August 29, 2005

O's got a new blog

O's decided to join the ranks of us wordblogging people because he has so many interesting things to say. (Sorry, I'm in a sarcastabastard mood.) He hasn't said much yet, but he's spent a lot of time in making the site look pretty. Check it out here.

Sun and stupidity

Thank you to the weather gods for creating some days of warm sunshine to finish off an otherwise crappy August (and summer). Thank you for giving me a reason to stir up a pitcher of pink lemonade from the mix I brought back from the US which I was expecting would remain sealed closed until next summer. Thank you for the warmth to prepare me for our holiday next week to Portugal. Thank you for the reminder that it's summer, even though it is soon to be ending.

On a wholly unrelated note, I hate buying sheets in the country. I never had done it until a couple of months ago when O and I were in the V&D housewares department and we thought, hey, it'd be nice to get some new sheets and a new duvet cover. The ones we have are fairly ancient, O's mom bought them way back when at some point. So we bought ones we liked and took them home where they sat for weeks before we finally dug them out to use. I opened the bottom sheet we'd bought; no problem. But then I opened the duvet cover. It seemed a bit... small. And it was. It was for a single bed. No wonder it came with only one pillowcase. But it doesn't make sense, the duvet cover was the same size as the bottom sheet. But that's not the way it works, the duvet is of course bigger cuz you need to go under it. Bah.

So we needed to get a new duvet cover again. The V&D didn't have the size we needed in the print we'd bought, but we were there a few weeks later and we found one that was rather similar and in our size. Or so we thought. This time, we bought one that was too big. Gaaaah. Ok, it was our own stupidity this time in not remembering what size duvet we have, but still. There's all these numbers of the size it fits and they're all too similar and I couldn't remember which size was ours. We're using this one anyway though, for now at least when we don't have the duvet in there cuz it's summer. O says it's better for him because he claims that I pull the covers off him all the time, so now he can stay covered, to which I say puh because if I'm always pulling the covers off him, then how come I always wake up and he has enough covers on the other side of him for another person? Exactly. Anyway, anyone want a nice, unused, single person duvet cover?

August 21, 2005


It's been a few weeks since we got back from the US, but finally our photos are online. They're divided into Chicago photos, Portland photos, and photos from the Shedd Aquarium and Oregon Zoo. There seems like there should be more of them, but this is what we've boiled them down to. Enjoy.

My Saturday night

Oh yes, it's an exciting one... I was first organzing the masses of mp3s on the hard drive, some of which date back to the early Napster days. They had been "organized" by O into things like a huge folder called "Elliott" that had maybe 3 Elliott Smith songs in it, and one with the helpful (and encouraging) name of "Crap". I'd been wanting to get them all sorted though for ages, so, yay me, they're finally all boiled down into one mp3 folder which is then divided into "albums" and "songs". So much nicer...

Now I'm downloading Neil Diamond songs. Shush. It's total childhood nostalgia for me. Actually, I had most of these songs downloaded awhile ago, but they mysteriously disappeared. O claims to have no knowledge of the matter. Hmph. You can't deny the greatness of his stuff, especially his older songs. Ok, well, I guess you can, but you'd be wrong to do so. Man, the hours spent listening to his stuff in the car (an 81 AMC Eagle that only had speakers in the very back that got all muffled if you had a bunch of groceries in the trunk) as my mom drove me and my brother around to friend's houses or to after-school sport practice. Sometimes some poor friend of mine got subjected to Neil Diamond when my mom drove us into town. I didn't get why they had strange looks on their face when I excitedly asked my mom to pop in one of his tapes. Bah, they didn't realize what they were missing...

August 19, 2005

6 weeks later...

Long ago, when I was in Portland, I packed up in a box a bunch of stuff that wouldn't fit in my suitcase and sent it to myself, by surface mail. It finally arrived yesterday, almost exactly 6 weeks after I sent it, which was the upper limit of the time they said it'd take, so it was just in time. I was actually doubly happy to find the slip in the mailbox telling me to get the box at the post office because the day before I sort of predicted it would arrive. I had received a magazine that I subscribe to from the US which has not arrived on a couple of occasions, leading to long discussions with the publishers requesting them to send me the missing copies. I was so relieved the new issue came and I wouldn't have to be writing to them again. Then, knowing my box might come any day now, I was thinking "I'm having good luck. My box is coming tomorrow. I can feel it." And it did. Go me.

So, in the time since I sent it, I did forget a few of the things I'd packed in the box. It had more food items than I remembered. But I was so happy carrying it home, and a bit sad in a nostalgic kind of way, remembering the day I mailed it, how it was absolutely pouring when we left for the post office, and I looked at the box for signs of dried-up raindrops. I looked at the postmark from Oregon City and wished I could go back to the moment when it was put there, to be back in Oregon again. And it was weird to open it and take out what was inside, like it was mostly just stuff I bought, nothing really important, but it was quite different not seeing it all again until weeks after putting it all together in the US. It was like getting a little time-delayed care package from myself.

In case you are wondering what was in it...:

- A pair of retro-y Converse sneakers that I ordered before going to the US so that they'd be waiting at my parents' house when we got to Oregon.
- Two belts I bought at the mall that are the type of cloth belts I remember having as a kid. They're popular again.
- Two bags of baking mix and some granola from Bob's Red Mill, a place in a suburb of Portland that grinds flours the old-fashioned way, with big millstones. They sell every type of flour and grain imaginable, not to mention cereals, beans, rice, spices, etc etc, all very wholesome and natural food. I couldn't resist buying a couple of bags of stuff, though wandering around their store it was so hard to choose only a couple of things to take back. In the end I got a 10 grain pancake and waffle mix, a spice apple muffin mix, and apple cinnamon granola. I already have some blueberries in the freezer waiting to be added to the pancake mix... Also, when I filled out the customs form, listing what was in the box (not that I listed everything), I put "flour" at the top of the list and had been worrying all these weeks that it would catch the eye of the customs officers in the Netherlands and they'd open the box to check it out, opening it at the end where the flour was and shredding open the bags and I'd never get to have yummy pancakes or muffins. As it was, I had no reason to worry; the box was unopened.
- More food stuff: baking powder, vanilla extract, a box of graham crackers, Country Time pink lemonade mix, and packets of mix for Oregon Chai tea.
- New measuring cups because the ones I had were annoying with sharp metal handles.
- An old book that I obsessed over when I was in middle school, The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike, who mostly wrote horror books for young teens. I thought I'd like to read it again sometime, though it'll probably be a painful, embarrassing experience, but maybe I'll actually still like it.
- Some simple barrettes that are nonetheless impossible to find here.
- Some simple hoop earrings that are a type that are nonetheless impossible to find here. They're nothing special, and were completely easy to find in the US, but it seems most hoop earrings here are big enough to double as bracelets.
- Two cute little buttons I got at Music Millennium that have animal characters on the button, along with a little card that has the character's name and stats. I got Sebastian Scorpion (who is a Virgo, not a Scorpio; loves blocks of cheese, Woody Allen and collects skeleton keys) and Jacob Meerkat (loves chicken noodle soup, Luke Wilson, and The Shins, and does counted cross stitch as a hobby).
- A Simpsons magnet, also from Music Millennium, that has the family a la Dali, with Homer's head melted over a beer bottle and a clock instead of eyes, Bart as a deflated balloon hanging in a tree, etc.

August 17, 2005

When madness reigns

After weeks of being in a state of gray, boring sleepiness, the country (or at least the Amsterdam area) feels like it's suddenly burst into a manic craziness the past few days. For those of you who live here, this is old news, but I thought I'd share for anyone else who may be reading.

The week got off to a bad start when an intercity train derailed just before Amsterdam Central Station. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but it's the third time in about 6 months that a train has derailed near the station, though this is the first time it was a passenger train. With all of the tracks leading into the station, it would have been no problem, except that the crash brought down the wires above the tracks that power the trains. So for two days, no trains could go past that area, and I think it's partially fixed now, but there are still big delays. The derailment was in the direction of station Sloterdijk, to the west, which is what my work is near. They've been bussing people from Sloterdijk to CS, which has made for some interesting biking for me on the way to work because the bus stops near the bike lane and then there are like a million people waiting to get on the bus and they pile up into the bike lane and people are walking toward the buses with nothing on their mind but "BUS. MUST GET THE BUS" and nothing about minding the bike lane they're crossing so I end up well off the bike path, trying just to find the path of least resistance through the sea of mad commuters. It does provide me with some good moments like yesterday when I rang my bell at some guy who had his back to me and was obviously not going to check whether a bike was coming as he wandered into the path and the ring from my bell scared the absolute shit out of him and he seriously jumped his ass off of the bike path. Heh. Though I kinda felt bad, I didn't mean to give him a heart attack, I just didn't want to run into him.

So, right, train crash. Which never comes at a good time, but this is a particularly bad time because Amsterdam is expecting thousands and thousands and thousands of visitors for Sail 2005, a once-in-5-years boating event that goes from today through Sunday. Not good when your plan changes from "just take the train to CS and walk from there" to "take a couple of trains and a bus and get stuck in traffic and get there 2 hours later and walk from there." The traffic just around Sloterdijk was nuts as O and I were biking home today. O said the street his work is on was jammed with cars and usually it's just a quiet industrial area. It felt like a sunny Friday when everyone's trying to get to the beach, but it's only Wednesday.

As if all that weren't enough, the garbage collectors decided to take the week off go on strike so mini-landfills have been sprouting up all over the city. Though I've heard that they are cleaning the Dam and the area where Sail is, but that doesn't help the average neighbourhood. We are lucky though to have large underground containers to put our garbage in; in some parts of the city you just put your garbage on the sidewalk, so I imagine it's particularly bad there. Our container has quite the pile around it already, mid-week, though most of it isn't garbage bags, but big stuff like a mattress, old toys and boxes. I was proud though to have jammed up the container with the bag I threw in, thinking there might be a bit more space in there.

We've now been blessed with about 2 days of warm weather to remind us it's August and everyone rushing to head outside just seems to add to the insanity. I'd like to head out into it myself tomorrow night - enjoy a warm evening, see the boats in Sail, and catch the fireworks show at 10 (my third in 2 months!) For tonight though I'm playing European and watching the Nederland vs Duitsland football game while drinking Belgian beer. Go Oranje!

August 16, 2005


Oh yes. Look at this. I'm posting. From work. Google and all its related entities are working for us once again. Though I feel like I'll jinx it by saying anything, or by being too happy, but it's been back since yesterday afternoon, so... so far, so good.

August 9, 2005

Rend your ventricles apart

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but then I put away the idea and then I bring it back. So now I'm finally writing it. I know The Decemberists are so in right now and playing big fests and all, and you should love 'em already, but if you haven't checked them out, go do so. Listening to their music reminds me of when I first got into Belle & Sebastian, just the melodies and the stories and how they fit together. Nothing gets me more than a song with a good story, but it's especially those moments when one little phrase says so much, or the writer manages to fit the words in a unique way to the melody and make it rhyme at the same time that makes me all weak at the knees. Some of the storytellers I love: Damien Jurado, Elliott Smith, Stuart Murdoch, Jeff Mangum, Conor Oberst, Colin Meloy... A few of these songwriters are described as "literary" for their way of drawing characters and history and old-fashioned words into the stories they tell. So I suppose a lifelong bookworm like myself has no hope but to fall for their songs. And the latest is The Decemberists. When I read a couple of reviews of their latest album, Picaresque, the reviewers were positive about the album, but they were pretty much saying it was because the songs dealt with more modern topics and contained less sea chanties and songs about chimney sweeps. But those are the songs I particularly love. The reviews groaned over the 8 minute+ "The Mariner's Revenge Song", but it is one of my favourite songs on the album. These songs create a whole mythology around the band. Another aspect that I love about them is the unique way Colin Meloy sings. Sure, it can be described as whiny, but I love it. It works, even on the quieter songs. I can't really describe it, but I love how a voice can be so comforting after getting to know it so well through songs. I haven't been listening to The Decemberists that long, but already the singer's voice is so comforting, and it is such a part of their music that it really is another instrument. For awhile, the only Decemberists song I knew was "Red Right Ankle" from their last album. It is still one of my favourite songs, period. It just breaks my heart every time. Go forth and find it.

Speaking of unique voices, there's a band gaining big word of mouth called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I'm still gathering my opinion of the album as a whole, but there are definitely some brilliant tracks on there. And the singer's voice is very love-it-or-hate-it. I personally quite like it, but then they get compared to Neutral Milk Hotel for a reason. Though I think that at times on the Clap Your Hands album, he's a bit overdoing it, whereas with NMH, I always felt that anything really intense from Jeff Mangum was more out of pure emotion than anything else. Still, it's been interesting getting to know this album in the past couple of weeks, though I keep wondering if it'll grow into an album I really love, or if my interest will fade out with the hype they've gotten.

August 8, 2005

Egmond aan Zee

O and I were away for the weekend, though we didn't go far: just to a small coast town called Egmond aan Zee, which is roughly west of Alkmaar. It was our anniversary last Friday, and I got the idea from that, that since it was on a Friday, we could have a 3-day weekend and go somewhere. In the end we took Monday off instead and we didn't go away very far, but it was still a relaxing weekend.

We stayed in this massive hotel called Zuiderduin that was in some ways nice, and in others creepily 70s. The room's decor left a lot to be desired, but it was roomy, had a balcony, and the bathroom had both a shower and bathtub. Like separate from each other. There was a restaurant and two bars. There was an indoor pool, whirlpool, and sauna. It was all set up in this massive complex though, and to wander through it just made me feel like I was in a hospital with all these signs pointing you around in various directions. We mostly chose this place based on its proximity to the beach and the dune area (I wanted nature), and the spa/pool facilities. Well, with the weather we had, the beach and dunes were sadly underused (we did manage to go out on the beach Saturday evening and saw a lovely sunset, but it was so bloody windy). We spent a lot of time inside reading or playing card games. Which wasn't bad, necessarily. A kind of old-fashioned vacation.

We definitely used the pool, though, which was so nice. The water was quite warm, so it didn't take any getting used to, and it was fun to paddle around or carry each other all around the pool in the weightlessness. We went in twice on Sunday, the second time after dinner when the pool was clothing optional. It was my first time skinny dipping. I was nervous about deciding to go in nude at first, but in the end we found that nearly everyone there was naked (big surprise, in this country). There was hardly anyone around anyway. Not that I really cared once I stripped.

In the pool area, all of the signs were in Dutch, German and English, and there were some interesting English translations. One said "No bathing suites alowed" which is very 'Allo 'Allo if you say it out loud. Another was telling you that you had to wear sandals in the pool area. Well, that's what the Dutch and German parts of the sign said. The English part said "Mule's obligations." Enh? I don't know what crackpot dictionary they were using there...

Personalized stuff

I secretly ordered O a Neighborhoodie last week and we were both surprised when it arrived today. It was some mighty zippy shipping, not to mention the time to make the shirt as well. So I got him a dark blue long-sleeved shirt that says THE OSI in red letters. Osi is a sort of nickname of his from work, a shortened version of his standard first-initial, last-name style of email address. He quite likes the shirt, which made me happy. I didn't expect it to be here yet though, so I didn't get to build up the suspense like I planned to, but oh well. I suppose it saved me from him bugging me for hints for days.

In other news, over the weekend, I've solidified my desire to get a tattoo at some point. The hard thing is deciding what to get. I have an idea that I'm pretty happy with, that was helped along by a dream I had last night, but it's still a matter of getting the design right. And I can't draw worth shit. But supposedly the tattoo artist can help you with that. I'll let the whole idea simmer for a couple of months though.

August 2, 2005

How are we suppose to live?!

I mentioned just last week that, amazingly, Google was back at my work, after being forbidden for about 3 months or something. Well, they killed it again. I think they were trying to fix something about it over the weekend and they good and properly killed it this time. Nothing about Google nor anything Google-related works. The old go-around I used to use is a no-go, so I'm reduced to using Yahoo. But what's almost way, way worse is that since Blogger is part of Google, I can't go to any blogs on it. Some of my old stalwart procrastination sites at work are on Blogger, so I keep trying to go to a site and then remembering I can't. I can't post to my own site if I wanted to. And the lousy "global" IT says nothing, no email to say "sorry, we're working on that problem"... Fucking worthless.

August 1, 2005

Vindictively American

The book I am currently reading is Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell. It wasn't a book I planned to read, but it was on sale at Powell's when we were there and it looked good, so I got it. I quite like it, it's filled with very humourous and touching shapshots of her life or history. One of the stories I read yesterday was titled Vindictively American, after a quote from Ralph Ellison:
Personally, I am too vindictively American, too full of hate for the hateful aspects of this country, and too possessed by the things I love here to be too long away.
I suppose it is too easy for me to be away for awhile from the US, but still there's a definite truth I hear in that quotation. And the story was interesting for me too, especially since it takes place in the Netherlands. The author spent a semester studying at the University of Leiden, and while she was there the Rodney King riots took place, which she watches on the Dutch news. The first Gulf War was also going on, leading to Dutch people asking her why she'd ever want to go back to her home country. Well, because it's home. I suppose I was in a similar situation with being here on September 11. Thinking back, I don't remember specific situations of trying to explain my country to Dutch or European people soon after Sept 11, but I know I have had to try on various occasions since. Most of the time, the only answer I can give is a shrug and shake of my head to questions like, why are guns so common, but health care not so much. I know I don't want to live in the US, not for the forseeable future, yet, as I often say to people, I'd move to Portland in a heartbeat, if only it weren't in the US. It hurts, knowing where it is I feel most at home, but knowing there are too many things wrong there to go back.