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


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


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


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.