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


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


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.


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:


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


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


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


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


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


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.