January 29, 2006

Decemberists! Amsterdam!

Once again, Steven tipped me off on a show I'd want to see very much. The Decemberists will be playing Paradiso on May 18. Yay, they're coming back as promised! So I promptly bought tickets today. I can't wait, they are so much fun, but May is so far away... What is kind of bizarre is that this show only 9 days before we see Sleater-Kinney in Belgium, so it nearly recreates the plans we had last November when I would have seen the same bands 10 days apart, but then S-K cancelled. Except this time we see the Decemberists first, and we don't have to travel to see them.

While looking up the info on the Decemberists show, I came across a couple of other bands I want to see who are coming to Paradiso, so I actually bought tickets for two shows today. There would have been 3 shows to buy for, but one isn't on sale til next weekend. The other tickets I bought today are oddly enough for the band that opened for the Decemberists in Cologne, Two Gallants, who made quite an impression, so it'll be great to see them again. Then the Presidents of the USA are coming back to Amsterdam and I definitely want to see them after the hyper, stage-diving show they played last year.

We have now accumulated tickets for 7 concerts, not counting the Presidents of the USA, stretching from February 10 to May 27. The pile consists of:

Caesar - Patronaat, Haarlem, February 10
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Melkweg, February 19
Two Gallants - Paradiso Kleine Zaal, February 28
Death Cab for Cutie - Melkweg, March 8
Calexico and Iron & Wine - Tivoli, Utrecht, April 26
The Decemberists - Paradiso, May 18
Sleater-Kinney - Botanique, Brussels, May 27

I think we're set for the beginning of 2006. Rock on.

Oh, and I came across this photo today of Chris Funk and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists from a show in May 2005 in Boston. It is all kinds of awesomeness. Check out the whole album, this guy took wonderful photos.

January 28, 2006

But of course

A couple of weeks ago the Annals of Improbable Research blog posted about the publication of an article that showed a link between depression and being a parent. There was a story about it in the Telegraph as well, with the "well, duh" title: "Having children 'is bad for your mental health.'"

I love the line in the abstract of the paper which says, "Parenthood is not associated with enhanced mental health since there is no type of parent who reports less depression than nonparents." Heh.

The Telegraph article points to various actors who have decided to not have kids, including George Clooney and Ricky Gervais. It's refreshing to read actress Helen Mirren saying, "I was never drawn to babies. I have never had any sense of loss about not having children, even though I could easily have had them" instead of the usual "Everything for the children!" that so much of the media is aimed towards.

January 27, 2006

Dis and dat

Random thoughts and rants and events that I felt like belching out...

It is horrible, but after reading a Dutch food magazine and with it being so wintery out lately, I have a craving for...(whispered voice) stamppot. Where did this come from? Ok, so I made some about a month ago that I quite liked, but besides that I've only eaten the traditional Dutch food once or twice last winter when I decided to finally try it out. Now I'm all like "I could really go for some potatoes mashed with some boring green veggie served with a big sausage." What the hell is wrong with me?

Which of course brings to mind the evil "i" word: integration. I was just reading a little news blurb in The Amsterdam Times (a weekly English-lauguage, expat-aimed newspaper) that was saying that the despised Immigration Minster Verdonk was talking about how speaking Dutch in public needs to be pushed more, and while they'll stop short of fining you for speaking English to a shopkeeper, they'd really like it if you stuck to Dutch since it helps the "integration process." To which I give a big, fat raspberry in their general direction. Maybe if 90% of the Dutch people who live in the major cities would stick with Dutch their own damn selves when we speak Dutch to them, the "integration process" would, in fact, go a lot faster. I know expats who don't care to speak Dutch and don't try, but a lot do, and a lot are at a decent-enough fluency after being here only a few years, but the Dutch person is like "you know I hear that American accent all lurking under what you're saying!" and to show it off switches to English... for our benefit? To point out that we were totally sucking at our go at Dutch? To practice their English because they want to move to England? I mean, really, what the fuck? And then every expat knows how it gets thrown back in your face in the form of a comment like "you've lived here how long and you still don't speak Dutch fluently?!" Fuck y'all. It's why I didn't bother taking more Dutch lessons (well, that and the cost), though it would have been handy to get the future tense down that I was just about to learn, but I just cannot bother when I get English thrown back at me a majority of the time I try using Dutch. That, and I just don't use it enough to justify trying to perfect it much more. I can do shop talk, I can sort things out on the phone with the gemeente, but when I'm only needing to actually converse about once a month when I see O's family... Forget it.

I admit I'm in a bit of an easily agitated mood lately. It's thanks to some medicine I'm trying to quit. I've been debating about writing about this for quite some time because I felt writing about it was leaning into LiveJournal, Dear Diary territory, but I kinda wanted to sum it up, if only for myself. I've been on Ef(f)exor for about 2 years to combat a mix of generalized anxiety and a bit of depression. I wanted off of it for months because I felt it wasn't doing its job so well anymore and I had this idea that the longer I took it, the more it was turning my brain into its whipped slave, so I got in touch with a psychiatrist and made a going-off plan. With antidepressants you always have to be really careful about stopping them slowly or else they fuck you up. I had gone through this before, with Zoloft, and that went ok until 2 weeks after I fully stopped and I turned into an emotional wreck. Effexor has been much more of a pain in the ass. I sort of knew it would be though; from what I've read online (if any of it can be trusted since some of the people posting in medical forums are off their rockers) Effexor was one of the worst to go off of. Yay! So I went slow, though the first step dropped me to half of what I was taking. And it was not fun. Every morning for about 2 hours I had a very unhappy, cramping tummy, which made me not want to eat, but then the bad feeling would clear, I'd feel hungry for a bit, get food, and by the time I was ready to eat it, I'd feel like shit again. Fun. Plus I had this weird dizzyness that is like being a bit tipsy or high, my eyes just felt like they were slow in registering things. This lasted for weeks and the only thing that made me keep on was that it was just for a bit in the morning and then I was ok. And I fortunately wasn't having any bad emotional problems. Until I dropped to 1/4 of what I had been taking. Then I turned into two-faced, "don't even TALK to me right now!" bitch from hell. Everything agitated me to no end. I'd feel so annoyed that I'd feel it physically, like my muscles were vibrating with pissed-offness. I managed to keep it mostly in check at work, but O got a lot of sudden head-biting-off that I tried to explain that I couldn't help, as if that's an excuse. And it's coming back quite a bit lately because I stopped the pill completely on Tuesday. I tried once already, just before xmas, but it did not go well, so I went back on the 1/4 dose. Then I was ok, but I needed to try going off again. So I'm all agitated. And being off fully makes me quite out of emotional control. That's why I went back on before xmas, I was crying at everything, hardly able to keep from crying in public, and I didn't want to be a wreck at xmas. So far this time I've been ok, but I've not been off it very long yet. I am needlessly teary though, as I noticed when I was watching TV last night. I was about to cry at the stupidest things. I was flipping channels and came across the show with the medium Char (it's horrible but O and I watch it sometimes) and she was talking with a Dutch TV presenter and it wasn't even that involved, she named some people close to the presenter and said they're watching over her, but there I was with tears fucking popping up in my eyes and an itchy feeling in my nose. Fer chrissakes. Then I was watching a bit of a show about people who get into really bad sports accidents, and the first story was about a woman who got flipped over a railing like a rag doll while racing a horse at Portland Meadows (and she was able to walk again, which is insane when you see the accident) and at the end they were at her stables and it looked so Northwest-y, with the pine trees and some fields and big houses, it looked like the area around where my parents live, and... there come the tears again. It was horrible. And I know that it's likely only the beginning and within a few days I'll be a blubbering mess about anything and everything, so, yay. But I need to try to get through it and see if I don't feel any better eventually. My psychiatrist basically gave me permission to take time off work if I needed it, and said that if work asks what's up, I can say my doctor told me to stay home. Considering how worthless going to work has been lately, I was like "right, free time off! I'll give this going off it thing another try!" So here we are.

I have my 2005 review today with both my old and my new manager. I'm not worried about it, but I am eager to find out what my job will be like this year and make sure the new manager knows I'm seeking different work to do. Also I would still like to attempt to get a raise. So it's those things I'm looking ahead to the meeting for. Update: I had the meeting. It went ok. I feel I'm focusing on the negative things a bit too much, not that much was negative, but I guess I didn't feel my new manager is 100% on board with what new roles I can do, though really she was in the end, things have just changed around a bit. It's complicated, but I think it'll be ok. I still don't fully trust the new manager though, she scares me.

Down the street from us is this guy who always makes me so sad when I walk by his house. Almost any time I walk by, he is sitting on his couch, the curtains open, no lights on, only the TV on. He usually is wearing a dress shirt and tie, looking like he just got home, but he is also wearing that in the middle of the day on Saturday, so I dunno. I've seen him eating his dinner while watching TV, and it's usually eaten straight out of the pot. It's very bacheloresque, and all of this would be different if the guy was in his 20s or even 30s, but he looks like he could be in his 60s. It just depresses me incredibly, the whole scene.

The last party of January is tomorrow. So far we've survived, though O barfed at the last one. It's a housewarming, and it means seeing some old friends that we have not seen in too long, so that'll be good. This one is down in Leiden though, so I'm not looking forward so much to the longer trip home, but I think it'll be a good time.

January 25, 2006

Beauty pageants

I finally got around to looking at the latest issue of an online photography magazine, AK47. My favourite series of photos was this one of girls aged 1-5 whose parents enter them in beauty pageants. There are some amazing, usually very sad, photos. I can't link to them directly, but photos 9, 13, 14, and 20 stand out. I can't believe there are actually pageants for children that are hardly old enough to walk.

I must make rice pudding

A couple of nights ago I dreamt of rice pudding. I'm sure it came from this post in Sars' diner blog about what diners do wrong with their rice puddings. I'm not such a connnoisseur of the stuff myself to agree or disagree with her list (except for the raisin part; rice pudding totally should have raisins), but reading the post lead to a major desire for some pudding. So I gotta make some, as soon as possible, but it won't be soon enough. I won't have a chance this weekend, and perhaps not the next weekend either. Regardless of when it's made, I should have plenty to enjoy since O's not keen on it, so it'll be mine, all mine!

In the same dream with the pudding, I was also dreaming that I was at a synagogue service and we started to sing the prayer over the sabbath wine and I started crying out of nostalgia or something. Someone asked me what was wrong and, all blubbering, I said "I haven't sang this song in so long!" Dunno what was up with all of that. Maybe I should sit in on a service some weekend and get it out of my system...

January 20, 2006

Doughnutty goodness

Voodoo Doughnut is the brilliant punkish doughnut shop in Portland that sells all kinds of crazy doughnut concoctions in the late and early hours of the day. Months ago I came across this Flickr set of photos taken by someone making a documentary about the shop. In my recent (and ongoing) period of utter boredom at work, I finally got around to checking out the Flickr photos. And thus I am posting about them now.

I think the photos give an excellent idea of the insanity of the shop. See voodoo doll doughnuts being made! Watch people taking the weekly Swahili lessons! Amaze at the hol(e)y giant doughnut on the wall that was famously almost stolen! Be jealous of the first couple to be actually married at Voodoo!

In short, the shop fucking rocks.

It's best not to look through the photos before lunch like I did. I think I left a puddle of drool on my desk with all the doughnut close-ups. And the memories of the blessed apple-fritter-that's-as-big-as-your-head that I had when we were in Portland. Long live Voodoo!

January 17, 2006

Dig dig dig

A recent post in Oh Dog (first post here) lead to me listening to a couple of live Elliott Smith shows. The first one, which I didn't finish, was from the Roseland in November 2000. But I just listened to the short set played at Umbra Penumbra in September 1994, supposedly his second live show solo. It was gorgeous, with a lot of early songs, like many of my favourites from Roman Candle. It sounds like there's all of 10 people in the audience; in any case they were very quiet. I can imagine Elliott might have been very nervous playing this new acoustic stuff live when people mostly knew him from the loud, rocky Heatmeiser, but the songs still come off with a certain confidence, well, confidence in an Elliott sort of way.

I did a bit of searching on stuff about Umbra Penumbra, which I thought I remembered as more of a coffee shop that did performances than a real club, which I think is the case. I can't figure out though if it still exists or not. I thought it was long closed. One link that came up in my search was the alphabetical listing in Willamette Week of who played at the North by Northwest festival in 1998. God, all these bands and places that I'm reminded of when I scroll through the list: beloved LaLuna, EJ's, Satyricon, bands like At the Drive-In, Citizens' Utilities, Creeper Lagoon, Hummingfish (a earthy kind of band that played at my university a few times), The Jimmies, Jr. High, Kind of Like Spitting, Kerosene Dream, The Maroons, Pinehurst Kids, Richmond Fontaine... I think all of those bands are no longer. Also most of these bands I only know by name, seeing them listed time and time again in Willamette Week and The Rocket. Seeing their names still makes a late-90s feel rise in my head.

Some bands or artists are actually still around now: Death Cab for Cutie, Damien Jurado, Pedro the Lion (um, except I think I read that they just broke up)...

A couple of other listings of note. A "Charles M Palahniuk" is listed, and at the time of this festival, it was a year before he was boosted to worldwide stardom due to the Fight Club movie. Miss Murgatroid, Portland's queen of the accordion, played along with Petra Haden (though WW spelled her name "Hayden" and "Haydn"), preparing the latter for her recent days with the Decemberists.

I should bring myself back to the present now and remember that it's not Portland circa 1998, but it's much more fun to pretend that it's still then.

January 16, 2006

Sea Palace

Yesterday I met with an expat group for a wonderful Chinese dim sum lunch. We went to the Sea Palace, which according to its website, is the first floating restaurant in Europe. Anyone who has been on one of the typical canal tours of Amsterdam has seen the Sea Palace, which is a huge pagoda-style building on the water not far from Central Station. I was a bit wary of going there, I just had this idea that it was not very good quality, but I was fortunately wrong.

The restaurant is not in the nicest of surroundings, next to the budget Botel, which has also always creeped me out, and now bordered on the land side by a lot of construction. I suppose if you were seated on the water side facing the center of town, you could forget about the area it's in. We were seated facing the pit of construction, but I wasn't paying attention to the outside much. The interior is oozing Chinese decorations from every corner, but it manages to keep a classy-enough atmosphere. The staff are all Chinese and a lot of Chinese people come to the restaurant, so it's rather authentic (especially with things on the menu like crispy baked pig's intestine, fried frog legs, and cow's stomach with leek and ginger).

I was lucky to be sitting at the table with the organizer of the lunch, who is Chinese-English. He not only knew all about the food on the menu and took care of the ordering, he also could speak whatever version of Chinese to the waiters, so that was handy.

We started off with a couple of very yummy noodle dishes before heading into more dim sum type stuff, like dumplings, steamed things, and fried wontons. We had stuff I would have never normally ordered myself, so that was good, to broaden my horizons. I liked some things more than others, but everything was very tasty. And cheap to boot. We had a table of nine and the bill was only just over 100 euros. Everyone thought it had to be a mistake, heh.

I am now dying to go back, but O isn't as keen on dim sum as the normal Chinese dishes, and it's better to go with a group so you can order a lot and not have too much food. At least I'm no longer afraid of the big floating pagoda, and it'd be fun to take visitors there.

January 10, 2006

The numbers can do good

Last night I went to my second pub quiz in Amsterdam and my team did quite well in the first half of the night (don't ask about the second half). We won the free drinks round on a tiebreaker, we were in 3rd, and, I must say thanks to me and my Lost watching, we got a bonus "Einstein point" for being the only team to answer a question correctly. The question was "In Lost, what is the flight number of the plane that crashed?" 815, obviously. What was so funny was that as they were reading the answers later, my teammate Laura was just saying that everyone probably got it right because the show is so popular, and then the host announced that we were the only ones who got it right. Whoo hoo! Nice when TV can come in useful...

In other news, bad news first, my manager is leaving our company, which really sucks because she's a good manager. There won't be a replacement probably for awhile and no one's sure yet who will take over her stuff. It particularly sucks because she's been so good in getting me more varied work and has been helping me get a better job within the company. I'll miss having that help and I hope things can be sorted out about my job before she leaves at the end of January.

In better news, we now know when we'll be going to the US this year. After originally settling on June, it will now be late Sept/ early Oct so that I can be in Oregon when a college friend of mine gets married. I really didn't want to miss her wedding, so it's great that we'll be able to be there. It's so far away though, and I'm really looking forward to our roadtrip in California and seeing San Francisco, but it does free up the spring more for possibly going to Iceland, and we now won't miss the World Cup. ;)

January 7, 2006


I read today in The Straight Dope the question about how the 8 1/2x11 and legal (8 1/2x14) paper sizes used in the US were decided upon. The short answer is they don't really know, but what I found more interesting was the bit at the bottom explaining the A system of paper sizes used in Europe:
The basic A-series sheet, A0, is one square meter in area, 841x1189mm. You fold that in half to get A1, you fold THAT in half to get A2, till eventually you get down to A4, A5, A6, etc.

All A sizes are in the proportion 1 wide by the square root of 2 deep (1:1.414...). It's a bit compulsive and you will not be surprised to learn it was thought up by the Germans. A-series paper became an international standard, though not an American one, in 1930.
A bit compulsive, yes, but it works nicely, the whole folding in half thing, and it produces a sheet of paper that I find quite elegant now. I didn't always. When I first moved here, I felt A4 was too long and narrow compared to letter paper. And I had a particular relationship with letter paper. I'd used a hell of a lot of it throughout school (I handwrote all but about two of my college papers, including my senior paper, and then went to the computer lab to type them up) and so it was the familiar size that I'd worked with so much. Now, when I get something in the mail from the US and it's on letter paper, it looks so square and squat. I'm a hardcore A4 person now.

January 6, 2006

Let's try this again

A month and a half after we were supposed to see them, I have once again purchased tickets for Sleater-Kinney, this time to see them at Botanique in Brussels. I'm getting around, at least; Brussels is another city I've not been to. The concert is still far, far away, 27 May, their last show of their European tour. I hope all goes well for Carrie between now and then, and they don't have to cancel again.

January 2, 2006

Hello January, and debate

I was going to post a bit about New Year's, but in the end I couldn't be bothered, mostly because I was overwhelmed with an extreme feeling of apathy on New Year's Eve. Apathy mixed with incomprehension that it was time to move on to a new year once again. When we were out lighting fireworks, I felt like I was just going through the motions, as if we couldn't actually do New Year's on the 31st, so we were doing our fireworks when we could, even though, of course, everyone else was doing theirs as well. Oh well, I suppose it's better than last year when I was all depressed.

January is shaping up already to be a very busy month. Every weekend is being filled with one party or another. This is mostly due to the proliferation of people I know with January birthdays. Before moving here, I knew one person who was born in January. Now, I can think of 4 friends, 2 family, and 3 people at work with birthdays this month. January is the new October.

In the past few weeks I've been starting to think a bit about when and where we want to go for trips this year. We already plan to go to the US again, and we'll road trip from Portland to San Francisco. And then O came up with the idea of going to Iceland. I want to go to Lake Como in northern Italy, but O has issues with Italy. I'd like to go for a holiday, even if it's a short one, in March or April, but I'm not sure yet if we'll go to Iceland then. Thankfully I got this book for Christmas, so we can get lots of ideas of where to go if we get stuck thinking of someplace on our own.

We're having timing issues though with the trip to the US. I think we'd like to go for 2 1/2-3 weeks, in the late spring/early summer. I was thinking June would be good, but there is the World Cup then, and while I'm not a big football fan, it was fun to be a part of 4 years ago, and in the US they hardly know it's even going on, so coverage there is slim. So I thought maybe mid-July instead, after the World Cup is over. But there is the issue of my cousin's wedding. She's my oldest cousin (of the ones I grew up with) and I was fairly close to her growing up, especially since we were the only girls, but I'm not that close to her anymore and I don't particularly want to go to her wedding. Which is in early August. In the LA area. So if we went to the US in July, and went to Portland first, as we plan to do, we'd then be getting down to San Francisco probably around the time of the wedding, or just before it. My family (well, namely my cousin's dad) thinks it should be no problem then to pop down to LA from SF for the wedding. I think any explanation I give for not going to the wedding when we're "right there" in SF would just sound like a thin excuse, so we can't go in July, no matter how much time there might be between our preferred date of departure for Amsterdam and the wedding. It's too close to not look like we're trying to get out of it.

My next idea was to go in late May into early June. Then I remembered that Sleater-Kinney are touring around Europe in late May, so that's out. I put the idea of April to O and he said that's too much in the middle of spring for him. Puh. So it'll probably be June, since football is not that important to me to make it that difficult on myself. I'll probably still get questions from my family about why I couldn't have pushed the trip to just a few weeks later, but they'll just have to live with it.