Papa C

Today I found a package from America on the mat when I got home, a present from my internet-daddy Chiron, or Papa C.

It contained two bracelets. One is light blue and sparkly with metal 'beads' spelling out Scissor Sisters, the other is black and reads I *heart* Rufus and I think they're gorgeous.

It's getting late and I was feeling tired at work today, so I should go to sleep, but I've been reading this great book, Until I Find You by John Irving. Funny paragraph (the main character, Jack, is eight at this point):

Having seen his first two vaginas in a single day, Jack was not surprised to learn that such a complicated place of business was given to periodic bleeding, but imagine the consternation this caused him when he mistakenly thought that this was the long-awaited event Emma Oastler expected to find evidence of in his bedsheets. To Jack's knowledge, his penis had not yet "squirted"; it alarmed him to imagine that Emma had meant he would squirt blood.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

bunny ears

On any given morning I drag myself out of bed some time after my 5.30 AM alarm and upon finding out it's much later than expected throw on some clothes, grab my bag and leave. The idylle of stepping out of bed rested at the very moment the alarm goes off and having a relaxed cup of coffee before strolling to the bus-stop for the 6.34, the first of the day has been achieved only once. And that was on the first day of this assignment, when I had hardly gotten any sleep at all the night before and felt wide awake at 4 AM.

Don't think my early mornings are filled with panic and stress, mostly they are dull and slow. But that's because for the larger part I allow them to go by on the automatic pilot, only taking over the controls at certain key moments like the two-minute change-over of trains, from track one to track four.

Whilst the auto-pilot is taking care of the mundane, I get to hang around in this really cool place with all these really cool ideas, my mind. Though mostly I just daydream about sex. And sleep.

Sometimes things happen that the auto-pilot can't handle, a bus driver drops us off in front of the train station instead of driving by it on the way to his allotted bay, or it malfunctions. Yesterday I was convinced I did not need to catch that train, so I stood back and watched it drive off.

And sometimes I get pulled out of my dreams by a sudden jolt, though I can't identify the cause. Until it suddenly hits me: the girl in the train on the other side of the track is wearing pink bunny ears.