January 27, 2005

Look at 'em go!

A continuing report of our ants' progress in their strange gel world... They have finally started to tunnel! It's a fairly short tunnel so far, but they are small ants, so it's both a lot of work and a long enough space for them. In my last report, I said how they had dug a big hole in one corner of the box, but then they just spent a bunch of time huddled there. Now they have made two tunnels branching off from this cavern-like hole they dug. One tunnel is small and just curves back up to the surface, the other is the main tunnel that they've made towards the center of the box. O posted a photo of it. It's a bit hard to see the scale here, but it's only a little more than an inch long. Plenty of room for them all to fit down there and walk around a bit. To the right in the photo you can see the first part they dug, which is quite wide and circular. I guess it gives them a good area to rest or get out of the way from ant congestion in the tunnel. I also like the strange texture the tunnel wall has, which I guess is from them nibbling away bits of gel when digging. It looks like that pebbly glass that is used in bathroom doors so you can't see through. And they've made a complete mess of the surface of the gel. Pieces of gel are scattered all about. One to two ants still wander about on top all the time, and occasionally you see one pick up a clump of gel and move it to another spot, which might have made sense to the ant, but seems rather pointless to me.

January 23, 2005

Ant progress

Our ants have started to do a bit of work in their strange new gel-y home. Up til last night, almost all of them were huddled in one corner, while 2-3 would wander about. This morning we found that they'd made quite the hole out of a hole that the wandering ants had started, right in the corner at the opposite end from where they were huddled. Problem is, they all just moved the huddling to the hole. It's not very exciting, but at least there is evidence of them doing something with their surroundings.

While the gel also is their source of food, they of course don't eat all of the gel they take out when digging. They carry lumps up to the surface to deposit it. These ants seems to deposit the lumps fairly spread-out so that the area all around the hole, even on the walls, is covered in bits of gel. It looks like it wasn't dug out by the ants, but that they used some tiny dynamite at night to blow a hole in the gel. They also handily dumped a bunch of gel in the opening of a hole we had made for them. I guess they don't care much for our help.

One of the few ants wandering around spent most of the day trying to nibble his way through the air-tight seal in the lid. I don't know what it is made out of (not quite foam and not quite plastic), but I doubt the makers of the Antworks would have expected the ants to eat their way through it. Fortunately only the one ant has picked up on this idea, so as long as he doesn't pass on his knowledge, I think we're save from them escaping.

My child is monstrously ugly

I came across this photo at work while I was looking up something in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Michelin baby

I can just imagine its Gran still saying, "Who is just the cutest baby in the world?!"

January 21, 2005


As previously mentioned, I gave O an Ant Works antquarium for xmas. We decided that it might be difficult to find ants for it outside in the winter, so we sent away the order form that came with the Ant Works to get some ants sent to us in the mail from the UK. Kinda silly, I know, why pay for something that you could just go outside and find, but we were partly just wanting to order ants in the mail. We've been waiting this whole time for them, we sent the form just after xmas, and they finally arrived yesterday. I imagined they'd arrive in a small box, but the ants were much smaller than I imagined, so they came in a small plastic container about the size of a film canister which was just mailed in a bubble envelope. Around 25 ants were in there, tiny, yellow-brown things. In the container, a blue strip of moist paper was wound up loosely and the ants were within that. We unwound the blue strip and found a clump of ants that were kind of immobile due to being cold, sitting all day in our mailbox that is open to the outside. Once we poked them though, they woke up and started crawling in all directions, leaving O and I to do our best to shove them in the Ant Works, collect the ones that fell onto the table, and watch that the ones that were in the Ant Works did not crawl back out, all at the same time. We did our best, put some ants back in the plastic mailing container, and put those in the fridge to calm them down (this was recommended by the ant instruction sheet. Really!) We did fairly well in round 2, and ended up giving up on only about 5-6 of them, which I tapped out onto the balcony to fend for themselves in the cold. (I know, it's cruel. I'm a horrible person.) So then we watched how the others were doing in the Ant Works box. So far, they are still getting used to their surroundings. Instead of exploring though, they've huddled together in one corner, leaving only about 3 bold ants roaming around and sniffing things out. The instructions said this might happen though, and recommended covering the box (they feel more comfortable in the dark, I guess), so we threw a towel over it. I hope they start crawling around soon, and even better, start digging their tunnels. I was all excited when I saw one ant carrying a clump of the blue gel, but he didn't carry it for long. O took some photos and has posted one.


I've been getting a decent amount of visits to my site lately, which is good. But it's weird that I suddenly have been getting a lot from people doing searches on MSN. Who searches on MSN, and why do they keep getting to my site?!

The search terms have been amusing. Two bizarre, random ones: "cookbook slink" and "global news- piggy bank". There have also been "photoblog porn" and "canal porn". Add those to the "girl looking for guy porn" I got last week. Had I even mentioned porn on my site before now? Oh, right, I mentioned it when I talked about the strange present I got from O's mom. See, that one use of the word, and now three people have ended up here searching for porn. It's like O still gets more hits from people searching for gay guys (and similar phrases) than anything else, just because of a couple of photos he posted from the Gay Parade.

January 20, 2005

About the scariest holiday movie ever

I have not yet seen The Polar Express, but from what I've heard about it, I think I'll stay well away from it. But I just came across this post where an animation guy discusses what went wrong with the film and provides some Photoshopped screenshots to show how with just a little tweaking of the eyebrows and some shadowing, the child doesn't have to look like something that is going to give you nightmares. If this guy can take the time to make it look proper, you'd think the people being paid to make the movie would have taken the time as well.

Speaking of children that could give you nightmares, O and I were walking to the train station in Haarlem last Saturday night and we passed a house that still had the curtains open, so we both peeked inside as we passed. There was an old guy on a couch watching tv, and this small, skinny figure sitting in a chair at the end of the couch. My mind for a split second thought it was his wife, a tiny, starved woman, but then I saw it was a large doll, or perhaps a ventriloquist dummy. And man, that thing was scary. It seriously looked like Chucky. There was a second doll too, but I didn't really see what it looked like in the short time it took us to walk by. I imagine the grandkids don't enjoy visiting there too often.

January 12, 2005


A few days ago, I mentioned in passing that it was gonna be a-stormin' over the weekend. I was hoping that there's be some good damage around to show for the horrible weather we had to suffer through, but nothing much happened, I didn't hear of anything on the news.

That is until I arrived at work on Monday and we found that the oak tree that a princess "planted" had been blown over. I guess she and the young tykes didn't throw enough dirt at it. The tree chose a good direction to fall in, because on the way down, it took out one of the three flagpoles that are also out on the front yard. Brillant. I wish I had photos, but alas, I don't. On Tuesday morning, the tree had already been pulled back up and anchored to poles placed on the windy side of the tree. I would laugh so much if the wind changed direction and pushed it over from the other side. It's pretty sad though, to have to anchor it like that since it's not just a little, twiggy tree, it's quite tall already. The flagpole is still a mangled stump at the edge of the lawn. It's like having a cross between the kite-eating tree and the whomping willow.

January 8, 2005


And two things to tick off my to-do list!

First off, I went to SpecSavers and kicked ass and got my 45 euros that they owed me, putting an end to that drama after almost a month. Though, ok, I didn't really have to kick that much ass this time, and I wouldn't have had to go in at all today if I weren't such a wimp the last time I tried to get the money off them. I went in just before New Year's, and the same girl and guy were there yet again (they're the only two employees as far as I can tell). I went to the guy who was sitting at the counter, and he was either lying really well, or he really didn't remember me, because he didn't show any recognition of remembering me or my story. I said it'd been at least 2 1/2 weeks and I still didn't have any money in my account. So he gave me some bullshit about it being the holidays so it could take awhile, blahblahblah, see if it arrives after the new year and if it doesn't, come back and he'll give me the money in cash (which he'd already offered to do before). I decided then to wimp out give them the benefit of the doubt about this holiday crap and slink out without any money, but I'd be sure to get it the next time, damnit!! And that was today, and while I'd stoked myself up for some heavy arguing, I didn't need it, the guy just gave me the money, though with this whole attitude of there being a smile on his face, but in reality you could tell he just wanted to be done with me. Hey, I just want to be done with you too, dude, so thanks for the bloody money finally and hope to never see you again.

The second victory is that we finally won the battle of Boy and Girl vs. The Wall and Coat Hooks. This also has been going on awhile, I can't even remember when we bought the hooks. Soon after getting the hooks, we bought some screws, nice long ones that would definitely hold a lot of weight. We then had an exciting afternoon of first trying to screw in the screws directly, but finding out the wall was too dense at some point. So we tried drilling holes, but still the screws wouldn't go in far enough. We drilled again with a longer bit and drilled again with the original bit and basically made a big mess of it, making the holes too large for the screws to take hold at all anymore. We then tried creative ways to fill up the extra space, using either newspaper or bits of rubber from a balloon we'd popped. And amazingly, neither of those things did the trick. We gave up and decided to get screws that weren't as long and in the meantime filled the holes with some kind of plastery hole-filler-inner so that the screws would have something to grab onto once again.

After getting shorter screws, it still didn't quite work, they still hit against some part in the wall that we could just not screw into, so they were left sticking out too far. So it was back to the hardware store for the smallest size they had. O went in after work to pick some up, but he ended up coming home with screws that were the same size as the ones we already had. Big doh. Today then I was sent in to get the smaller screws because O was tired of the damn hardware store, and we gave them a go tonight, and lo, it worked:

We can finally hang coats. What luxury.

January 7, 2005

Holiday report

I had said I would report on how productive I actually was during my time off around New Year's. Let's take a look at the list and see how I did:

  • new clothes: check. Got quite a few new clothes, most of which I think I'm happy with. I got a new, softer, more colourful scarf that I'm definitely happy with.
  • coat hooks drilled into the wall: um, this is still a work in progress. Hopefully it'll get done this weekend and I may have some mishap stories to share.
  • kicking SpecSavers ass: another work in progress. I plan to do more ass kicking tomorrow and hopefully put an end to this mess.
  • get stuff hung on walls: failed to do that. I think we're a bit put off of dealing with the walls after the coat hooks became such a problem. Though I did hang on an existing nail in the bedroom the large Corneille calendar we got from O's mom for xmas.
  • do a bit of out-of-the-ordinary cooking: yep, made a Hungarian chicken dish, though I slightly undercooked the chicken. We're still here, so I think we escaped any samonella poisoning.
  • buy a pile of fireworks for New Year's: check. Stood in line for nearly 2 hours to do so. It was insanity. There was a line yards long outside of the hardware store we went to to get them, and we were in that for ages (fortunately it was pleasant and sunny out). Then you were let into the store in bunches, only to pile in a disorderly manner in front of the big counter and elbow your way to the front to get your fireworks. I let O battle the crowd on his own (no need for us both to head in there), and he had some little shit shove in front of him and give him lip when O told the kid to get to the back where he should be. The kid was even trying to say that O had plans to pickpocket him. O won in the end, thanks to his sharp elbows.
Hm, not as successful as I could hope, but hopefully a couple of more things will get done this weekend. Going out for groceries and such tomorrow is going to suck because it is majorly stormy out there. I hate the wind, so it makes me a very unhappy bunny.

January 1, 2005

Welcome to 2005

Ringing in 2005 was a bit strange for me. I guess I felt like I was going into the New Year with a lot more pessimism than usual and just kinda felt depressed about things on a global and personal scale. 2004 wasn't necessarily a bad year for me, but I felt like not much happened or changed, it all just stagnated. And I'm realizing how much power I need to get things to change and I'm scared about not having that power and things just going on as they are.

By the time midnight rolled around, I felt a bit more in a celebratory mood and we headed out to light the fireworks we'd bought, but we were horribly overshadowed by some people in our street who'd bought a bunch of powerful, professional-style mortars. A small group of some very nice people had even come over to watch us set off our rockets, but after a few minutes they ditched us for the brillant display coming from our street (we were around the corner along the canal that's perpendicular to our street). I can't really blame them.

We walked around the neighbourhood a bit, but most of the good fireworks were done with, leaving only kids throwing little firecrackers at things and each other. It was hardly even 1 am. Maybe if people would save their damn fireworks until midnight instead of firing them off all week, the celebration would last a bit longer.

After we got home, we did our New Year's tradition of watching Jools Holland's HOOTenanny, which handily starts at 1 due to the time difference, allowing us time to do our fireworks thing first. I didn't know many of the artists playing (only Franz Ferdinand and Eric Clapton) but the mix of soul, rock, blues, funk and more is always a good mix for the first couple of hours of the new year. And I was much happier after a bit of champagne which got me pleasantly drunk instead of giving me a headache or making me feel sick like most stuff seems to do lately.

Another interesting New Year's tradition for me is to watch the Dutch cabaret act that is always about topics and events that were central to the outgoing year. It's interesting for me because each year I can understand it a bit better (and there's nothing harder to understand than comedy in another language done by comedians speaking very quickly). I've seen it for 6 New Year's now and I did pretty well this year, except when they spoke really fast. But I can still remember the first couple of years, just staring at the screen in utter incomprehensibleness. It's like a yearly measure of how my Dutch's come along. (Though it really only gets better in reading and listening, I don't speak it enough to improve my speaking skills.) While I may be able to understand better, I still for the life of me cannot learn the names of the two guys who usually do the New Year's act. I really like them (they're way better than when Freek de Jonge did it one year), but I still think of them as the guy who looks like Spud from Trainspotting and the guy with the strange lips and nose. As I watched them I couldn't for the life of me think of what either of their names were, or even what letter they started with. It's just something that's never stuck in my brain (though after the end of the show when I saw the credits, I'm starting to learn that the Spud-looking guy is Jansen).