Thursday, 24 December 2009

What would Asterix think?

I hadn't thought about the Unitarian Universalist Christmas Carol in the previous post for a while - I actually found and scheduled it many months ago - so it's a bit of a coincidence (although not completely, considering my philosophy) that yesterday I bought Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show In Earth, which begins thus:
CHAPTER 1

Only A Theory?

Imagine that you are a teacher of Romans history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world - for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammaras exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That's s big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class' attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses (as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say 'ignorami') who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunste pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Potuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romanesh: allthese languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin. Instead of devoting your full attention to the noble vocation of classical scholar and teacher, you are forced to divert your time and energy to a rearguard defence of the proposition that the Romans existed at all: a defence againdt an exhibition of ignoranr prejudice that would make you weep if you weren't too busy fighting it.

Gods Rest Ye, Unitarians

Gods rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay;
Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas Day;
When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.

Our current Christmas customs come from Persia and from Greece,
From solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East.
This whole darn Christmas spiel is just another pagan feast,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.

There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angels' song;
There could not have been wise men for the trip would take too long.
The stories in the Bible are historically wrong,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact!


(source)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Winter wonderland

snowy canal

Here's the view outside my window a few minutes ago. To the left the little drawbridge and in the middle of the canal one of the trees the neighbourhood comittee has put up along the whole length.

But I'm lucky, my boss called this afternoon to say she's got a foot of snow.

No sign of the ducks in this one, I believe. Thanks to the snow they haven't had to work as hard at keeping parts of the canal open today, it's all thawed out. But it was a really funny sight Saturday morning when one of the female ducks overshot the open water and made a tail landing on the ice, sliding several feet.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Busy day

Filled with politics and culture. This morning I watched the Andrew Marr show on the BBC and I just now finished watching Peer Gynt: lots of man-on-man dancing - yum!

Then it was straight into the noon news bulletin (our environment minister has left for Kopenhagen by train) and the Dutch politics show Buitenhof. After that I'll have twenty minutes before a registration of Don Carlo. I may check out this program listed as "Jewish Comedy Café", which falls almost perfectly into the gap. (Note to self: re-read Schiller.)

Another thirty minutes or so after the Verdi, Britten's Albert Herring starts. To be honest I don't really know anything about this one, I'll just have to wait and see whether I like it. Which is not a bad thing.

In between - and during, knowing my restlesness - I shall be blogging, surfing, reading, downloading e-books, copying Christmas carol lyrics, singing, crocheting, writing and just walking around for no apparent reason. When people will ask me tomorrow what I've done, I'll say "nothing".

I'm usually very busy doing nothing.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

chicken!

Also food-related, but savoury this time. I made great chicken salad sandwiches yesterday. I learned this idea for leftover chicken from K - but now I often buy chicken especially so I can make it. Probably the whole world knows about this already, but let's see where my attempt at food-blogging gets me. Please don't laugh, though...

For the chicken salad:
chicken breast
fritessaus (you can use mayonnaise, as K does, but this has about half the fat and it's mostly a binding agent)
garlic
onion (I didn't have any this time)

For the rest of the sandwich
slices of whole wheat bread (mine has some extra seeds, like sunflower, added)
lamb's lettuce (I'm notoriously picky about salad greens, but these I love)
tomatoes
pecan nuts (I prefer mine plain)

Salt, pepper, cayenne, olive oil

Preparation
Toast the bread with some olive oil. (You could use fresh, I had some that I baked the day before, so I toasted it.)

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Chop the onions and garlic and sweat them. Drain and set aside.

Cut the chicken in similar-sized chunks and fry off in some olive oil. You're not necessarily looking for colour, just make sure it's cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool.

When all has cooled down, put the chicken, onions and garlic in a food processor and blitz. Spoon through enough of the fritessaus or mayonnaise to make it all stick together and season to taste. You can eat it as is, but it gets even better if you leave it in your fridge for a while.

Take the toast, put on a layer of lamb's lettuce and spread a good helping of the chicken mixture on top. I like slightly underdo the pepper in the salad itself and then to have a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper on top (you can use paprika instead, I guess), followed by either pecans or slices of tomato. The former really add to the nutty flavour of the bread and the latter is nice and fresh. (I'm also thinking about trying a little bit of some finely chopped pickle in the mixture.)

I have pictures, but they'll have to wait until my phone has been reanimated. Posting this has been very enjoyable, in that I just finished off the last of the salad with some lettuce and tomatoes.

The rest of the chicken I have is going to go into peanut sauce tomorrow. I don't eat peanut butter, but peanut sauce is heaven. All you need to go with that is some white rice, really.

chocolate!

In honour of the season, or rather because I just fancied a change, I have tonight become a chocolate brunette.

I'd show you a picture, but my phone is on the blink. I choose not to dwell on that, though, dyeing has just my hair cheered me up!

I'll try not to check myself in any and every reflective surface I pass, but it'll look funny and catch my eye for a while, I'm sure...

EDIT: I have totally not been going back to the bathroom mirror to check how it looks now every ten minutes.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Jesus!

I can't find words to describe the puerile glee of hearing the voice on University Challenge call out - especially in the latter stages when his excitement rises - "Jesus, Hadley!"

I wonder if Christ College Cambridge is still in the running. That would be my ideal final:
"Jesus, Jones!"
"Christ, Smith!"

Damn you, Alan Bennett

Not that he's done anything wrong, of course, in fact I greatly admire him, but thar's the problem: the BBC is having an Alan Bennet week and I only just found out they were showing A Question Of Attribution. The scene between Sir Anthony Blunt and the Queen, with them discussing fakes and forgeries. This was after he was found out as a Soviet spy, but before he was publicly named.

Now it's got me wondering what happened to him after that. But if I try to find out, I know that in no time I'll be reading up on the other Cambridge spies. Also on the subject of spies, I hope I can find some work to do that allows me to listen to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy on BBC iPlayer tomorrow, but it's been so hectic recently I'm not getting my hopes up. It was probably LeCarré who sewed the seeds of my fascination with spies.

If none of this makes any sense to you, blame it on the fact that it's half past midnight.

Oh well, I get to sleep in until all of seven AM tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

search me!

Here is a list of keywords used to find... something, I like to imagine they were not actually searching for me. And no, I don't know any scat parties in Amsterdam...
in munster, yes?
link:okcupid.com
spot that bursts with a knife
how to never be wrong gay
delft pottery that holds alcohol
famous first lines songs
mininova disadvantage
uroskin hadron
chol cameltoe
flickr tit clevage
hot teens big ass
riddle answer get along little dogies
dieting disadvantage
sinterklaas k amsterdam cab driver
porn5 eu enter
smiths meat is murder isohunt
south park unclean, unclean
famous first lines questions
good officer evening south park
scat parties in amsterdam
hermes and artemis
tom bacchus
stereotypes on the moet & chandon ad
romaine bindsla
harry mocco
fag hags and dionysus
the subtle knife film
im writing a self-help book how long should it be?
methylfenidaat hydro cloride
holy dirt blogspot
dionysus and fag hags
the subtle knife movie
subtle knife lyric quotes

for the environment

Setting the dryer on my washing machine to the shortest setting and drying the laundry the rest of the way by using every inch of radiator surface doesn't just help the environment, it makes my house smell nice at the same time.

(I could turn the dryer off completely, but then the clothes would be dripping all over my floors. The heating is on anyway, of course.)

One of the three bulbs on my living room ceiling has died and I haven't replaced it. Not because I'm lazy or cheap (I am both, though), but because it's better for Mother Nature. The same goes to one of the halogen spots in the bathroom - although in that case it kept cutting out by itself and I may have killed it trying to fix it...

Now I have to run because in the few minutes they've been on, some of the fabrics have been getting pretty hot.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Don't you just hate

...how just as you write something nice about a person they drive you absolutely insane?

K is hard up right now, so I've been paying for groceries whilst I'm staying here - not that I have much more to spend - and that's perfectly fine. This afternoon we were going to stop off at De Engel van Amsterdam for a drink and then get his meds from the pharmacy.

As my salary was transferred into my account today I got some money from an ATM and gave most of it to him, so he'd have some money after I leave tomorrow. Big mistake.

Once at De Engel we found out they'd be having turkey tonight. Fine, we picked up K's medication and came back to the bar. But in the meantime K just kept drinking and before the turkey arrived he was pretty damn drunk and insisting we go to the sushi bar across the street. There he spent the other half of the money I gave him - I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not going to pay for it.

Fortunately I did manage to extract him from there after only a few, exorbitantly priced, pieces and from De Engel after only a little bit of turkey and, more importantly, no booze.

But on the way back he was telling me "Could you just get me a bottle of wine? And some cigarettes?" as if it was the most obvious thing in the world that I (this goes for anyone else who spends time with him) would keep on spending money on him. After being so frugal for the last couple of weeks it's just such a waste. I already knew I'll probably be eating bread and jam for all of December after I've paid my bills...

I love him and I want to strangle him.

I love this man

I always fall for the smart, gay ones.


(No, I don't mean Ann Widdecombe who you'll see first.)

Dear K

Thank you for being my friend. Even though you drive me crazy sometimes and I roll my eyes a lot (more than you know: sometimes I roll them at you, but most of the time it's behind your back, at other people, who in turn give me comiserating looks) I love you a lot.

You know I find it hard to acknowledge when you say nice things about me or call me your "one succesfull project" or "savant smart" and I may say something dismissive, but I want you to know I do appreciate it. Thanks to you I get out of my house and even out of this warped mind of mine at least some of the time.

Because this is written in advance, I don't know what we'll be doing today, but if we do the old couple thing and just sit together and read and watch TV, that'll be enough for me.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

blowing in the wind

tree shirt

Christoph Niemann has a new blog post up. Go check it out, this time he does great things with leaves.

I've always been obsessed by Autumn and the leaves. Just in the last couple of months I've written (not all of it may have made it onto this blog) about the golden stream of leaves that's flowing along the canal outside K's apartment right now and has been for weeks, the shower of leaves from the tree outside his window, the conkers (horse chestnuts) falling from trees in my neighbourhood, the storms... And I've made many more remarks to friends and family about the beauty of the season.

There's a real storm blowing outside right now. Part of the fun about sleeping on K's sofa is watching the elm tree outside and today it is swaying in the wind like craz. It still hasn't quite lost all its leaves, just most of them. Until just a couple of minutes ago it was a dry storm, but now the drizzle has started. Yesterday, K told me we had a busy day today, but so far he hasn't shown much initiative to do anything other than sleep. Awake or not, it's a perfect day to be holed up inside.

If I had a clue of what to do with them, I would have given in to the impulse and collected many leaves myself. Obviously it's better to leave it to those who know... Go to the link I posted above, it's much more interesting than me rambling on and on.

Note to self: learn more about trees. At least to recognise which is which...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Compassion

Charter for CompassionThis is not going to solve all the world's problems at a moment's notice, but if you have a little time, please read the following:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.


It's a collaborative effort from thinkers of many religions and the result sounds strangely Unitarian Universalist to me. We did a quick check for all the seven principles of UU at the service today and it's pretty much all there.

I read the first paragraph in our service.

Ideas galore

The little black book of ideas I started carrying around is starting to yield its first pearls of wisdom. Here's something I wrote down the other day:

"If you want to relax, don't drop your Xanax behind the washing machine."

You must agree that, for its profundity, that is almost on a par with Evilganome's observation on Neti pots.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

woke up this morning...

...but not at 11.11. The first time I opened my eyes was around 8.30 AM, but although I turned on the TV, I fell back asleep and didn't get up until 12.15 PM. When I opened the blinds, still wearing pajamas, the first thing I saw was a Zwarte Piet walking by.

Zwarte Piet

Either I've missed it, or the racism debate seems to have died down. I hardly think kids are going to associate negative thoughts to the man that brings them presents and candy each year...

PS. I told you I turned on the TV. When I woke up the second time, Bear Grylls was peeing on some skis and then got naked to cross a stream.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spelling

This is why I like some of my colleagues better than others. Besides sending me this quote, he also understands the need not to buy all T.P.'s all at once - we'd read nothing else for a couple of months and then we'd have nothing left to look forward to.

Bad spelling can be lethal. For example, the greedy Seriph of Al-Yabi was cursed by a badly-educated deity and for some days everything he touched turned to Glod, which happened to be the name of a small dwarf from a mountain community hundreds of miles away who found himself magically dragged to the kingdom and relentlessly duplicated. Some two thousand Glods later the spell wore off. These days, the people of Al-Yabi are renowned for being remarkably short and bad-tempered.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad)


P.S. we're also both saddened that there won't be too many more Discworld books.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

home (at K's)

Too tired to blog, here are a few New York Times articles I've managed to read during the retreat this weekend. As you can see I stayed away from current affairs and concentrated on background and opinion. The top one I've only just found and although

One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1)

The Carnivore’s Dilemma

French Ideal of Bicycle-Sharing Meets Reality

Ayn Rand’s Revenge

I have also started John Irving's new book, Last night in Fall River, borrowed from K. Two two-and-a-half hour train rides helped make a respectable dent into the story.

And finally, last Thursday I started something I am desperately trying not to call a journal. "This is an idea book," I wrote in it, so as to not feel guilty should I neglect it for some time. But I suspect that having no ideas is actually worse than not writing anything down.

Correction: The John Irving belongs to Eyecandy, which I didn't know when I took it to Maastricht, I asked K if it was okay to take it and he said yes. I now have permission from the actual owner to take it home with me to finish reading it.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Take the test!

You know you want to.



This cartoon from Savage Chickens has been slightly altered by yours truly to allow others to take the test. My apologies to Doug. You can check out the original here.

PS. I need to come up with a costume. We'll be at the European UU retreat in Maastricht this weekend and I know there will be others with costumes.

Perhaps I'll get some scrubs and go as Zombie Neurologist.

stationery

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

balance

Paycheck's late - my only account that's not in the red is at the blood bank...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

23

That's the number of ducks in a row sunning themselves in the afternoon sun across the canal.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A spring in my step

It sounds incredible, but the effect of my new orthotics was practically instantaneous. I'm not counting Wednesday after I picked them up, because my heel was already getting sore by that time.

However, yesterday and today I've worn them without any significant discomfort. There is some low-level throbbing, but it's almost not enough to stand out against background radiation. And I don't seem to have trouble getting used to them. I was warned it takes three weeks for your feet to get used to them and advised to start by wearing them an hour a day. I did, but after that hour they weren't bothering me and I just kept them in.

In fact, I didn't like not wearing them at night (I've been wearing spa slippers recently) enough to find my trusty fluffy camel slippers, because they are stiff enough and fit closely enough to be able to wear the inlays.

Monday, 12 October 2009

A change of scenery

Isn't autumn, or fall if you prefer, a wonderful season? A few weeks ago it started to get a bit nippy in the mornings. Then came the annual conker-dodge (I must admit to admiring the wonderful dull thud when one lands), combined with high winds for extra excitement. To top it off we've now had a couple of weekends (it would be weekends, wouldn't it?) of torrential rains.

The water reached the bottom of the canoe-route shield on the far wall of the canal on Saturday. The sign was put up in May but I haven't seen a canoe all summer. Possibly the fact that the sign tells them to get out and carry the thing because the bridge is too low - something they should be able to figure out even without the rainfall narrowing the gap even further - has deterred them.

It's a lot quieter on the streets, too. Oh the joys of living in a town where spring is heralded not by birds or flowers, but by the shutters of Japanese cameras... The street now looks almost the way it did when I moved in eleven months ago. The only difference is a few more leaves on the trees.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

High heels and pills

This is such a drag. I've spent most of my time since Friday night either sitting in this chair or in bed and my foot still hurt like hell when I got up this morning. That's what you get for having plantar fasciitis, rest doesn't stop the pain, it's at its most painful during the first steps.

The tech who measured me for special inlays for my shoes (I'm picking them up this Wednesday) was a lot more conclusive than the doctor. She poked the painful spot straightaway - and with enough force to make me jump - and asked "Did your doctor really say it was a heel spur?" So I'm sticking to her diagnosis. The treatment, such as it is, is the same anyway: inlays are the fisrt option, the pain of shots of anti-inflammatory drugs is said to be so great that it's not an option and surgery isn't very succesful.

Since the doctor also sounded very sceptical of my use of anti-depressants (she only gave me a scrip for three months and made me promise to think about my continued use) I wasn't sure about her assessment of the anti-inflammatory shot, but wikipedia does say the same. Still, a short burst of intense pain might weigh up favourably to the continued pain of the fasciitis for some people.

For myself, mostly it's been getting better and times like this morning are the exception. I've started wearing high heeled shoes on a regular basis, to take the weight off my heels and onto my front feet. I had to learn how to walk in them at age 36!

I've also decided to do stretching excercises, both on the tendon in my foot and the calf muscle. This might help against the pain. Obviously in my rush to get to the bathroom this morning, in forgot.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Slash dot quote

in the cock department

Pray tell, on which floor can I find that particular department?

Saturday, 19 September 2009

I'm going to turn my mother in

For endangering my life and that of my siblings by taking us to petting zoos and letting us touch the animals. She also let us play in the dirt and said it was a good way to build up our resistance.*

Other than that she's always been great and I wished her many more years on her birthday today.

* Perhaps I should take it up again, considering my present state.

Welcome to my living room

That's where you'll find me for at least most of today. I've got a nasty cough and I'm feeling quite sorry for myself. It feels like I have a fever, but the thermometer says otherwise. Witness for the Prosecution has just started, so I'll be in my comfy chair all day, wearing my pajamas, with the old iPhone, remote control and scarf I'm crocheting close to hand. The new series of Merlin starts today, too.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

the American health care system does not exist

"In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really "foreign" to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die."

Washington Post, 5 Myths About Health Care Around the World

Also interesting - and related inasmuch as it tries to explain why people continue to believe in patent untruths about the Obama health plan, but interesting just for the mechanisms it mentions - is the Newsweek article Why We Believe Lies, Even When We Learn The Truth.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Did I mention?

That Ilse is absolutely a-fucking-dorable? ('scuse French)

Not even two days old but what a gorgeous baby. Yes I'm prejudiced, but I don't usually think very young infants look good. And this one does.

For now she has a crib on her parents' bedroom, but the nursery has been customized with lots of pictures of kikker (literally frog), a children's book character her mother loves.

Dad had pictures printed on the curtains and bedlinen, there are stuffed toys of just about every one of kikker's friends in the books. Her father has taken the music box and drawstring from a regular little bear and put it inside a kikker toy. It plays Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which - thankfully has given me some reprieve from Any Dream Will Do.

He has even taken off the figures from the mobile over the play pen in the living room and replaced them with kikker figures. But the pièce de résistance is the alphabet sampler that my sister-in-law cross-stitched, with a kikker incorporated into every letter, which hsngs framed over the commode. It's probably 50 centimeters wide by 70 high.

I bought her a little winter jacket to grow into and a soft tabby kitten toy. It feels like fabric but it is plastic, which - to my inexperienced mind - makes it quite practical around the droolly little monsters.

Not that Ilse drooled, no sir. She wasn't very awake either, but at least she was drool-free. And so tiny. She must get that from her mum's side, on our side the babies were all monsters. My little sister was 4100 grams (9 lbs).

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

SubtleAunt

As of ten PM, two-and-a-half hours ago, I'm officially an aunt.

Welcome, Ilse, your birth is such a momentous occasion that I haven't even asked your Daddy if any little brothers or sisters you will get in the future, will also be named after search engines (Ilse is exclusively Dutch, I believe). I don't think your parents are up to considering the addition of a little Google or Yahoo just yet.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The woman who wouldn’t wear sandals

For the last few weeks I’ve practically worn anything but!
 
I’ve even overcome the fear of showing my toes have stopped wearing socks. (I still think it’s acceptable if you make sure the colour matches/is coordinated – and is never white.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Morning commute

Wednesday morning, a typical Dutch mini-summer has set in again yesterday, yet there's still a bit of refreshing crispness in the air. In half an hour it may be gone, it might not be back tomorrow.

A fat woman is sitting on a fold-down seat in the 'balcony' area between two compartiments of the train. Her crutch is leaning against a wall, underneath that says "Priority" to wheelchair users.

Her ticket has already been checked by the conductor who came by a few minutes ago. The people she can see in the compartinents are all facing away from her.

She rummages in her purse and pulls out a small spray can. She aims it at her wrists and her neck below the ears. Then more rummaging. Replacing the canister is a bigger one now and she lifts her shirt.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I miss

Actual text of an e-mail message I sent K this afternoon:

I miss


Church.

And you.

But mostly church.

back to black-and-white

After I got home, threw off my clothes, put on something a bit more comfortable, had a couple of sandwiches and sat down in front of the TV in my comfy chair with my feet on the coffee table, with a scarf I'm crocheting in my lap.

I only recently discovered that a channel I rarely watch (it's called Cultura) was broadcasting Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. The one being shown today was a tribute to Shostakovich on his birthday, playing his ninth symphony and giving pointers as to why it was funny.

They're entertaining and educational, especially for those who have had no formal training in music-appreciation before. Do any of my US readers remember seeing these? (The re-runs, obviously.)

Unfortunately I couldn't find a video for tonight's episode ("I don't know much about classical music but I do know what I like." - I like Russian composers), but this is part of the one I watched last night, it's an introduction to jazz, much like Peter and the Wolf is for classical music:

Just a perfect day

Just when you thought it was all behind you, when that annoying colleague who acts like he's thirteen and is less suited for the job goes home so you can finally concentrate on your work without his inane prattle... that's when fate strikes.

I did get a little bit of work done, but it was getting pretty late, so I happily went home.

At the very moment I entered the station they started announcing a points- and signals failure. No trains going anywhere whatsoever. Because this is the main nexus for all rail travel in the country, all of The Netherlands should be a mess by now. This happens every time the temperature approaches 30 degrees Celcius (86 Fahrenheit) and metal parts expand at different speeds.

I knew there's a bus between home and work - I sometimes catch it for the one stop between home and the station. Today I'll get a taste of the other four million nine hundred ninetynine thousand nine hundred and ninetynine on this route.

So, if you're wondering where I am: I'm on a bus trying not to be sick and to ignore the pain in my foot.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Midnight questions

You know the ones, you're in bed and a question pops up that has nothing to do with anything you were thinking of before and is unrelated to anything that happened to you that day.

Tonight's prize goes to: "Was there a Lady Baden Powell?" Which was followed immediately by the following conversation:

"Good afternoon, Lady Baden Powell, is your husband in?"

"No, I'm sorry, Inspector, he left early this morning. Scouting for boys, you see?"

"I see indeed, Lady Baden Powell. If you'll excuse me... Constable!"

Monday, 10 August 2009

The good Samaritan

After what happened this weekend nobody can ever again accusing me of not doing selfless things for other people.

This Saturday I was walking to the station to catch the train to Amsterdam to see K and A, when I found a season ticket to Ajax lying in the middle of the pavement. Like most of these things nowadays, it's a credit-card type thing.

I checked the name on the back, but couldn't make out the same name on any of the nearby doors. However a quick search on the ol'iPhone told me that they were playing at home to RKC that night. At home means in Amsterdam.

So I headed towards the station again - I still managed to miss my preferred train - and searched the phone book online. There was only one listing under that surname, so I tried it and left a message on the answerphone. I was hoping that I'd find a cell phone number, so that I could arrange to hand the ticket over before the match...

The next thing I heard was Sunday evening, when the mother of this guy called me, saying she'd like to come pick it up. So we arranged for her to stop by tonight. Apparently her son was at the match, or rather he was at the stadium, unable to get in. She brought me a small bouquet as a thank-you.

Why is all this so remarkable? I am a Feyenoord supporter. Ajax are our arch-enemy. Yet I hardly even entertained the idea of snapping the thing and throwing it in some bin... ;-)

Saturday, 8 August 2009

catching up

Good evening and welcome from a sunny (slightly watery sunshine) Amsterdam. I've just installed myself behind K's computer and I'm watching Slumdog Millionaire. Unfortunately K and our friend A from Denmark (via Geneva) are not here yet, dear old Ellen (that's his car, for the inattentive) has had a bit of a crisis. Her top wouldn't come up anymore (I think he said up, they were at a car-wash when it happened, so that would make most sense) and she was making awful noises. So let's take some time to catch up with my week:

I'm still pretty full from last night, so I'm happy to take it easy. The whole team from work went to an all-you-can eat Asian buffet restaurant and although I started out slowly - the sushi was good, although there was no tuna, mostly salmon, squid and shrimp, but then there was the sateh, the spicy fish dish, the dark beef, the sweet and sour pork - I only had a little bit of everything, but suffice to say in the end I was stuffed.

During the dinner I realised I had missed a couple of phone calls (I was taking breaks between loading up plates, of course) and it turned out to be K, telling me he was buying his ex, R, a new computer and would I like his old one that R has been using? Considering the age of my old computer, it wasn't a difficult decision.

Then I felt a great stab in my chest. Fortunately it turned out to be the underwire from my bra, which had snapped. I survived with a minor scratch. On the breast, though, but hey, I don't mind a little kink anyway. ;-) Actually, the whole thing seems to fit better now I've removed the wires.

My direct boss has been on holiday for three weeks, but she'll be back at work on Monday and she did come to the dinner; and dropped me off at a train station afterwards. On the way she was telling me about a strange text message that she had received, from a number she nor her telephone recognised. When we stopped at the station she showed it to me:

Heyy darling, I've almost got you and when I do, I won't be letting you go for a while. I'll tease you for a couple of days, but I am sure that I'll will get you into bed after that. I will give you some very hot nights, making you sweat like never before. Love, The Mexican 'Flu


"We could just dial back," I suggested. So here we were, giggling in her car like a couple of teenagers, listening to someone pick up the phone and say "Hello? [boss' name]?" just before we hung up. I didn't recognise the voice and she didn't either. But obviously it was someone who knew her, had her number in his phone and had kids (we heard them in the background). Then she got another text message, asking "Have you lost my number already? [name]" It turned out to be a former colleague of hers, who had left the company entirely a few months ago.

I just took some blood pressure readings on the machine I bought - and promptly leant to K who was diagnosed with extreme high rather than my just high blood pressure. My readings at the blood bank were probably down to nerves, because I just measured 124 over 71, baby! Now all I have to do is learn to relax enough before they stick needles in me. Honestly, I've never been afraid of needles, I think it's more fear to fail the blood pressure test than the drainage of blood that causes the bad scores.

I finally remembered to bring the 50 euro book vouchers K bought me a some time ago, unless we decide to do something else - like go to the spa, I might stop by the American Book Center tomorrow and blow the lot! For some reason I woke up at 7 AM this morning and couldn't go back to sleep, so at least my legs are shaved in case we do go to the spa. Unlike the one we shared with A and her friend in Spa itself in April. It's one of those things I put off. I always wear long trousers, so it's not really that important, it might be a bit embarrassing if I had a one-night stand, but the odds of that are slim.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Famous first lines - outro

And here are the long-awaited results:

01. Ups and Downs - Rufus Wainwright
02. You Can Sleep While I Drive - Melissa Etheridge
03. Under My Thumb - Rolling Stones
04. I Wanna Take You Higher - Duran Duran
05. Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen
06. Strip It Down - Manic Street Preachers
07. Seductive Barry - Pulp
08. Younger Girl - The Lovin' Spoonful
09. One Step Too Far - Faithless
10. Communist Quiz - Monty Python
11. Who Left The Lights Off, Baby? - Guillemots
12. If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
13. Ticket To Ride - The Carpenters
14. Help Is Around The Corner - Coldplay
15. Warrior - Steve Earle
16. Witch In The Ditch - Erasure
17. O Holy Night - South Park
18. Mama Liked The Roses - Elvis Presley
19. Haven't We Lost Enough? - Crosby, Stills & Nash
20. Think (Freedom) - Aretha Franklin

happiness

I'm at K's, having just had farewell lunch with P. M and P's gorgeous Brazilian friend were there too. Saying goodbye... it wasn't easy, but I think I'm at peace with it. I'm feeling pretty serene at the moment. Or perhaps it's a relative feeling because the rest of this city is still suffering from the hangover from Gay Pride.

K wasn't at the lunch, which was just down the street from his place. I woke him when I got their text message saying lunch was on, but he said he was too tired. He was out partying until eleven last night - which is quite late for someone who often falls asleep at seven - and then talking to people in the US. He was chatting with his mother until 2.30 AM.

After K said he was too tired I took a shower - the bathroom in his apartment can only be reached through his bedroom - but I forgot to bring the clothes I wanted to put on today. So after the shower I put my pajamas back on and fetched them. By the time I got back, K was in the bath.

Fortunately neither one of us is shy around the other...

Here's another great blog I found on the NY Times website, Maira Kaiman's And the Pursuit of Happiness. I adore the text and the pictures, it's so rich! Have a look, I know you'll enjoy it. It also matches my current mood perfectly.

That reminds me that there are at least two projects for the coming weekend(s) that I want to drag, sorry take people to: the Hermitage in Amsterdam and the Complete Rembrandt exhibition.



PS. Canal Parade part 2 - with pictures - will follow when I get home and am able to post the pictures properly. Blogger won't let me upload from the iPhone, probably because they're too large.

PPS. When I started writing this, K was on the sofa, reading. Now he's asleep with the book splayed out on his chest.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Canal Parade part 1

The Canal Parade is in full swing now. The first boats to come by were from the City of Amsyerdam. The first one had dancers, the second a marriage in full swing. I knew that Mayor Cohen would marry five Dutch-American couples, not that it would happen during the parade!

Congratulations to Hans and Ira, whose nuptuals we witnessed and of course the other four couples.

This in honour of our fourhundred year relationship with America, specifically the New York area.

Amsterdam is ready

The boats are two- and three- EDIT: and four-thick at the sides of the canal, people are standing on the sides and bridges. Some have brought fold-out chairs, others have decorated boats or railings with garlands and balloons, pink being the predominant colour. Lots of boats are still circling the canals, soaking up the atmosphere. Down in front of me eight guys in a boat have donned identical red shorts and white muscle shirts emblazoned with "Gaywatch".

The Gay Pride Canal Parade will start in 90 minutes. The diversity of the people out there is encouraging; it may be a gay event, but we're all invited to the party and we're going to celebrate, damn it!

I'm at P and M's, looking down on all the commotion. All the windows are open and the noise coming in is already impressive. All the pllants have been cleared from the window sills so that people may sit in them. It's just the three of us so far, but P invited everybody he knew in The Netherlands, because this is also his farewell party. On Tuesday he'll set off for a trip to Bristol, London, New York, San Diego and LA before returning to Sydney.

Just witnessing the break-up of their seven-year relationship is painful. They're both trying to stay civil about it, but you can sense all the hurt and anger just below the surface. To be honest I never planned to stay more than one night here. Under the guise of taking the drunk home, I'm hoping to go over to K's with him and stay the night there.

P can be fun, but even on the eve of his departure there's only so much of him that I can handle. Last night I had to make the sofa bed and actually get in it before - eventually - he gave up and went to bed. Apparently he woke up M and talked at him for another hour and a half... But I will miss him.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I'll wrap my toes in cotton wool

It just occurred to me that my toes may be next on the list (calf, ankle, heel) of injuries. Of course with my luck, if I did wrap them up, I'd probably develop a cotton allergy...

(Don't mind me, I missed my train and my foot hurts because I had to walk to the station. It turns out the bus I wanted to take - and the next one - doesn't run in July and August.)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Forget about Blu Ray

blue rat

I want a blue rat. Isn't he cute?

Also, how many blue M&Ms do I have to eat for the same effect? Breaking my spine seems a bit too much work to achieve this effect.

Hat-tip: Joe

In which I get quizzical

Why is it that Eggheads is broadcast five times a week on BBC2 and University Challenge (or even Mastermind) once a week for eight to twelve weeks a year?

a most embarrassing anecdote

I was lying in bed last night, getting quite itchy because someone confided in me with a secret and I was aching to tell someone, or at least blog about it - but I wasn't sure if I dared.

This is what I have decided. I will blog about it, but I will try to protect the identity of the embarrassed and pick a random day in July for it to be published. So when you read this, I'll have written this weeks or even months ago, I'm not saying. This is what they* confided in me:

It starts when my friend goes out drinking with friends and gets quite drunk. They're not feeling too well and must have eaten something that disagrees with them, because they have to make a quick dash to the bathroom several times. It seemed like a good decision to get back home and take it easy.

Unfortunately this person had an accident in the cab. I don't mean that the taxi driver crashed the car, I mean that my friend shat their pants. In fact, the whole back seat was covered in it. The driver pulls over, demands money, but my friend only has maybe ten euros more than the fare on them, so they get shouted at on the sidewalk in the middle of the night.

After having to walk the remainder of the journey home, they dispose of their now-dried jeans by means of a baking tray and a cigarette lighter.

Now I said I've been sworn to secrecy, but that's only to protect them from their current set of friends. Because what do you do when you're were this embarrassed? You phone all of your family and old friends back home to tell them about it...



* using "they" is easier than saying "(s)he" all the time certainly less clunky than "he or she". In this case, I believe grammar has to yield to style and readability.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Mysterons

Joe's trip down the memory lane of 80's music has landed him on something called the Earons, can't say I've ever heard of them, but it does remind me of this:

"This is the voice of the Mysterons. We know that you can hear us, Earthmen."

I obviously didn't get to watch Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons when it was first shown on TV in the 1960's, but the BBC repeated it many years later.

At least SPECTRUM, the organisation that protects Earth, doesn't steep to such gimmicks as naming all their members by decimals (although goodness knows what the Mysterons call each other). Instead they use such perfectly normal names as Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue, Captain Black, Captain Magenta, Captain Ochre, etc. SPECTRUM is lead by Colonel White. There is an insidious rumour that he is so named because white comprises all the colours of the spectrum, but that is frankly too absurd to even contemplate...




By the way, here's the definitive reason humans shouldn't go to Mars:



The Mysteron base may be seen in the above clip, the Mysterons themselves however are invisible. Another one of those rumours says that creator Gerry Anderson didn't want to be proven wrong when Martians turned out to be three feet tall and green.





But if you must have some music, why not try Portishead's Mysterons:

ouch! - again...

In the last year, I have had three lower leg injuries that have caused me mobility-problems. Fortunately none were serious, but they were painful and required rest that I was impatient to take.

First a whiplash from running to catch a train, it recurred several times because I didn't take it easy long enough, then a fall when trying to get on my bike with an inch of ice on the street, twisting my ankle and finally for some unknown reason I woke up last Tuesday with pain underneath my heel whenever I stand on it. None of them, as far as I can tell, have anything to do with my weight.

When the whiplash recurred for the third time - again train-related, I sprinted up the steps on a double-decker train - I went to the "Zorgwinkel" (Care shop), a place you can rent all kinds of aids, such as crutches, wheelchairs, bathing chairs, supports to put on the wall next to your toilet etc. In fact they gave me a pair of crutches to borrow, no fee at all.

Between coming home from work Friday at six PM and around 4 PM on Saturday, I hardly walked at all, except for pottering about the house a little, resting my foot. And when I went for groceries it felt great. When I came back from the short trip (it's less than ten minutes' walk to the supermarket), my heel was hurting again every time I put a little weight on it.

So I have come to the conclusion that it needs rest and have just bought myself a pair of crutches. They're not standard grey, but come in bronze and blue - I went for bronze, the main reason being that I have too many blue things as it is. Plus I wear lots of blue jeans and if I'm going to use crutches, they might as well stand out.

It's the holiday season, I almost wish I could get a spot in the underground car park at work for a couple of weeks. But that involves too much paperwork to bother with.

And yes, I will go to see the doctor over this foot, but they're on holiday too and won't be back until next week.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

coffee


One of my colleagues is eagerly expecting the opening of a Starbucks at the train station next to our office building.*

She's the first to admit she doesn't like coffee.

According to another colleague, the reason there were no Starbucks in The Netherlands until now, is that they get supplied by Douwe Egberts and that deal includes that DE gets exclusivity in this country. But apparently something has changed.

Perhaps it's the work of the husband of one of the few families to attend our little UU Fellowship in Amsterdam. I have to admit I almost laughed in his face when he told me his job is to develop Starbucks in The Netherlands. I didn't think it would take off. I still don't. Or maybe that's wishful thinking.

But now my favourite catholic priest had posted about the very same company unbranding, that is starting little coffee shops under different names so that there's no obvious connection to the big brand. In the USA, that is - over here they don't seem to have such qualms...

PS. The tiles at the station are more an off-white, but there's a tinted roof overhead making it look in certain spots like you're at a swimming pool.

PPS. This is directly across from the soon-to-open Starbucks: a perfectly adequate coffee shop. Come to think of it, it might not be such a bad idea to have Starbucks there. I will take great delight in buying an good cup of actual coffee at CaféT and enjoying it in front of Starbucks... Of course in the bottom left of the sign it says in green letters Simon Lévelt. They're the ones I buy my coffee from at home, there's a shop just down the street. It seems tiny, but they've got everything. About a dozen of different beans and they grind it to your specifications.



You can see some of the green glass in this picture.

* EDIT: I should have mentioned this is the first one in The Netherlands outside Schiphol Airport and the Nike HQ, the latter isn't open to the general public at all and the former requires passport check.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

I'm never wrong anyway

But I found this video on Joe.My.God. to help all you lesser beings.

This is a valuable lesson on How To Never Be Wrong. As an extra bonus, the example used in the video is gay marriage, so now you'll never have to worry about being tongue-tied when one of those pesky homosexuals starts going on about how they should have equal rights.

Whatever...

Monday, 20 July 2009

Monday, Monday

Welcome to another Monday morning with MJ (that's me, not the dead guy).

I've just picked up my umbrella at the station's ticket office, where I left it on Saturday when I bought the ticket to Amsterdam. Fortunately the weather has been good.

Until this morning. At 6.45AM the rain outside my window was pretty heavy - and I was worried. By the time I left at just after seven it had cleared up, though, so I was mildly optimistic about my day again. Then of course, after thirty seconds outside, it started to drizzle again and I automatically planned my walk to just get to the next safe haven; the covered turning circle in front of the locksmith's, the overhanging first floor over the ground floor temping agency, the corner that is cut away on the football (soccer) magazine building and funally a handful of arches over private doorways. From there it was out into the open for the intersection, dodging the drips coming off the dilapidated concrete rostrum over some shabby shopfronts and a quick dash across the bus station.

I described when and where I'd lost the umbrella to the lady at the counter of the ticket office, described it and then noticed it was standing in the corner, directly next to her. I pointed this out, but with hindsight this msy have made her suspicious for a minute, because she said something about having to find out if it was logged in the computer. She rummaged around in a cupboard behind her - no computer in sight - and then took me by surprise, took the umbrella and stuck it through the small hole at the bottom of the window - steel point first.

Now all I have to do is remember to take it off this train with me...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Guess what he was in town for

There's one thing I forgot to mention about last Saturday: there was a German car parked on the Singel in Amsterdam with license plates starting with the following foue letters:

CO CK

Famous first lines

Following countless other bloggers, I shall give you the exclusive opportunity to play my version of the first-lines-from-my-iPod game. You will get two weeks to name as many songs and artists as you can. Be warned: one of them is not actually a song!

The rules are simple: no skipping, no matter how obvious - or, more likely, embarrassing - the song is, except for artists that have already got a song in the list.

01. I'm just a floozy, an old-fashioned hussy
02. Come on, baby, let's get out of this town
03. Under my thumb, the girl who once had me down
04. Beat is getting stronger
05. Fat man sittin' on a little stool
06. Ain't no fun at the Government Hall
07. Here in the night love takes control
08. She's one of those girls who seems to come in the spring
09. You can sleep forever, but still you will be tired
10. Good evening. Tonight is indeed a unique moment in the history of television
11. Oh, love, get out of my head
12. If I could turn back time
13. I think I'm gonna be sad, I think it's today
14. Stuck here in the middle of nowhere
15. This is the best time if the day, the dawn, the final cleansing breath unsullied yet by acrid fume or death's cacophony, the rank refuse of unchained ambition
16. No, I would never step into your shoes
17. O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
18. Oh, Mama liked the roses
19. I was with you, you were alone
20. Think! (think!) Think! (think!) Think! (think!) Think! (think!) Think! (think!)

Good luck.

In charge

Was it last week that I posted how well-rested I felt? I wonder how I'll feel in the morning tomorrow.

I'm still on my way home from K's, I guess I'll be there around 8.30, well on time to wind down and go to sleep. But I'm a little nervous, seeing as my boss is off work for the next three weeks, the other senior employee on our team has his two-weekly day off and we're struggling with a huge backlog thanks to a major failure in our most important system.

We caught up a little at the end of last week - I worked five extra hours in the last three days despite taking Wednesday afternoon off, I came back in the evening - but there's still some way to go. I'm determined not to be nervous over our morning team talk. It's nothing serious anyway.

But I'd like to be awake and at work on time...

I love it

...when people on blogs I comment on tell me "You're not very subtle".

Duh! Check your dictionaries.

mouse update

mouse

K has caught another three since the one Sunshine trapped in the toaster and there are at least another three around the apartment. One of them fled out of the apartment last night as soon as K opened the door, though, so I think it's getting less attractive for them.

He blocked one hole behind the dishwasher and now they have to go around the kitchen cabinets, out in the open. As the one I mentioned fled, I was keeping an eye on another two. I was fascinated because they seem to be of different species. One is like the mouse pictured above, which, apparently is a common house mouse. All of the others I've seen have a much shorter body, they're almost like a semi-circle of fur, with a slightly pointy front for the nose.

K asked me to stop by the hardware store for some mouse traps yesterday, but they were already closed by the time I got to Amsterdam. He's got some pieces of duct tape lying sticky side up on the counter top, but they don't seem to stop the mice much less stop them.

Although... I haven't seen any of them around yet today.

she keeps her Moet & Chandon

Today is K's last birthday before the big Four-Oh. Since I'm not sure how keen he'll be on celebrating that one, I decided to bring him a bottle of champagne to mark this one. By some good fortune he happened to have strawberries to make it complete, so we had a lazy champagne breakfast.

He's left me now to have brunch with a brand manager from Heineken. He thought she might want to have some one-on-one time and that's fine by me - I can finish watching True Blood. I suppose I could've downloaded it at home, but he's already got it on his Apple TV and I'm lazy. "Naturally sedentary", K said just this morning, one of the nicer ways he put it - he doesn't deserve me as his fag bangle, he truly doesn't.

Last night K, myself and his ex R went to check out the refurbished - finally! - April. It does look pretty good, although I don't know why it had to take that long... (apparently the wait wasn't all about redecorating) After a couple of drinks K and I went home to watch Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World. I saw two out of three parts, that's three hours of it, before my eyes started to droop.

K got his second wind and went out again. There was a drag show at Prik that he promised somebody he'd watch. One of the guys behind the bar, I think. I was just too tired. I heard him com back and then a few times when he came in for a drink or some food (he doesn't eat during the day, he raids the fridge at night), but other than that, I slept straight through until my normal weekend time of 10AM.

It's better out than yesterday, which is good because I left my umbrella at the station at home. I put it in the corner when I was buying a ticket and left without it. Fortunately it didn't rain after that, although it was cloudy and grey. Right now the sun's shining and there is a parade of boats out on the canal behind me. It's about half canal boats full of tourists and half smaller boats filled with locals.

Right now I can hear one of the canal boats take a left turn (it's very tight, you can hear the motor working hard, but those things can turn around their own axis) and the clip-clopping of hooves from the horse pulling one of the oh-so-touristy, I mean romantic, carriages that goes around town.

PS. I know Moet is not spelled correctly, but I don't know how to do diacritical characters on K's (or anybody's) iMac...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I'm writing a self-help book

It's all about helping people to not throw away money on useless self-help books.
Synopsis: Don't be a gullible idiot.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Prima Donna needs work

K e-mailed this morning, saying the New York Times had been pretty rough on Rufus Wainwright in their review of his opera Prima Donna. And that for a home-town boy.

I e-mailed him back that I would look at it in a minute, because the main system that I work on was bound to crash again soon - it's been doing so off-and-on since Friday, in fact it reminds me of another Rufus Wainwright song, called Ups and Downs, which borrows a theme from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov...

But even before reading the article, I answered him that it would be a miracle for any modern opera (especially by a first-time composer) to get a positive review from critics who are as petrified as the rest of the opera scene seems to be.

Pretty soon the whole thing did indeed crash again and, running out of other things to do, I took the time to read the article. And it is not as bad as I expected. At all.

"I wish I could report that “Prima Donna” fulfilled his ambitions for writing a fresh and personal new opera." Anthony Tommasini writes. And "Mr. Wainwright’s score and his attitude toward the drama often seem muddled, as if he were relying too much on his keen musical and theatrical instincts lest he overthink and impede his imagination."

But he also acknowledges Rufus' talent "He certainly brings deep talents and potential to the challenge" and concedes "There are inspired touches and disarmingly beautiful passages in this mysterious, stylistically eclectic work."

I also love his analysis of the fall-out with the Met over writing this opera in French: "A Philip Glass opera in Sanskrit is an American work, but not a Wainwright opera in French?" I believe the critic's name is a smoke-screen. This should be said with a Yiddishe accent.

Certain remarks bode well for the album Rufus is planning to bring out next, just himself and a piano. "Some of the most captivating moments are the simplest musically." That's the Rufus I know!

"The opera ends with a tender aria for Régine, a long-spun melody with a gentle accompaniment riff: in other words, a Wainwright song. Would that there had been more of them."

Not quite a miracle, but not bad at all...

PS. I would be very much mistaken if this is not that aria, Les feux d'artifice t'appellent (The fireworks are calling you). It starts at 1:50. There's a couple of typical Rufus O Shit!s in there, but it was the first time he performed it (and he does have a tendency sometimes to get lost in his own music - I can't blame him, so do I.)

Monday, 13 July 2009

well-rested

And good morning to you!

Where along the line did I go from not being able to fall asleep on Sunday evening to waking up at insanely early hours on Monday morning? Not that it's not an improvement, because at least I get to start the week feeling rested, but waking up at 4.37 AM is just so unlike me.

Fortunately I did manage to go back to sleep and catch another hour before my alarm went off, but then as soon as it did I was up. This is not normal, I have the alarm set to go off at 5-minute intervals over the space of half an hour to make sure I don't go back to sleep. That's the norm for me.

We'll see tomorrow...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

cold turkey

If only I could stop eating altogether. It would be so much easier than practising moderation...

Friday, 10 July 2009

scrap

I found a scrap of paper in the back of a notepad:

When they came for the communists, I said nothing,
for I was no communist.
When they came for the social-democrats I said nothing,
for I was no social-democrat.
When they came for the union-workers, I said nothing,
for I was no union-worker.
When they came for the Jews I said nothing,
for I was no Jew.

When they came for me, there was noone left to say anything.

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer --

dieting disadvantage

It's not fair that the more weight you lose, the less you can eat and the more you have to excercise to keep losing more...

alright in the end

When editing the details of the ebooks you've just downloaded onto your iPhone, remember that Charles Dickens' name ends with an s, not a d...


(Any book recommendations? Anything roughly before World War I is fair game.)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Rain

Why does the UK get the fuckng thunderstorms? I wanna be ablr to sleep at night

UPDATE (the morning after): I was slightly tipsy last night, it seems... No hangover or anything - but then I've been far more drunk than that without suffering ill effects.

I've been watching Tru Blood episodes back to back this morning, picking up at the end of number two where I fell asleep last night. I'm on episode six now... It's strange, I can't say I like it, but I keep on watching.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sleepy

Slightly drunk, at K's. He just dumped a mouse out the window. He caught it in a bread box, apparently. At least it won't be keeping me up tonight.

We went to the Fourth of July picnic at the American School of The Hague. I even had a cheeseburger made by marines. K asked several of them what they thought of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The answer ranged from downright defensive to only slightly less defensive...

Ellen broke down again. I think there's something shaken loose around the starter engine, K thinks it could be the alarm system interfering with the electrics. The tow truck guy was kinda cool and K turned twelve again when he got to ride in the front. We got a Renault Clio whilst Ellen is going to be delivered to K's regular repair guy on Monday. Oh well...

UPDATE: there's more than one mouse.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

socks 'n' sandals

Both are black. I tore up my heels yesterday, having accidentally put on the wrong shoes, so I wanted something comfortable today. And -nothing will make me show my toes at work.

After I had packed my heels with gauze and tape last night - I took a taxi from the station, I couldn't bear to walk another step - I remembered I was planning to do my hair. The awkward walking up to the point of catching the cab, plus the strain of leaning over the tub to rinse out all the dye, has left my legs and feet pr etty sore.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

get thee to a mummery

I don't. like. mimes.

Nothing personal, I just don't.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Wogan's wisdom

A nugget from a BBC trailer featuring radio and TV legend Terry Wogan:
Who said that time flies like an arrow?
Fruit flies like a banana.

He was the first person I saw on TV when I went to England. Having watched his talkshow for years before that, I felt right at home.

I have no idea what the trailer is for...

rain stopped play

Always stays the same, nothing ever changes.
English summer rain seems to last for ages.

-- Placebo, English Summer Rain

Is it showing that I'm getting fed up to lying on the couch all the time? - I did go to work today; my boss sounded a bit annoyed when I left only twenty-five minutes late - but I ended up on the sofa almost as soon as I got back.

ten

...is de number of unique visitors this blog welcomes on an average day.

(calculated between March 2007 and now)

Brahma

Brahma
(after Emerson)

If the wild bowler thinks he bowls,
----Or if the batsman thinks he's bowled,
They know not, poor misguided souls,
----They too shall perish unconsoled.

I am the batsman and the bat,
----I am the bowler and the ball,
The umpire, the pavilion cat,
----The roller, pitch, and stumps, and all.

-- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

I know this one by heart and almost any cricket match or reference to Brahma will make me recall (and sometimes recite) it. Still, just to make sure I didn't make any mistakes in transcribing it, I went looking for an online source and found this page, which also includes the wonderful observation that "cricket is an Indian game accidentally invented by the British". Actually it's the West Indies England are playing right now - or would be, if it weren't for the rain. I'd never watched anything on Eurosport 2 until the start of the Twenty20 World Cup...

And this is the Ralph Waldo Emerson poem of the same title, which, I admit, I had never read before, that inspired the above:

Brahma

IF the red slayer think he slays,
----Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
----I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
----Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanish'd gods to me appear;
----And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
----When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
----And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
----And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
----Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)

Saturday, 13 June 2009

wiki-surfing

Screaming Pope

OlympiaIn a documentary on the BBC about Édouard Manet a link was made between his painting Olympia and Olimpia Maidalchini, Pope Innocent X's sister-in-law. She was sometimes referred to as "la papessa" and certainly seems to have been the power behind the Pontifical Throne.
According to papal historian Ludwig von Pastor, "the misfortune of Pope Pamphilj was that the only person in his family who would have had the qualities necessary to fill such a position was a woman."

There doesn't seem to be any real (or even marginally credible) evidence that she was also his mistress, but the accusation was - rather obviously - levelled at her. Apparently this was what made Manet's painting so racy: the name and the connection with an infamous courtesan.

Pope Innocent XInnocent X was painted by Diego Velázquez, whose portrait was the inspiration for Francis Bacon's "Screaming Pope" above. I don't know why that painting fascinates me. It just does. And seeing the two of them together is quite interesting.

At least I think so.

e-mail from my mother (NSFW)

I never thought I'd write that title!

Last Thursday I received an e-mail at work from my mother. There wasn't much to it, no text and the .wmv attachment had been - rightly - blocked by my company's spamfilter. So I replied telling her I couldn't watch it, but I'd check it out if she sent it to my home address.

She then responded that it was a mistake, that it was meant for my father and it turned into a regular "How's it going over there? What have you been doing?" conversation. But she did send the link to my home e-mail and I've only just remembered to watch it. And this is what my mother was forwarding to my father:


Funny Videos

Don't click the above link if you don't want to get an eyefull of nipples and ovaries! (I thought about deleting it, but there might be a need for those among my readership too...)

For as long as I can remember it's been a toss-up whether my mother or myself would ask my father "Isn't that something for you?" whenever we saw a pretty young thing. And from the time I was sixteen or so, I remember watching several Emanuelle movies or other rather soft-core movies - whichever happened to be on TV - with them.

We'd just have coffee and conversation like any other movie, my mother can't concentrate on anything that long, so she'd always be doing something like ironing or folding, or falling asleep; Dad would have his feet up on the coffee table - apparently it was better for his bad back, now they've moved and have a glass coffee table (the old oak one is right here with me) he doesn't seem to need it anymore; and I'd have a book or a notebook and pen with me, either reading or writing all the time.

a musical how-to (very NSFW)

I hope this works, because I couldn't figure out a way to upload it (fuzzy brains) and I didn't like the "video" from YouTube (so you should just be seeing the controls). Although he doesn't seem to be credited, I believe it's Stephen Lynch.



Hmmm. This sucks. I can't figure out why I see the control bar in preview mode, but not when I post it.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Stood up

It was Sunday morning and I had serious trouble getting up. But I promised my friends I'd meet them for lunch at noon in Amsterdam. "I've got the bagels, you bring the cream cheese," I believe the exact wording was.

So I dragged myself out of bed a little after my alarm went off at nine AM, took a shower to feel a bit more human and managed to catch a train that would make me twenty minutes early. As opposed to the next one, which would make me ten minutes late - something that would just never do for my Dutch family.

Now it's Sunday afternoon and I'm cold and shivering, sitting outside the coffeeshop around the corner from K's. I called him when I first got off the train - no reply. Then I called P, both to check up on his progress and to warn him - no reply.

I had a cup of coffee across from the station and finished my book. Just before we were supposed to meet, I walked over to K's apartment and rang the doorbell several times. The problem is, that when no-one opens the door, you don't know why. Are they shagging, or simply asleep? I called K's phone - no reply. I called Sunshine's - no reply. I called P's - no reply.

Since there was the possibility of sex in progress, I decided to give them a bit more time, but after half an hour of freezing my ass off on a windy street corner*, I decided I was going in, no matter what. (In fact, this is the point when I realised I'd forgotten the cream cheese, but there's a cheese shop five steps away.) I have keys so I would have gotten in anyway, but gave them the annoying doorbell treatment first. It worked a treat.

When I reached upstairs the apartment door was still locked and they were both in bed again. K told me he'd get up in fifteen minutes. It sounds loke he's kept his word. Still no sign of P, though, perhaps he couldn't decide what to wear. If anyone deserves to be called a peacock it's him. In fact nothing would make him happier than to wear one!

* yes, I could have gone inside, but although I'm not averse to a joint once in a while - as long as there's no tobacco, in fact I bought one whilst I was there - I don't care for the smoke.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

my first HIV test

Yes, I know, I should probably have been tested before, but my lack of love-life has always seemed to make it a rather pointless excercise. And I can't remember if I ever received blood during surgery, but if I did it was over 23 years ago, so anything untoward would have shown up.

Perhaps they did test me two years ago when I had rather extensive bloodworks done, I'm not sure. Considering neither I nor my doctor were informed, if they did, it was negative.

But a couple of weeks ago I went in to be considered as a blood donor and had to sign a form that I realised the blood would be tested, amongst other things, for HIV and if that particular test found something, I would be told.

Yesterday I received my first call-up to donate. Since I did nothing since the test to get infected I can, just this once say, that I am 100% sure I'm negative. Which is especially good because now I can give blood and help others.

even more ass! - naked bike ride update

Nothing so, active, for me, thanks, I'm still at home. But I just received a text message from M: they're on their way and probably outnumbered by cameramen. TV's there too, so I may catch a glimpse later... ;-) They just made a stop for bodypainting.

Perhaps I shall stop calling him M and refer to him as "the exhibitionist" instead. Or "the nude cycler"? Votes and suggestions are welcome.

P was waiting along the route for them to ride by. I know because he called to invite me to a small dinner party tomorrow night and from the noise he must have been on the square as he said.

not

Realising that I shouldn't be judging other people's fashion sense, I must make an exception to the rule of me not commenting once in a while just to keep sane.

Shirts using the Coca Cola font to express funny remarks are not.

Friday, 5 June 2009

What I did last weekend

Yes, I know it's Friday by now, but if you look at the below, you'll see why I did little more than work, crash on the sofa and sleep since Tuesday. I'm sorry I didn't post a "Places I remember" story last Sunday, it was just too hectic. This was originally written on Monday:

Today is the final day of a three-day weekend and the weather has been absolutely glorious. So what did I do? Here's the short version:

  • slept in on Saturday
  • took a bath
  • ironed one t-shirt
  • packed my pajamas
  • walked more than halfway to the station
  • realized I left my phone at home
  • went back, grabbed the phone and walked all the way to the station
  • took an enormous detour because rail traffic was only going west; east was blocked due to scheduled maintenance
  • arrived at K's where it was decided we'd head over to D's
  • got the tour of D's apartment
  • helped K pick up six bottles of wine and ended up paying for them
  • "Everybody knows you live forever..."
  • discussed the placement of the John O'Carroll triptych D bought last week
  • measured the space between her sofas for an oval glass coffeetable
  • caught a tram towards Leidseplein with R, because I'd arranhed to spend the night with P and M
  • stayed up until 2.30 as M was showing off the software he sells using data I need to analyse for work
  • slept on their sofabed which still is more comfortable than K's


  • was wide awake at 9.30 AM for some strange reason
  • went to Chinatown with P, looking for pho amongst other things
  • found every toko and supermarket closed because of the holiday
  • had some wonderful crisp sea bass with three spicy sauces; P had larb kai, which was a little less spicy than he would have liked
  • spent the afternoon glazing several of P's sculptures, including one I picked out for myself; I call him "Death", there's even room for a scythe
  • death is a very, very dark grape colour
  • had drinks with some of P's friends from Dutch class
  • left with K, Sunshine and M for some peace and quiet
  • did not pay an extortionate - and I'm quite sure illegal - fare to the cab driver on the Leidseplein
  • watched Milk with the above minus the cabbie
  • watched Wolverine with K, Sunshine and TomTom
  • did something that is generally known by one letter
  • went home with TomTom so I could sleep in his roommate's bed rather than K's sofa
  • caught a cab that charged regular fares (TCA rocks)
  • chatted with the driver whilst TomTom got cigarettes at a gas station; he has a pass for Central Station, but he hasn't been there in six months because there and on the Leidseplein is where the cabbies are all crooked
  • on either side of TomTom's front door the working girls behind the windows greeted him
  • laughed at him trying not to disturb the couple downstairs, but continually dropping things (a full plastic half-liter bottle of Dr Pepper, a cigarette lighter, a glass full of Coke
  • helped mop up the glass and Coke
  • stepped in a shard of glass
  • bled
  • mopped up the blood
  • was introduced to a drug more addictive than crack cocaine or heroin (not that I've ever tried those or feel inclined to do so)
  • discovered a talent for MarioKart on wii
  • scored 116 and 112 bowling
  • beat TomTom in my first ever try at golf on the wii
  • fouled three times at the triple jump (I can't get that third jump timed correctly)
  • made a complete mess at the trampoline
  • went back to MarioKart, but by now it was 6AM so we took a sleeping pill and waited for it to take effect whilst still playing
  • felt a bit fuzzy round the edges, but not sleepy
  • my performance suffered only slightly
  • got warm and fuzzy again, this time from something else with only one initial
  • went to bed at 8.51 AM thinking I might need some time to relax first but fell asleep immediately


  • when I woke up at 2 PM, TomTom reported the same
  • we each took a shower
  • he went to the supermarket, I went into town
  • called K, didn't get a reply
  • headed for the station, figuring he was either asleep or having sex
  • decided to take the train towards Utrecht, figuring a short bus trip provided by the rail company was better than the long detour I took before
  • sat in the bus in a traffic jam for what felt like hours although it probably was thirty minutes
  • got a call from Sunshine confirming I was correct in my earlier assumption about K
  • walked home, arriving in a positively cool apartment
  • took off all my clothes and lay on the sofa
  • browsed the directory on the external hard-drive K said I should take with me and check out
  • clicked one of the movies in the "Adult Video" directory at random
  • laughed out loud when I realised I'd seen (at least part of) it before