June 24, 2005

Off we go

Finally, we are leaving tomorrow for our trip to the US. I am a bit anxious though about how hot it is in Chicago. We did the whole hot and humid thing in NY the last time, but the week didn't start that way so we had a couple of more reasonable days before the oppressive heat moved in. Chicago is already steaming. At least we've had the warm weather here all week to get us ready for what's to come.

I hope by the time we get to Portland the weather there will be nice but not too hot. And I hope I've not built up going back to Portland so much that I end up disappointed about being back. And I hope we are able to lug our suitcases home after all the stuff I plan to buy in the US. I'm excited. It'll be weird but good to be in the US again.

What brings you here?

I've been getting a fair amount of hits to my site recently. Not that many, really, I'm still happy when the daily number of visitors goes into the double digits, but still, it's a more steady stream. A lot of hits are from web searches, and there's been some interesting trends in what people are searching on.

I was getting a lot of people searching on various ant-related things due to talking about our AntWorks. Another still-common thread is getting various people searching on stuff about shelf toilets, cuz I wrote about the evil one we have. Didn't know there was that much interest out there on them.

I strangely have been getting a lot of hits from Google image searches that goes to the photo of an ugly baby I once posted. It's weird because the hits only started at the beginning of June or so, but I posted it in January. Also it sucks that with the image search, you can't find out what the person was searching on because the link doesn't go back to that page. SoI don't even know what brought them to that photo.

Some of the more bizarre and random search terms lately:
- Elliott Smith quote blueberry muffin (enh? Did he particularly like them or something? Talk about them during a show?
- intext:"naked" "exam table" doctor english me
- Eating a wet tampon (?!?!!)

June 17, 2005

The Movies

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I won gift certificates for dinner and a movie for two at The Movies after sending back the reader's survey from Amsterdam Weekly. So O and I used them last night and went and saw Sin City (sorry Lynn!).

We went to dinner first which was quite nice, and filling. I had a Caesar salad for a starter, but it was big enough to pose as a main course. Then my main course pasta came and the waiter came back a second later with a side salad to go with it. Ugh. I could have done without that, and only poked at it, picking some olives out. It was a bit difficult to make a decision from the menu, but unfortunately that was not due to there being so many things I wanted. The main reason for this was that so many offerings on the menu had asparagus in them, and I'm not keen on the veggie. I know asparagus is in season and popular here at this time of year, but you don't need to put it in everything you are serving. For the desserts however, the choice was hard due to everything looking so good. In the end I had the cheesecake with raspberries (in berry, sorbert and sauce form), which was quite nice, though a bit dry.

After all that food, I wasn't sure how much I wanted to go see a violent movie, but it was fine. I quite liked Sin City, in spite of all the blood and gore. I loved the look of the film and the dark humour (it took a little while for the audience to see the humour, but they got there eventually). I recommend it if you like that kind of thing, and if you are in Amsterdam, go see it at The Movies. It's like a smaller Tuschinski, and the audiences aren't obnoxious, chip-crunching, chatting arseholes. Having dinner there is also recommended. Just check their menu online first and see if they've toned down the asparagus.

Mail order review

Due to convenience and the price of CDs here, I've lately been buying CDs online directly from the record label. I feel sort of bad about it, especially since I love Get Records in Amsterdam so much and really want to give them my business. But when CDs are usually close to 20 euros (though lately when I've gone into Get, the prices were overall cheaper than I expected; many more CDs were around 15 euros) and when Get feels like a pain to travel to compared to being able to buy a CD online while I'm at work, I'm afraid the online option is just too attractive. So, I've purchased 4 CDs online somewhat recently, and it's been interesting seeing the level of customer detail each record label has offered. Because another bonus to ordering online is that the CD usually comes with some extra goodies, like stickers or buttons. It's just nice to get something extra thrown in. So I thought I'd give an overview of what I received from each label, and give an overall happiness score on a scale of 1-5.

Record label: Magic Marker Records
CD I purchased: A House Full of Friends (compilation of mostly NW bands)
Price I paid: $17 ($12 for a 2 CD compliation, plus $5 international shipping)
Extras thrown in: A Magic Marker button and a handwritten thank-you note from one of the label owners on a piece of paper that had bizarre children's poetry on it.
I already wrote once before about when I received this CD in the mail and how happy I was with it. Ok, it didn't have as many extras included as some of the other CDs I bought, but still, the little note enclosed was sweet and I felt like they were genuinely happy to get my order. Plus it arrived in about 4 days, which was insane.
Happiness score: 5

Record label: Saddle Creek Records
CD I purchased: Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Price I paid: $14 ($11 for CD, plus $3 international shipping) (By the way, Saddle Creek has a UK-based store for their CDs and it's touted as being better for orders from Europe, but the price was much higher, with the CD alone being 10 pounds. I'd stick with ordering from the US store.)
Extras thrown in: Handwritten thank-you note, Bright Eyes sticker
Happiness score: 3

Record label: Kill Rock Stars
CD I purchased: The Decemberists - Picaresque
Price I paid: $18 ($11 for CD, plus $7 international shipping)
Extras thrown in: They shoved in whatever they could fit into that envelope!: A Decemberists postcard, a handful of Picaresque stickers, a handful of KRS stickers, and a Picaresque poster. All the goodies made the slightly higher price I paid worth it.
Also, I think I pre-ordered this CD, which is another bonus of ordering from the record label. It just automatically comes to you as soon as the album is released.
Happiness score: 4

Record label: Sub Pop
CD I purchased: Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
Price I paid: $18 ($13 for CD , plus $5 international shipping)
Extras thrown in: One Sub Pop sticker ("That's it?" *shakes envelope upside down*)
Happiness score: 2

So yeah, Sub Pop was very disappointing. I'd probably stick with going to Get if I were buying another Sub Pop CD. Otherwise, I'd definitely order again from the other labels.

June 10, 2005


In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Chicago, I started looking around online at what sort of events might be going on in the week I'm there. It looks like I picked the right time to go. The entire week I'm there, there's the Taste of Chicago food festival. Aaaaanhnhnhnhn. Yum. If I hadn't already read that hundreds of thousands of people visit it every year, and seen a photo supporting this, my other plans for the city might be in danger of being passed up. But I dunno if I want to elbow through such crowds. I'm sure there are plenty of places to find great food in the city.

June 5, 2005

Exercising my green thumb

I know it's like a photography cliche to post photos of flowers, but I don't care in this case because these are my flowers that are cheerily blooming even though I am horrible with plants. I'm proud of myself for keeping them alive, so I wanted to post photos of their happy greenness.

This one broke into flowers after just being a green bush for awhile. I quite like it.

This one has lovely thick red flowers with petals that are slightly sparkly when you look at them in direct sunlight (yeah, I know, it's weird). It drinks a lot of water.

Both of the plants above I am extra proud of because I had to resurrect them after they went all limp and the flowers shrivelled up shortly after potting them. It sucked to bring home a nice healthy plant, pot it, stick it out in the sun on the balcony, and the next day find it looking like it was on a quick road to death. Neither came with instructions though (did they like the sun? Do they need more water?) so I brought them inside and managed, out of mostly luck, I think, to nurse them back to health. Now they are happily back out in the fresh air.

I have one other plant with small purple and yellow flowers which always did well, always had tons of flowers that never seemed to die, but now it seems to be dying, even though the flowers keep on looking healthy. I dunno, it's just all brown at the bottom, no matter how much I try to adjust the amount of water I give it. Maybe it's just not meant to last long?...


The weekend's only half over (well, ok a bit more than half since it's already Sunday afternoon) and I've already been able to check off many of the goals I had.

We painted the living room wall. It all went well and we like the colour. It's brighter and more blue than I had in mind, but it's still nice, and it mellowed as it dried. At first it seemed very aquamarine and bright, but as it dried it became less bright and gained more grayness to it. We're still trying to get used to it...

And we got the printer set up, though I forgot to steal some paper from work on Friday so we had to scavenge for some paper to test it on. We tried printing a photo and it came out really well, so maybe we'll get some photo paper to print on.

I still have my book to finish, but I read some of it yesterday, so I don't have far to go now.

A few weeks ago I posted about my lack of Google at work. An update on that: still no Google, but some head IT guy finally sent around an email letting us know what is going on with it. The gist of it was that they've not been able to make much progress because they say that Google has been unwilling to help out much with fixing the problem and Google keeps ignoring our company's emails and phone calls. Hm. I just mentioned this to O and he said that my company must have really pissed them off because his experience with Google's corporate part has been really good and they are very helpful. So, great, they hate us. The IT email mentioned some vague plans to fix things but said it could take another 2-3 weeks, which in reality will probably be more like 4-5, at the least. At the bottom of the email they then gave suggestions of other search engines to use, such as Yahoo and Altavista. Um, don't think so. Though I suppose I'd have to be using one of those if the work-around that I've been using didn't work. Someone mentioned that technically using the work-around is not allowed since it's still using Google and we're banned from them, so I guess in the back of my mind I expect it to not work for me one day, but it's still ok after more than a month.

June 3, 2005


Arrr, it almost be the weekend. I am so ready to go home already, but, alas, it's not even lunchtime yet. So, goals for the short two days we get off:

- Paint the one bit of wall in the living room that we bought paint for a couple of months ago. I dunno if it's a great idea to paint only one part of the living room wall and not the rest, but we'll see how it looks. It needs to be done though cuz the previous inhabitants had shelves on that wall, then they took the shelves out when they moved and left behind poorly filled-in screw holes (they just slathered on the hole-filler stuff) and faded paint so that you can see where the shelves were. We're not painting it white though, but rather a light blue-gray. So some colour, but hopefully subtle. Someday we'll move on to the couch, which we'd have plans to paint an Oriental red (the couch is a wooden frame with cushions, in case the idea of painting a couch was odd there).
- Finish the book I'm reading. I've been slow going through books lately, and I want to finish off this one and move on to something else, which I plan to be Dry by Augusten Burroughs. O just bought a massive plies of books recently, plus I have some older ones hanging about to read, so I'll never catch up. But I can try if I up my reading speed more. Thing is I just got all these other things to read: a couple of magazines and the Rough Guide to Chicago (for our trip at the end of the month). But I'd really like to have my current book finished by the end of the weekend.
- Set up the new printer we got. Our old one, which was ancient, finally died awhile ago and we bought a replacement last weekend. You can get by easily without a printer at home, but it is nice to have when you book things online and such and don't want to have to remember to print off stuff when you're at work. Plus they aren't expensive, so may as well have one. Just need to hook it up now, but it is going on O's computer and he's been fiddling a lot lately with the server he's set up. In his drawer. Yeaaah. He has a computer sitting in a drawer of his desk. It's no longer in a case, of course, he stripped out the essential bits and stuck them in the drawer. Actually, I swear he's been spending more time obsessing over getting it to make as little noise as possible than he's spent doing anything with the actual computer. He initially tried to quiet the hard drive by wrapping it in old socks. Then he stole some styrofoam from work and has been molding it around the drive. He's a bit of a nutter.

Courtney, is that you?

I had an eerie experience when I went to the Munt movie theater the other night to see The Interpreter (which was ok, went on way too long though...). I was starving and needed something to munch on during the movie, so I went over to get some popcorn. And the chick behind the counter so looked like an early-90s Courtney Love. The resemblance was freaky. It was even weirder though for her to be speaking Dutch, like "When'd you learn that?!" Perhaps even more incongruent was the fact that she was really nice. Nevermind that some poor young girl working a crap job like the movie concessions in the Netherlands is like the least likely person to be nice to you, but then she looks like Courtney Love! She was so sweet though, sending me off with a fairly sincere "enjoy your movie!" Crazy...

June 2, 2005

Finally! Barcelona photos online...

It took awhile, what with the photos needing to be scanned and we couldn't find the scanner's powercord, so we had to buy one in town, but we went in and didn't realize that it's more important to know how many amps it uses rather than what the voltage is (handy tip), so we had to wait until the next weekend to go back with the ampage we needed, and then once scanned the photos had to be edited and uploaded and captioned and all of that's out of my control, but our photos from our trip to Barcelona at the end of April are finally online. Note O's disclaimer that none of what you see is his fault. I admit to some poor adjustments for the bright sunlight, so almost every photo ended up not with blue sky like it was in reality, but with a horrible washed out white sky. So thanks to O for salvaging the photos in Photoshop.

The Antwerp photos are still to come, hopefully soon...

June 1, 2005

I don't understand

So there's been all this stuff for the last few weeks about a European referendum that went to the vote today in the Netherlands. I admit not reading up on it much, but now, after the Dutch voters majorly voted it down (63 to 37%), I still don't understand what it was all about, and how all the voting works. We got flyers in the mailbox promoting the referendum as a good thing for us all, but it sounded like a bunch of "Go Europe!" propaganda that only EU parliament members believe in. I've not grasped how the EU parliament works. My best stab at it from an American perspective is the difference, and overlap, between the federal and state governments. The EU can decide on some big things, but ultimately each member country has autonomy. I think the average European bristles at the idea of an umbrella European government, so I'm not surprised in the least that France and the Netherlands have voted the referendum down. I think the European parliament feels too distant and vague anyway, with only big changes like new member countries and bringing in the Euro noticed. So I understand voters saying "What is all of this stuff 'Europe' wants to do? How does it help me?" And no matter what the explanations in the flyers, people would rather be on the safe side and say "no thanks, we're doing ok as we are." Those are my feelings at least. I'd have voted no.

I further don't understand the repercussions after France voted no. I only found out this evening that after the no vote, various French politicians resigned and some expect members of the Dutch government to resign after the Dutch no vote as well. This I really don't get. Is it their fault it was rejected? Can they not work with their fellow parties anymore? It baffles me.

My head is still spinning after trying to understand coverage on tv and from articles written on expat sites. Still, there was one bit of humour amongst the politics: on tv, as they interviewed various members of the political parties, they spoke to one guy from the socialist party: Mr Tiny Kox. That's just gotta by the most unfortunate name ever. And even better, these interviews were being simulcast all over on CNN, heh.