Friday, 30 May 2008

[forgotten title]

I'm on the train home. It's 10:30 AM.

Despite the relatively early hour. i think I can safely say that today was one of the most gruelling days I've had recently. After oversleeping slightly, but not too badly, I had to run for the bus because it was early - and missed it.

Walking to the station I received a nice soaking.

The change of trains in Rotterdam went without a hitch, but that was only to lull of back into a false sense of security. In Gouda (named after a cheese, how silly) we were all asked to get off the train because it couldn't go any further due to a signal- and electrical failure up ahead.

I called my direct boss and left a message, called one of my direct colleagues to let them know too, then waited for two hours for the trains to start running again.

Finally, just as I decided enough was enough, my boss called back and said the same thing.

Why can't I be happy with an afternoon off instead of pissed off at a morning lost?

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

is it April again already?

According to the New York Times, there's a little berry, that doesn't really taste very interesting itself, that, for an hour or so after you've eaten it, makes everything that's sour, taste sweet. "The berry," as the NYT puts it, "rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors."

Apparently there are 'flavor tripping parties' at which people have one of the berries of the so-called (really!) miracle fruit, or Synsepalum dulcificum, and then try all kinds of foodstuffs and the strangest combinations thereof they can imagine (mentioned in the article: lemon sorbet in Guinness, Tabasco and maple syrup, green mangoes and raw aloe and finally, oysters with some lemon juice: "Usually you just swallow them, but I just chew like it was chewing gum").

I'm still not convinced they're not trying to sneak in an April Fools story when we least expect it...

Monday, 26 May 2008

Good evening, officer.

Here's one of those funny circular e-mails your friends and family sometimes send you. Usually they're eye-rollingly bad, but for some reason this one stood out:

THINGS THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:
  1. Innovative
  2. Preliminary
  3. Proliferation
  4. Cinnamon

THINGS THAT ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:
  1. Specificity
  2. Anti-constitutionalistically
  3. Passive-aggressive disorder
  4. Transubstantiate

THINGS THAT ARE DOWNRIGHT IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY WHEN DRUNK:
  1. No thanks, I'm married.
  2. Nope, no more booze for me!
  3. Sorry, but you're not really my type.
  4. Taco Bell? No thanks, I'm not hungry.
  5. Good evening, officer. Isn't it lovely out tonight?
  6. Oh, I couldn't! No one wants to hear me sing karaoke.
  7. I'm not interested in fighting you.
  8. Thank you, but I won't make any attempt to dance, I have no coordination. I'd hate to look like a fool!
  9. Where is the nearest bathroom? I refuse to pee in this parking lot or on the side of the road.
  10. I must be going home now, as I have to work in the morning.

Is it any wonder I'm enjoying a nice bottle of Merlot at the moment?

Sunday, 25 May 2008

more pretty things

Today I was looking for a glass pot for K's French press at the Bijenkorf, an upmarket department store (himself prefers Bodum) and found something for myself too.



This is Arian Brekveld's Fresh Traveler a way to take cereal (in the bottom compartment) and milk or another liquid (in the top) with you to have breakfast somewhere else. I've been thinking about this for some time, whether I had some type of suitable tupperware box to take with me, but then I'd have to pre-mix the ingredients and the cereal would go soggy.

So now I'm going to get up tomorrow morning, fill the top with cold yoghurt and take it with me. The bottom already has summer cruesli (with apple and raspberry), which I will poor onto the yoghurt on the train or at work, achieving the perfect combination of crispy cereal and cold dairy.

This is the Life

After having mentioned Duffy recently and I believe Amy Winehouse has made an appearence on this blog before, I feel I can't leave this lady out. Amy MacDonald is mostly known for the very catchy breakthrough hit This is the Life, but she has plenty of other great songs. Funny how I suddenly - after never showing much interest in female vocalists (with the exception of the wonderful Martha Wainwright of course) - am in love with the voices of these three women. I use my Precious in lieu of an iPod, and right now these three are all that is on there.

This is the Life


And you’re singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?
And you’re singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

Run


Let's Start A Band


And this is a completely serendipitous find, exactly why I encourage everyone to surf YouTube, one of my favourite songs of all - and especially Christmas - time Fairytale of New York sung by Amy MacDonald and her bassist Jamie Sefton. The quality isn't great, but imagine how great it must've been to be in that crowd!

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

It's been around for a while and I vaguely seem to remember hearing about it at the time, but only after reading this article in the New York Times did I really give it more thought.

Peter Boxall, who teaches English at Sussex University, asked 105 critics, editors and academics — mostly obscure — to submit lists of great novels, from which he assembled his supposedly mandatory reading list of one thousand and one.

1001 books I must read before I die? What are the benefits? What the punishment if I don't? Will I regret, on my deathbed, not having read number 613 The Revenge for Love by Wyndham Lewis? (number not chosen at random)

I've read maybe fifty of the books selected, although I seem to have read quite a few other works by authors that are on the list. Guess I like going off the beaten track. There are only a small handful of Dutch books on the list - and I haven't even read those! (so far I've noticed books by Cees Nooteboom, Hella Haasse and recently deceased Belgian author Hugo Claus, there could be one or two more, it's a long list...)

If you're interested, here's the full list.

Although every list you compile will be completely unfair and this one even more so, because some authors are just better than others, I would like to see what a list of 1001 books by 1001 different authors looks like. And perhaps we can repeat Professor Boxall's excercise a few more times with different "experts" and see what happens.

her master's voice

I've been so tired I've slept almost all of Saturday and that's probably for the best because I'm suffering from a very painful pulled muscle in my back.

Then on Sunday morning K calls.


K: "Why don't you come over and check out the new furniture?"

me: "Sure."

no news today

Thanks to Eric Leven from KnuckleCrack for this video:



On the face of it it's just a collection of clips with BBC news presenters waiting (presumably for their directors to get their asses into gear), but check out the ticker news feeds at the bottom.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

precognition

Have you ever experienced one of those coincidences that make you suspect there's more at work than random fate?

Last night I was thinking about Manna's Own SlashFic Archive where a few years ago I found the amazing Administration series. I have to admit I hadn't thought about it for some time, but last night it suddenly popped into my mind that I should go back and re-(re-)read the stories.

Then today I received an e-mail from her to announce the release of the second book in the series. The first, Mind Fuck, has been available from Casperian Books since October and the second, Quid Pro Quo is out now. Besides some of the stories from the website, the latter contains a previously unreleased novella.

To explain about the setting of the stories I'm shamelessly copying her own introduction on the site:

The inspiration for the Administration series of stories is a maxim of Chris Boucher, script editor of Blakes 7—There are no bad guys. There are no good guys. There are only better guys, and worse guys.

One of the worse guys is Val Toreth. In a world where torture is a legitimate part of the investigative process, he works for the Investigation and Interrogation Division.

One of the better guys is Keir Warrick, a corporate director. His small corporation, SimTech, is developing a 'sim' system which places users in a fully-immersive virtual reality.

Their world is the dark future dystopia of New London, where Europe is controlled by a totalitarian bureaucracy, which shares political power with powerful corporations. The oppressive government uses torture, violence and the various Divisions of the feared Department of Internal Security to maintain power. The corporations fight amongst themselves, using lethal force under the euphemism of 'corporate sabotage', uniting only to resist attempts by the Administration to extend its control over them.

And they have lots of hot and kinky sex. If you like that sort of thing, have a look on the site and perhaps even order the books (I will, as soon as I can get money to PayPal). What I admire about Manna is that there are some very disturbing aspects to the books too and yet she manages to keep me wanting more. Just be advised that:

  • Most stories set in the Administration contain m/m or m/f sex scenes.
  • Many stories in the Administration contain consensual BDSM of varying degrees of severity.
  • Some stories contain non-consensual sex and/or violence.
  • Some stories contain 'issues of consent', such as a superior exploiting a subordinate, or other cases where full consent is in doubt.
  • Two stories contain references to child abuse.

Friday, 23 May 2008

full frontal

I think I may just have been the cause of an accident. I didn't do anything wrong, in fact I was standing still on the pavement when it happened, but I have a feeling the eyes of both drivers were on me rather than on the road where they should have been.

I was running to the bus stop this morning, not an uncommon occurrence. In passing him I asked a gentleman who always walks his dog at this time coming from the opposite direction: "Has the bus been yet?"

He told me not to worry, so I slowed down a little. By the time I reached the corner opposite the stop I had heard the bus' heavy engine coming towards us and I saw it coming from my right. I stopped, waiting for it to pass so that I could walk around the back (there were two other people waiting and the stop is on the corner, so I had plenty of time).

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't even noticed the car coming from the other direction (to me, the bus' right) and apparently neither did the bus driver. Only one of us was supposed to yield to him and it wasn't me, I was going parallel to him.

They met at the intersection, the car going full-frontal against the most forward right side of the bus, the part with the door. The glass in that door exploded, but fortunately it was safety glass, so the street was strewn with hundreds of relatively harmless chunks. The car did what it was supposed to do and absorbed all the shock in its front end so the driver was okay. It didn't even look that bad, but the hood had buckled somewhat and there's on telling what kind of internal damage there was.

The driver of the car was - understandably - visibly upset, the bus driver less so, but I have to declare I never really liked her anyway so my judgement may be clouded. She just always looks so sour, great for making people unwelcome on your bus. She must have called the police, as that is protocol, but I couldn't hang around. Feeling slightly guilty (Should I have stayed as a witness? Did I do something wrong to cause this?) I walked to the train station. After about ten steps I felt drops of rain and was sure it was my punishment.

EDIT: as further punishment I pulled a muscle in my shoulder on the way to the station. It hurts like hell.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

the hunt is ON

His Ganomic Highness posted this video of Duffy - he calls her a 'new' artist although I believe she's been around since last year, but you know these Americans, they always think stuff only exists from the moment they discover it ;-)... Anyway, she is, of course great and highly recommended. This song is a cover that, as far as I know, has only been performed live and never been recorded for purposes of publishing.



There are, however, clever people who can rip the music off these things and I am hunting for a good version of these recordings...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

little kiss

This post by Joe.My.God reminded me of the note I found at the bottom of my grocery basket last Monday and meant to blog about:



Three items are in a different handwriting than the others, the second, third and fourth. It's that last one that stands out most. All the others are regular groceries like cookies, instant coffee, milk, sateh, cabbage, but the fourth is different.

Not only does it have a smilie face behind it, it reads "give Philip a little kiss".

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

stolen meme

I haven't, as far as I know, been tagged, but I came across this meme on Love, Elizabeth and tried it. I figured I might as well share the result. These were the rules she posted:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

The nearest book, beside my UU hymnal Singing the Living Tradition (I don't know about page 123*, but hymn 123 is called Spirit of Life, it's a favourite of mine; it'll be in the June service, which I'm helping to organise), is by Benjamin J. Kaplan, Divided by Faith. Religious conflict and the practice of tolerance in early modern Europe. Page 123, sentences six, seven and eight:

At the other extreme, Europe's most repressive regimes treated religious dissenters ipso facto as traitors. As early as 1526 Luther himself justified such treatment. Writing on behalf of his prince and patron, the elector of Saxony, he declared: "Though it is not our intention to prescribe to anyone what he is to hold or believe, yet we will not tolerate any sect or division in our principality, in order to prevent harmful revolt and other mischief."

I haven't been tagged and therefore feel no obligation to tag anyone else. If, like me, you were curious enough to try it, please do post about it.

* the pages aren't even marked, you tell where you are by the numbers of the hymns/texts.

overheard: can you hear me?

On the 4.18 PM train from Utrecht to Rotterdam, stationary, engines off, at Utrecht Centraal:

Loud girl on train into her cell phone: "Can you hear me?"

Several people in the compartment: "Yes we can!" [laughter]

Monday, 19 May 2008

cute bunny rabbits

Sorry, I have no pictures to offer you. In fact I need something. If you have any knowledge of animal, particularly rabbit, behaviour that is. Or if you want to give your opinion despite a lack of knowledge. This is the blogosphere after all.

I am on a train and a few minutes ago we were riding through a very rural area with a track in the grass running alongside the rails. On this path were numerous rabbits, all facing away from the train, looking at the talk grass on the other side.

Why were they doing that en masse in the early morning?

Saturday, 17 May 2008

breast enhancement

I stopped by the local chemist this afternoon after picking up some groceries my mother had forgotten to buy. They also have a little neighbourhood post agency in there, plus they sell magazines and a few books, but the reason I'm in there most often is for their office supplies.

Today I went in to buy a few pens. These Stabilo Cult pens have fast become favourites of mine for scribbling stories and blog ideas in my notebook and at work (I have to get a work ballpoint for my mother, though.)

I like the black ones, I'm not sure why; I went through a phase of using black ink in my fountain pen in high school too. So I got a couple of those, plus one each of red and green. I like to mark my TV listings magazine: black for programs I might enjoy if I'm watching at the time, green for shows I would like to see and red for the ones I cannot miss.

As I approached the counter I noticed a display that promised bigger and firmer breasts. There were some boxes of product and them there was a tester spray!

The lady behind the cash register didn't know how people were supposed to test it either; she hadn't seen anyone pulling up their shirts, obviously.

Friday, 16 May 2008

what do YOU know about Burma?


Cyclone Nargis on its way to Burma (the Irrawaddy Delta is in the top right)

Tonight on a Dutch public TV news show a reporter who had disguised herself as backpacker talked about the time she spent in Myanmar, still better known as Burma after cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawaddy delta region of that country. She filmed secretly, with a regular tourist camera and it was interesting that as soon as she went out to an internet café on the first night, to let her editor know she had arrived, she was starting to get paranoid of everyone looking at her.

All I know is that the British used to own it, hence the line from Noel Coward's Mad Dogs and Englishmen:

In Rangoon the heat of noon
Is just what the natives shun.
They put their Scotch or Rye down
And lie down.

I know roughly where it is on the map (follow the coast, between India and Thailand), I know that Rangoon isn't called Rangoon anymore (but I had to cheat to find out it's now Yangon) and there is the tragic history of the Burma railway. Currently I know there's a military junta, who has kept Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Protest is suppressed with force, journalists are not welcome to expose the oppressive regime's effects on the country and for that reason they are wary of letting in aid workers who might comment on the junta's handling (or non-handling) of this humanitarian crisis.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

eight thousand one hundred and fifty four words

If a picture is worth exactly a thousand words then that's what this post is worth. Actually it’s just a way to catch up with the pictures I meant to post earlier but never did. Here’s a picture from late March at the station:



Then there’s the hobby that keeps you warm:



This was taken during an interesting episode when I had to get out of the non-smoking station lobby and stand in the designated smoking area (three meters/nine feet around a “smoking pole”) to escape from the evil tobacco fumes…



Ahhh, back to Easter. The pretty eggs at work:



(huge version)



(huge version)

I adopted one and called him “Zwelgje”, after the Zwelbast in the Tom Poes movie.





Finally, I was having a capuccino at Prik when the wooden stirrer slipped from the saucer and seemed destined to fall onto the floor when in an amazing balancing act it ended up like this:

Monday, 12 May 2008

A Right A Day 20

Right of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Article 20
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

A Right A Day 19

Freedom of Opinion and Information

Article 19
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

A Right A Day 18

Freedom of Belief and Religion

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public and private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A Right A Day 17

Right to Own Property

Article 17
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

hi there

I'm still around, just pretty busy with work and exhausted at night (so what's new?) I surf a little, read, sit and watch TV, fall asleep.

Work is good, a lot of people (and things) are being moved around tomorrow. Together with "my" team (two guys, I'm not really in charge) I'll be going to another section of the same room. It's pretty exciting because this time I'll even have a view!

A Right A Day 16

Right to Marriage and Family

Article 16
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A Right A Day 15

Right to a Nationality and the Freedom to Change Nationality

Article 15
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A Right A Day 14

Right to Asylum in other Countries from Persecution

Article 14
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Monday, 5 May 2008

A Right A Day 13

Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country

Article 13
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

common decency

Yesterday was the official remembrance ceremony for all those (military and civilian) who have fallen, at home and abroad, during wars, peacekeeping operations etc. There were lots of other ceremonies across the country and many people in homes and other places adhere to the two minutes silence at eight o'clock.

I watched the queen lay a wreath at the National Monument on the Dam on TV with K and two friends. Earlier that day we were late for church, but still got to light the candles we brought in remembrance.

Then when I got home and tried to step off the train, a middle-aged couple just barged into me. The tracks in Delft are at an angle, slanting away from the platform, making it quite a big step down. As I had already committed to taking this step, gravity was making it impossible to stop. You would land and usually be propelled forward for a step or two. In front an behind of were others, a continuous stream, all doing the same.

Sometimes when it's busy you get people thronging at both sides of the doors, leaving only a narrow passage for those trying to get off the train, but this couple walked straight into the traffic of people leaving the train.

I said something like "hold on a second, sir", but he didn't hear or he didn't listen. There was no way I could avoid it, you can't change directions in mid-air, so I bumped into the gentleman.

The lady muttered something indistinguishable and them she scowled at me!

Call me a grumpy old woman, but I believe it is common decency to wait until everyone who wants to do so has vacated the train.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

A Right A Day 12

Freedom from Interference with Privacy, Family, Home and Correspondence

Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

A Right A Day 11

Right to be Considered Innocent until Proven Guilty

Article 11
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shal a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Friday, 2 May 2008

A Right A Day 10

Right to Fair Public Hearing

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

big screen

I'm having a hard time not reading anything about last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who. I haven't watched it yet, due to some untimely, but not completely unexpected, stupidity on my part: I got distracted and ended up at the DVD rental place getting the Simpsons movie, some B-movie called Gabriel and Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia - funnily enough I'd never tasted that flavour before, it hasn't got enough cherry for my liking, the chocolate was overpowering it. And that's saying a lot for someone with my love for chocolate...

The program is downloading now, though, on K's laptop because I'm staying the night at his place. He's in bed, not snoring for a change. It's almost worrying when you can't hear him. This afternoon a 50" plasma screen was delivered, so I'm looking forward to watching it on that tomorrow. He mostly slept through the delivery and the setting up of the thing on the mantelpiece too. He did talk to the delivery guy, but has no recollection of it whatsoever. I have Friday off because with Queen's Day and Ascenscion Day, both holidays, back to back on Wednesday and Thursday it made sense to take Friday off as well.

Our Unitarian Universalist minister is coming over to bless the apartment tomorrow. I'm not allowed to make jokes about peeing anymore.

more Moët for a classy Queen's Day

I was going to blog about yesterday's Queen's Day but unfortunately I've been called away to tend to my fag - and probably clean his windows...

The story I had originally intended will appear here some time in the next few days, I have internet access at his place, so maybe I can find a few minutes, but I can't upload my pictures of crazy people dressed in orange on boats creating complete mayhem on the canals.

Oops! I forgot I have internet access on my phone, so I can blog anywhere. On the train, for instance:

Yesterday was so much fun, I almost don't know where to start. I got to Amsterdam around half past noon and it was already brimming with people. Fortunately K lives near the station now. In the compartment with me were about a dozen people, three-quarters non-Dutch, yet almost all wearing some (or more) item of orange clothing.

As I navigated my way through the stalls, organised and unorganised, I found the downstairs neighbour manning a garage sale of her own. Queen's Day is a freemarket day, you see, when everybody has a jumble sale at their front door or on a blanket in the park or in a (semi-)professional stall, the space for which has been measured and taped off for days...

The front door was open so I went straight us, finding Pushine at his laptop and K in his bath. That bath was a must for his new place. As it is now, I would say it's liveable, but K may disagree. He had already had Sunshine scrub the fridge (which was necessary) and take down the vertical blinds. A wall-mounted shelf had also gone, to be replaced by a flat screen TV this afternoon.

Later on a friend came by and took a horribly stained and generally ugly chair down the steep and narrow stairs. K was so anxious to be rid of it that he paid the guy thirty euros.

At different points in the day I went out to
- buy wine
- give the neighbours a bottle of Moët
- get takeaway Indian
- look at the unsold rubbish left on the canal side
but other than that I just hung out in the apartment (and occasionally out the window) enjoying being able to witness all the mayhem from a safe distance.

I turned the sofa (if anybody is willing to pick up a chocolate-coloured leather two-seater sofa, let me know. You would have to get it downstairs somehow, there is one of those beams you can attach a pulley to upstairs) around so it was in front of the windows, which was an extremely relaxing way to enjoy Queen's Day.

P.S. This predictive text function on my cellphone obviously has my number. When I type in "steep", the first thing it comes up with is "queer".

100% child-safe

According to this meter there's no cussing on my blog, so any concerned parent can safely let their kids browse here.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

(Another one I stole from this Ganome fellow.)

A Right A Day 9

Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Exile

Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.