December 28, 2004

What your toilet bowl says about you

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the evil shelf toilet that our house happens to have. Apparently, a lot about Dutch society can be deduced from the shelf toilet. In last week's News of the Weird, which I have delivered weekly to my inbox, there was a story about what a country's toilet design says about them:

In a September issue of the London Review of Books, trendy Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zisek made the point that the essential ideological differences in German, French, and British-American societies, as noted by G. W. F. Hegel and others, can be represented by their countries' respective toilet designs. The German toilet's evacuation hole is in the front, facilitating "inspection and analysis," but the French design places the hole in the rear, so that waste disappears quickly. The British-American toilet allows floatation, which of course signals that society's "utilitarian pragmatism." Zisek described his theory as an "excremental correlative-counterpoint" to a framework identified with French philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss.
Nothing is mentioned specifically about the Dutch, but it sounds like the Germans have shelf toilets as well, which doesn't really surprise me.

I found the full article which the News of the Weird is referring to, and I can't claim to understand it, but I did like this quote: "No wonder that in the famous discussion of European toilets at the beginning of her half-forgotten Fear of Flying, Erica Jong mockingly claims that 'German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything.'"

I understand that these toilets probably developed to combat disease, since the feces could be easily examined. But why are they still needed then? Surely we don't have to worry so much about food poisoning these days? Again I ask, would anyone with plumbing skills like to come and rid me of the Third Reich horror that has taken up residence in my bathroom?!

December 27, 2004

What Santa brought me

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. This was probably the most relaxed I've been at a Christmas here; in past years, I was either feeling bum for not being able to understand the Dutch being spoken around me, or feeling choked out by all of the smoke from my in-laws. Now O's brother and his girlfriend have quit smoking, so spending time with them is so much more pleasant than it used to be.

Anyway, O and I got a lot of nice presents... We got quite a few books between us. Two of mine were actually belated birthday presents: Geert Mak's History of Amsterdam and a strange erotic cookbook that actually falls more on the side of porn than eroticism. It's by a French guy, which I think explains a lot. (The French guy is Fran├žois Gervais, who designed the Durex room at the Hotel Winston in Amsterdam.) I gave O a book, and he gave me a book, and we eerily had wrapped the two similarly-sized hardbacks in similar ways, trying to pad them so they weren't so obviously books (which didn't work in either case). So when O's brother handed O the book from me, he thought his brother had looked at the name wrong and was confused when the tag indeed said it was for him.

I got some other small things like a small leather organizer, a candleholder and retro bakelite salt and pepper shakers. O was very happy with the antquarium and the 'jama bottoms I got him. He also got a couple of big bottles of Belgian abby-brewed beer with glasses, a silly keyboard brush and an artsy piggy bank. We jointly got some magnetic poetry. All in all some funky gifts that I look forward to using/reading.

For Christmas dinner, O's mom made what's become her traditional Christmas dinner: roasted chicken in a herb and onion sauce. Very yummy. And O's brother got his girlfriend an ice cream maker for Chirstmas, so they made a rich mocha ice cream for dessert. Even more yumminess. We got home around midnight and I called home and talked to my family for a bit. It was a good Christmas, though I'm happy to be done with it for another year.

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of O. The freakiest Santa you'll ever see. I like it a lot.

Merry Christmas to anyone reading this. I hope you get to spend it with some loved ones, and that you get some good presents. O and I are heading to his mom's house in a couple of hours, and his brother and brother's girlfriend will be there as well. A nice, quiet affair, which is good when you're with your in-laws.

December 24, 2004

Time off

I am a sad person still sitting in the office at 4 pm on Christmas Eve. I am totally avoiding the small amount of work I have and I'm already bored of poking around on the internet, and I still have next Monday and Tuesday to get through. I'm only here because I don't have enough holidays left to take more time off. I think I'm about the only person in my company that runs out of holidays; everyone else I talk to talks about how they have 15, 20, 25 days left over at the end of the year that they carry over into the next year. I only get 23 to begin with. I'm seriously thinking of asking my boss for a holiday raise; I think I'd like that more than a salary raise at this point.

To be honest, I haven't technically run out of holidays, I'm carrying 3 over to next year. I just didn't want it to be even less than that. And I am off next Wednesday-Friday. Which will be great, a bit of time bumming around at home. I do have plans though to get some key things done in that time, including:

  • getting some new clothes
  • getting the damn coat hooks drilled into the wall after O and I made a mess out of our original holes and the screws wouldn't fit anymore
  • going to SpecSavers and kicking their ass to get the 45 euros they owe me out of them
  • getting some stuff hung on the walls, since the walls are still bare
  • cooking some things that are a bit more interesting than what we normally eat for dinner
  • buying a pile of fireworks for New Year's

I'll report back in the new year on how much of that I actually did. Because I need to also fit in some couch potato time and lots of late mornings. Why do I make my time off so stressful?

Garden State

Last night we watched Garden State. It was as good as I'd hoped. I'd kinda been almost wary about seeing it because I felt I'd either find it wonderful and need to be in the right mood for it, or I'd be disappointed and I didn't want that. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. It's probably totally cliche and predictable that I'd love it, but I don't care. I was trying very hard not to cry in a couple of scenes, and I rarely cry during movies anymore. I was just absorbed into the whole story and details and music. I haven't felt like that during a movie since I saw Donnie Darko, though Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were also similar. So, go see it if you haven't. But be sure you're in the right mood.

December 19, 2004


As an update to my story on the evil SpecSavers people, I still have not received the 45 euros they promised me as a refund for not getting me my sunglasses in time for my holiday. Unfortunately I only just checked my bank account this morning, so I can't march in there until sometime this week, perhaps, depending on how late they are open on weeknights, but it'll have to be in the week since I doubt they are open next Saturday and I think I'll have better things to be doing then. "We sent the request for the money in last Monday..." Yeah fucking right. That's two weeks ago now. The guy said "Well, if you don't get it in your account in a week, come in and I'll give you cash out of the register." I'll probably go in and they'll find they don't have 45 euros in the register, or something similarly lame. What a headache.

December 17, 2004

Merry Christmas, my arse

Sorry for another work-related post, but nothing much else of interest is going on in my life. I'm as bland as a potato.

Through the magic of management, I ended up overseeing that our company's Christmas cards were folded, addressed, signed and sent. My assignment was initially to just sort the list of addresses and send it around, but the whole thing ended up being stuck with me. It was mostly ok though since I didn't have much other work to do.

A few days ago though, as I'm about to print address labels for the cards, I'm realizing that the number of cards we have is way short of what we need. Like hundreds short. So I contact the woman in Production who was in charge of getting the cards, and she contacts someone else, and basically no one knows where this tiny number of cards came from (or at least they're not owning up to it). In the meantime we are running out of time to get these things out before Christmas so it was madness and worry for a bit. Since we already have such a crap slogan, I propose a new slogan for our company: "The Communications Company That Can't Bloody Communicate". I have the feeling that wouldn't go over too well though.

To get some of the cards out, we printed as many labels as we could and stuck them out for people to sign. I then got regular visitors coming to ask why So-and-so doesn't have a card, and if he doesn't have a card, we shouldn't send a card to Such-and-such because they work in the same office and So-and-so will wonder why we forgot him and they'll hate us and not give us any more business. And they ask why there aren't enough cards and I say "good question." But eventually everyone accepted the situation and just signed their damn cards.

We managed to convince the printers to print us more cards, pronto, so 200 were ordered. But then I realized that still wouldn't be enough -- it turned out we'd need more like 500 more. So I had to call the Production woman and let her know that 200 isn't enough. She bitched at me, wondering why I didn't let her know that earlier, and I realized that she had sent an email about it, but I didn't really think to check her number. I felt horrible, but then she is a hardnose about things.

So on Monday, the second batch of cards should arrive and I get to fold them, label them, get people to sign them, and send them off. Well, not all on my own, but I'm responsible for it. I'll probably get less shit this time though since half the company will be on holiday.

December 16, 2004

New colours

By the way, for anyone paying attention, welcome to the slightly redesigned Bubbly Red Stuff. Well, the layout is the same, I just fiddled with the colours a bit and got rid of the pea-greenness that it had as a background. I may fiddle with the colours some more, but this was enough of an improvement for the moment. And it was dinnertime, so I had to give up playing with it more.

And if anyone can tell me why the title shows up wrong in Internet Explorer, but fine in Firefox, I'd appreciate the help in fixing it. It's not horribly bad in IE, but the font shows up a bit differently, larger and dropped down more in the title bar. It annoys me.

December 12, 2004

I don't know why I expect any better

So, yesterday, Saturday, I finally got the pair of prescription sunglasses that were meant for Jamaica. Never mind that we returned from Jamaica 3 weeks ago, or that I ordered the glasses 2 weeks before going to Jamaica. It's been one big ball-o-fun trying to get these damn glasses.

Two weeks before going to Jamaica, I ordered prescription sunglasses at the SpecSavers near my house. They checked my eyes and all, though I had hoped that wouldn't be necessary, I thought they could just get the measurement from my normal glasses. But whatever, this guy did the measurements, he didn't seem to mind speaking English and he seemed nice enough. I paid for them and the girl who was at the register told me that it'd be about two weeks. I mentioned that they'd better be done in two weeks since I leave then for a holiday and that's what the sunglasses are for. She said something about making a note of that to try to speed them up.

Two weeks later I had no call from them to tell me to pick up my glasses. So I went in the day before we left for the holiday and the same girl and guy were there. My sunglasses, however, were not. The guy mentioned something about them possibly coming in that day still, so I went back near closing time to check. He got a little pissy with me and said they'd call when the glasses come in, and they hadn't called yet, had they? Well, no, but you guys don't have the sunglasses I need for my holiday. So I explained that I was leaving the next day, and I thought they'd be done by now. He suggested having them mailed to me during my holiday, but um, besides the fact that I don't know anyone in the area who would like to pick up some glasses for me and mail them, I think with the laid-back nature of Jamaican mail, I'd be lucky if they arrived before Christmas. Regardless, nothing was going to get my glasses finished before the next day, so I had to accept that. The guy (who I believe was the manager) at least offered 45 euros off the price for the inconvenience. Which was good since they were costing me much more than I had planned to pay.

So we go to Jamaica and to protect my eyes from the sun, I bought a fisherman's hat in the resort's gift shop that had a nifty Jamaican flag patch on the front. O thought it was cute and I got used to wearing it and got to take a nice souvenir home. So I wasn't so angry about not having sunglasses, except out of principle of them not having the glasses ready after two bloody weeks. I mean how long does it take to make them anyway?!

After we returned home, I popped once again into the SpecSavers to see if the sunglasses were ready (they hadn't called me in all the time we'd been gone). They were ready, thank god. And as the cashier girl pulls them out, I look at them confused and ask "These are sunglasses?!" Because she is handing me glasses that only have the lightest of brown tint. I put them on and you can still easily see my eyes though them. I'm so baffled and angry that I can hardly think about the other issues, like do the frames indeed look ok as sunglasses and can I see clearly. I mention that I had asked for sunglasses and these seem too light, but apparently they put in extra thin lenses in the frame and the extra thin lenses cannot be any darker than what they had given me. Don't ask me why, it makes no sense whatsoever, but they said that's the way it is. This also angered me since I hadn't wanted the thinner lenses anyway, I wasn't that bothered, so I was pissed that by them giving me something they only assumed I wanted, it now made my "sunglasses" worthless. I told them I was not happy with the glasses at all, I wanted proper dark glasses, I don't care if that means using thicker lenses. So, back to the lab with my glasses.

I got a call from SpecSavers this week and went in yesterday to pick the glasses up. All is good, they are something that will actually protect my eyes from the sun now. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if, out of spite, they ordered any UV protective coating to be left off. So I now have some sunglasses that look pretty ok and won't be used for at least another 4-5 months. And the slimmer lenses thing was such complete bullshit anyway, since the lenses they have now don't stick outside of the frames at all, even though they are rather thin frames. So all that thin lens business cost me a lot of trouble for nothing. Oh, and the story isn't over yet, since I still do not have the promised 45 euro refund in my bank account, even though the manager guy in the store yesterday said it had been requested Monday morning, and usually bank transfers move faster than that. And I realize now I should have asked for more money back because what I received changed, the thicker lenses should cost less than the thin ones. At this point though I can't be bothered. I just really hope I'm not making another visit next Saturday to demand the money once again. I would very much like yesterday to be the last time I ever set foot in their shop.

December 8, 2004

The Grand Opening of...

...The Evil Office Building of Corporate Bastardness

The building in which I work was previously featured here. And the Big Cheeses decided we needed a big grand opening, with royalty and everything! =P Well, ok, there was a nice party with free booze and food, so I skipped all the ceremony and just went to that.

Anyway, they recently posted some photos on the intranet to remember the special day. First off, the royalty. It wasn't anyone that big, she's like wife of one of the queen's younger sons (Princess Laurentien, for the Dutch people playing along). I guess it was the best they could do. So she arrived in a big limo followed by like 5 other cars and all sorts of guards and such and they rolled out a red carpet and it was all royal, or something. She arrived, she spoke on illiteracy (I guess it's one of her special interests), and then she went out to the front lawn to "plant" an oak tree. She didn't really plant it, it had already been sitting in the ground for two days and I think it would have remained standing without the help of the bit of dirt she threw on it, but it's all for the cameras. She had a few helpers, some kids from a local school who are in some learning program that our company sponsors. So they all go out, are handed shovels, and then start tossing some dirt at the bottom of the tree.

Go, Princess, Go

I did watch this part from our offices. She was pretty into it, not too girly and royal and going "ew. What is this wooden thing you're handing me?! I could get a splinter!" She did call it quits rather early though, while the kids were still rather into it.

Yeah. I'm done.

"Ennnh, I think that's enough of that."

So she pissed off back to her palace and we partied and avoided work. And pictures were made to embarrass everyone with later. I picked out some of the key moments of brilliance to post here:

"Hehheh heh. I got me two wimmin. Don't matter that they're co-workers and I have to face them tomorrow."

"Hehheh heh. I got me two wimmin too. And I can almost cop a feel!"

Keep an eye on that one in the red shirt on the left. I only just realized that she was in this photo, because the next two photos feature her. And she's appropriately showing off her empty champagne glass. She seems to like her alcohol:

Cuz one glass of booze at a time just isn't enough!

Watch out, Mom always said your face could freeze that way.

This woman was in like half the photos. You know she's proud.

It's easy to make fun of these people since I know nary a one of them. I'd of course make fun of my co-workers, but since the Bastards of Evil Corporateness didn't put up any photos of anyone I work with (except for ONE photo that MIGHT show the BACKS of two people I know), there's not much I can do.

A note from The Powers That Be

The other day at work we received an email from the Facilities department addressing some issues about our building. I found it quite funny. I have the feeling that was probably unintentional. Since I haven't posted in awhile, I thought it'd be fun to point out some of the more humourous parts here (ie, my life is so sad I have nothing better to talk about than work).

Meeting Points
The triangular meeting points on each floor are designed for small meetings. By the end of December the light sensors will be altered and light switches installed so that you can control the amount of light in the room.

The thing that is funny here is why they need to install light switches in the meeting rooms. Currently, the entire building's lights work on motion sensors. They come on when you walk in the room and they go out after 15 minutes of not detecting any motion (I've had the lights go out on me a few times because I sit a bit far from the nearest detector in my section, and I guess I was being particularly dead or something). Anyway, the meeting rooms are this way too, and none of the building planners thought that you might need to turn out the lights to, say, see a presentation projected on a screen. Fortunately TPTB are smart enough to install switches now.

Our lift supplier is working hard to rectify the various idiosyncrasies found in some of our lifts. One of the most annoying is the memory failure when more than one or two people press a floor selection.

"Various idiosyncrasies..." That's one way of putting it. Another way is "working hard to keep them from killing a lift full of people." I've heard endless stories of people being stuck in the lifts, the lifts opening well above or below where the floor is, and more scary, of them free-falling a few floors. I've been fortunate enough to not have any of those experiences. I have experienced the last thing they are talking about though, that the lift could only remember a maximum of 3 floors people had pushed buttons for; push any more than that and it'd clear all the floors that'd been chosen. Very handy when you have 8 people going to 6 different floors. And then a new person gets in and you say "don't hit the button!" and they go "Enh? What silly sort of thing to say...." and shrug as they hit the button and immediately get locked in a small space with 8 people who'd really like to kill them.

Another fun thing about the lifts are the helpful instructions about what to do in an emergency. I can't remember the wording exactly, but it's something like:

1. Press the alarm button.
2. You will be connected to someone who can help you.
3. If the alarm button does not connect you to anyone, repeat steps 1 and 2.

That's its great advice? "Keep hitting the button"?! Lord...

Smoking Rooms
Tests have been made by a building engineering firm and their recommendations are being reviewed.

Why did the smoking rooms need to be reviewed? Because they handily just released all their smoke into the building instead of ventilating it to the outside, choking all of the people who worked on the floors where they are located (there's not one on each floor, just ones in the middle and at the top, I think). So, the smoking rooms are closed, and in the meantime, smokers are forced out into the cold to stand in an uncovered area at the back of the building. I'm not a smoker, so I don't really care, but I find it funny how incredibly poorly the rooms' ventilation worked in a brand-new building. On a related note, you can strongly smell the fry grease from the cantine near our floor's lifts, and there's 7 floors between us.

Parking Garage:
Fender benders in the parking garage can be avoided! Should you happen to cause damage to another car, please leave a note behind with your name and number.

This one isn't about the building, but the people that work in it. It doesn't happen often, but I've seen 2-3 emails saying something like "Could the person who dented/scratched my car yesterday in the garage please come forward?" Hello? How rude is it to bump your car into a co-worker's and then just walk away?! That takes some gall.