March 26, 2006

Collection of recent stuff

It's been a very long week that started off a bit rough. I was very down last weekend and Monday, and I ended up going home early Monday and then staying home Tuesday and Wednesday. I just needed to be away from work (it's been slow for me again anyway) and just be at home on my own for a bit. It was mostly good, though I still had little energy or ability to decide on things. It meant calling up the doctor again to discuss pills. And what did we decide? To go back to the same pill I was on before, the one I had spent so much time with going through its withdrawal effects. But I don't mind really, they did seem to work for me. My backup option, after online research, was Wellbutrin, but then the doctor told me it's not available in the Netherlands. Well, crap. It's too bad I don't have it as a choice.

Besides being back on meds, I told my therapist I didn't want to continue with her and started with a new one the very next day. Well, it was an intake thing, it wasn't 100% that I would start going to this new person, but I think she'll be good, so I already have the next appointment. The last visit to my old therapist went rather crap, but it served the purpose of making me feel much better and confident in the decision to stop with her. I just don't think her methods worked well for me.

So, summary of my mental health, on to other things... I called my parents last night and found out that my mom was in a car accident last July and she didn't tell me. She was rear ended and so went to the emergency room afterwards, but they said she was fine. Now though she's having increasingly worse problems with her neck, so she got an MRI done and is seeing a neurologist, who told her some vertebrae are pressing in a bad way in her neck and she'll need an operation. Apparently it's not serious and this procedure is practically routine for the doctor, but, yeah, you're fiddling with the spine, it's scary. Also, my mom doesn't have medical insurance right now, this is all being covered via her car insurance and she's not sure yet if the operation will even be covered, and if it's not, she's just screwed, really. I hate this shit. I just feel so helpless and selfish.

It felt a bit sad, yet touching, that when I was saying goodbye to my dad, who is having short-term memory problems, he (accidentally?) called me by my mom's name (which is similar to mine), and didn't catch his mistake, but then he said "Say hello to O." Just kind of funny, he says my name wrong, but still remembers O.

I have added yet another link to a comic, this one called Savage Chickens. One frame, drawn on a yellow Post-It, involving chickens. Very silly and good for a chuckle.

Long ago, in December, there was an article in the Amsterdam Weekly about a gallery show of the artist Ray Caesar. The image accompanying the story was quite intriguing, rather surrealist, and based on it alone, I had plans to go to the gallery to see this guy's art, but it didn't happen. I finally got around to checking out more of his work online, and all of it is as weird, or weirder, than the piece I knew from Amsterdam Weekly. All of the characters have very child-like faces, but yet look very mature. Their limbs are often not normal. He is influenced by the years he spent working in the art department of a children's hospital in Toronto and seeing many sick and abused kids there. All of his art is done digitally, which is quite amazing because it looks so much like it must be a painting. Anyway, have a look through the galleries on his website. Almost every piece is both so frightening and something hard to look away from.

I am planning to change the look of my site, so if all goes well, things should look different around here very soon. It might get done today, depends on how frustrating it is to switch to something new and have it look the way I want.

We went into town yesterday to look for a new shoulder/camera bag for O, and at the Bijenkorf we saw a prime corner window filled with TVs to promote the new 24 game for Playstation. There were speakers on the outside of the window carrying Kiefer Sutherland's velvety voice over the Dam, informing us over and over again about how the game was developed by people who also work on the show and that it features all the actual actors' voices (don't most games based on shows or movies do that?) Who knew the game warranted such promotion? From what I've read about it, it doesn't. It looks good, but the play isn't very exciting. Best to stick to watching the show and laughing at all the silly side stories and massive plotholes.

Prison Break started airing on Dutch TV a couple of weeks ago and it's quite good. O has liked it enough that he wants to jump ahead and just download all of the episodes so far, so we might be spending a lot of time watching that soon.

Sars of Tomato Nation recently had a contest to raise money for equipment and programs for underfunded schools in New York City. Last year $23,000 was raised by readers of her site. This year the goal was to raise $25,000 between March 15 and March 29. Besides the many prizes up for grabs if you donated, as an extra incentive, Sars agreed that if her readers could hit $30,000, she'd shave her head. The first goal was reached I think a week ago, and the higher goal was reached last week, well before the planned end of the contest. A little video of the head-shaving is now on the contest site (though in a funky format that took some work to view). And hopefully there are many happy teachers and kids with new stuff and field trips to take in New York schools.

March 18, 2006

The Ongoing Package Saga, Part Two

So, our second order of shoes from Lands' End has now arrived (for the backstory, read here and here). Where I left off last time, I was pondering what we were going to do with these shoes when they came because we don't need doubles of them. We first got a slip on Thursday saying the package guy had stopped by, no one was home, so they'd be back the next day between 12:30 and 6 (way to narrow down a window of time) to try again. If we weren't home the second time, the package would go to the post office for us to collect. O and I decided, now that the shoes had arrived, that it was best to ignore them and leave it to the post office to ship them back to the sender after 3 weeks of us not picking them up.

I came home early on Friday due to feeling like shit and not doing anything at work anyway, and I unfortunately didn't note the lack of package slip in the mailbox. If I had, I could have realized that this likely meant that the package guy hadn't come yet, that he still had an hour left in his window of time, and that if the doorbell were to ring, I should just ignore it and pretend I wasn't home. But since none of that occurred to me, I quickly picked up the intercom when the bell rang at about 5:30. It was a guy with a package, and I needed to come down to get it because there were costs I needed to pay (both shipments of shoes got about 17 euros in customs charges added on, which I believe is the first time I've ever received something here that got stopped and charged by customs). I told the guy to hold on while I paused the CD I was almost done with (nice timing); threw on, but didn't tie, my shoes; grabbed my wallet; and ran downstairs, cursing myself for answering the door when we didn't want to accept the package and I should have known that's who it was going to be at the door. I knew how much I needed to pay the guy, so I quickly tucked into my pocket the 20 eur bill I had in my wallet, leaving only a 5, so I could innocently ask the guy how much I needed to pay and then look in my wallet and say "Um, sorry, I don't have enough cash. Can I pin?" Which is exactly what I did. And no, you can't pin, so he told me I would have to pick it up at the post office. "Oh, ok then." He filled out the slip for me to turn in at the post office and I turned to head upstairs.

It was then that my brain sort of played back what I'd done as I ran downstairs, and nowhere in the playback did I grab my keys. It was then that my brain asked "Did you shut the door behind you?" and I answered "I think I did" and my brain said "Well, shit." I got to the door, and yes, I had closed it behind me and I didn't have my keys. I knew that was going to happen someday. I bemoaned these stupid doors that lock behind you and thought that if we were in our old house I could get in because it had a normal, actual doorhandle that you could use to get back inside, instead of it just closing and having that be the end of it.

It wasn't so bad though because it was about time for O to get home, so I figured I wouldn't have to wait long, as long as it wasn't the rare day he decides to hang around work for awhile. I was cold though; I had been cold enough inside our house and now I was sitting in the cold stairwell. I also really hoped one of the guys who lives above us wasn't going to be coming home before Onno because I didn't know how to pretend I was doing something other than sitting there waiting for someone to let me back in my house.

After 20 minutes of waiting, O got home, coming up the stairs to find me sitting on the ground next to the door with only my wallet and a package slip. I was laughed at for awhile. I tried to ignore him and just finished off my CD and pouted in a bid for some sympathy.

Random stuff

Oh my god, I'm posting from home. It's been awhile.

I have a few things floating about that I want to write about and post. First from a journal called General Practice Online, which I came across the other day in the midst of work stuff. About halfway down the page it says it is edited by a Tom Heston, MD, who is at the Southwest Washington Medical Center in "Vancouver, Washington, Nr Portland, USA"... "Nr Portland"? Is that Near Portland or North Portland? I suppose either way is correct...

In a fit of complete boredom and listlessness on Friday, I took to scanning humourous things I found in our mail corner for later posting here. The first:

I don't know why the International Society of Explosives Engineers were trying to contact a company that deals with medical writing, but maybe they got confused. I like their logo. All it's missing is Wile E. Coyote.

The second thing was a fax we recieved:

In English, it says "For a number of years, I have not been able to work due to personal circumstances. But to keep myself busy I have taken up the hobby of collecting metal advertising paperclips such as brand clips and promotion clips.

"Your organization has such advertising paperclips and maybe lying in a desk drawer there are a few of these finer things which you could easily miss. Also advertising clips from other companies are very much welcome.

"I would like to ask you if it is at all possible that you could please help me with expanding my collection.

"I thank you very much for your cooperation."

Eek. I normally throw spam faxes directly into the recycling bin, but I left this one next to the copiers. I felt bad about throwing it out, as sad as it was. I can't imagine anyone at our company actually sending some paperclips to this woman, but you never know.

March 17, 2006

Pet peeves

It has been a fairly miserable week. The weather is still cold (and now not even sunny anymore), I've had this cold thing where I have a sore throat and feel shit and achy, especially in the morning, but it won't decide to either go away or develop into a full-blown cold, so I still dragged my ass into work today (I was hoping to stay home), I'm just low in energy and feeling bleh and unfocused. So: the perfect mood to sit and complain about things.

The thing I want to complain about most is how many of my Dutch-speaking co-workers apparently can't tell the difference between "send" and "sent" and always use the wrong one. It pops up quite often in emails - "Could you please sent me the file?" "I send it to you last week" - and it drives me mad. I assume (ooh, another word that the Dutch do weird things with, I'll get to that in a moment) that they know which is which because they seem to pronounce them correctly, but they apparently get confused with the t and d when writing the words. I have contemplated sending around a note to the effect of "People, 'send' is present tense, 'sent' is past tense. Please use them correctly," but it would be a bit rude. Still, I cringe when I read it and now it's permeated my brain to the point where I doubt which is right when I go to type them. "Please sent this on" almost looks correct to me by now.

And yeah, "assume"... For some reason quite a few Dutch people say the word with a "sh" sound in there, similar to how British people say the word "schedule" with a "sh" sound. But I don't know where they got that from. Do any English speakers say "asshume"? I also hear "idear" a lot from the Dutch, though they don't add on a r to other words ending in a.

Leaving language and pronunciation things behind, other things that piss me off:

- not doing the courtesy of putting a divider after your groceries once you've put them on the belt at the cash register
- couples who have joint email addresses that combines their names in the address (like (why would you want to share a mailbox?!)
- people who loudly smack and snap away at their chewing gum constantly, especially when they are sitting behind you on the tram or bus so the annoying sounds are RIGHT IN YOUR EAR

Anyway, it's almost the weekend, I should try to be more positive, even though tomorrow I might be spending time doing my taxes. Spend nearly an hour entering every bit of information about me, answering all these questions - do I own a house, do I have kids, do I have a ton of wealth from a dead uncle - only to be told I get nothing and owe nothing. I tried skipping them altogether last year, but the Belastingdienst sent a letter after me and, considering I'm not a permanent resident of this country, I figured I'd better do as told. Didn't send in anything to the US though (again I owe nothing and get nothing). Debating that one still for this year.

Right, I was trying to be more positive... So, good things: I'll probably leave early because I just cannot be bothered and because I feel like shit, and Sunday looks like we'll be able to go with Steven and his girlfriend to the Rotterdam Zoo. The zoo has a baby rhino. It's not so furry and cuddly, but still, baby animals are nice.

March 9, 2006

Last night and stuff

We saw Death Cab for Cutie last night at the Melkweg. As I said before, it was the show I was least looking forward to of all the shows we're seeing in these few months, mostly because I'm not that into the band. And it was ok, but I wasn't that into it. It was interesting to see the drop in average age at the Death Cab show compared to just about any of the shows we've been to this year. I felt old this time, instead of at the young end. And all the young kids in their hipsterdom, with the emo haircuts and ironic t-shirts. I looked down at one point and noticed that everyone in front of me all had on the same studded belt. Gah. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, Mr. Arnold Brawny (the look-alike of a certain actor from a show that takes place in Southern California) was not to be seen, though it was very crowded by the time we got there, so maybe we just missed seeing him. There was no Janeane Garofalo either, but there was a photographer guy right behind me who was in front of us at the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show. Both times he's had on a Melkweg wristband, so he must be a house photographer or something.

After the show I offered to get our coats, since O put them in, and I think that's the last time I do that, heh. I was having claustrophobic feelings creeping up. Note to people getting coats: unless you're with a group of like 10 people and will have a mountain of coats to drag out, you don't all need to go into the scrum and add to the amount of people already there. A couple was in front of me and I was thinking "Why are you both here? One of you could have stood at the back and saved some space." So I gave them a few extra shoves when they moved past after getting their two little coats.

To continue the rant vibe, Lost once again does not have a new episode this week, continuing the once-every-two-weeks pattern they've had going on for a few weeks now, not to mention the larger breaks they've taken this season, once for about 3 weeks, and another for 6. At this rate, this one season will last til the end of the year. I think ABC are just getting cocky with the popularity of the show, especially since, last week excepted, most of the recent episodes have been crap. They're taking those of us reeled in by the show last year and just stringing us along and we're allowing it so easily. At least I've been quite enjoying this season's 24, which, though it didn't start until January, has probably aired more of its season than Lost. This week they aired two back-to-back episodes that ended at a very intriguing point, much more intriguing than the end of any bloody Lost episode has been in ages.

I know writing a blog means that what I write is out there for anyone to find, and for this reason I don't write about certain things, namely people I work with, or more namely a specific person I work with who I dislike very much. Once, quite awhile ago, I vaguely mentioned this person, only saying I was happy he was going to be on holiday for a month, and then at work I thought I was being snubbed by a couple of people he is friends with and I knew they had found and read my blog and I felt horrible and promised to never write about people at work ever again. At least not in a negative way. In the end, I was just being paranoid, but the thing is is that the internet can be a small world sometimes and what I write here could be found by a colleague, regardless of my masking or avoiding names. The reason I bring this up is because a colleague (fortunately someone I quite like (and I'm not just saying that in the off-chance she ever reads this)) came to me one day and asked "Do you happen to have a blog?" Uh-oh. She had found out about it in a really roundabout way. Over a year ago, I had written about running into this colleague on the way to a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at the American Book Center and O and I ended up joining her and her friends for the dinner and we had a great time. I happened to mention in my post the name of one of her friends who we met, and he has a unique name, so it does stick out. Then someone, who is friends with this guy with the unique name (I don't really want to type it again), happened to find my blog post and figured out that I was indeed writing about her friend. Word got back to my colleague, as well as the guy I had written about, and thus my colleague asked about it. Eek. Later she told me she hadn't read anything from my site other than the post about the Thanksgiving dinner, and she didn't even know the actual address for my blog (I'm not sure how that is, perhaps the post was copy and pasted into an email?), and she wouldn't go reading it because I seemed uncomfortable about the idea, and she certainly wouldn't send anything around to other people in our company. Which is good, I'm relieved, but really, it is out in public and people can find it. But if there's anyone I don't want reading my blog, it's 99% of my co-workers. And my parents. So I will refrain from writing about the people I work with, even if I am tempted every day to rant about this person I cannot stand. Oh, how I want to rant. eeeeeee...

One last thing, I found this wonderful and random web comic called Wondermark. The strips are all self-contained, so no need to go back through the archives to figure out storylines or who the characters are or anything. They are drawn (I assume drawn, though perhaps they are images gathered from somewhere?) in an old-fashioned, 1800's style, and then just very silly, usually anachronistic, things happen. I found the comic when this strip was posted to the Decemberists' forum (and I think the comic is quite Decemberists-like, using old-fashioned words and such, though the Decemberists, to me, seem to evoke a slightly later era /end poncy-bastard-ness) and I thought it was fucking brillant. I haven't had time to dig into the archives much, but I will.

March 6, 2006

More for the already jam-packed May

Yesterday we bought tickets to see Andrew Bird in Paradiso on May 6. That brings the total number of shows in May we actually have tickets for to 5. But wait, there's more! Josh Ritter is touring Europe in May and I caught the date for Amsterdam over on Paradiso's site. He'll be here May 31. Just edging into May there, upping the shows to a total of 6. Tickets aren't on sale yet though.

So, minus the 3 shows that are now past (Caesar, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Two Gallants), the remainder of our Insane Pile of Concerts - Spring 2006 now looks like this:

Death Cab for Cutie - Melkweg, March 8
Calexico and Iron & Wine - Tivoli, Utrecht, April 26
Andrew Bird - Paradiso Kleine Zaal, May 6
Belle & Sebastian, Paradiso, May 8
The Decemberists - Paradiso, May 18
Presidents of the USA - Paradiso, May 24
Sleater-Kinney - Botanique, Brussels, May 27
(Josh Ritter - Paradiso, May 31, tickets still to be bought)

That makes an average of 1 show every 5 days in May. Considering though that 3 of the 6 are some of my absolute favourite bands, and the other 3 I really enjoy seeing live, it's going to be an awesome month.

March 1, 2006

Two Gallants - Paradiso kleine zaal, 28 February

It was a quiet night last night at Paradiso. The Two Gallants were the only band playing in the whole venue, so the doors to the main hall were closed, the lobby was not jam-packed with people arriving for the show, it only took about 5 seconds to put our coats in the coat check... Kinda weird, but nice and laidback.

We headed upstairs and leaned against the wall near the front waiting for the show to start. It started half an hour later than planned, which was a bit annoying. In the music they were playing though, they played The Decemberists, We Both Go Down Together, which makes 3 for 3 shows that we've gone to in recent weeks where The Decemberists were played. A sign of their popularity right now, I guess.

Not long after we arrived, who should we see but the guy who was standing a couple of people in front of us at the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show. To avoid people mistakenly coming to my site because I mentioned an actor who is on a certain show that takes place in Southern California, I will now refer to this guy, not by that actor's name (though that is who he looks like), but as Arnold Brawny. Ah, how I throw you off. So yes, Mr. Arnold Brawny guy was there again, grabbing a spot front and center. I have this feeling we'll be seeing him at more shows that are a part of our Insane Pile of Concerts - Spring 2006. Almost definitely at the next one, because the next one is Death Cab for Cutie, and if Arnold Brawny is anything like the actor who he looks like, then it would be a sin to not see the Death Cab.

There was also a girl there last night who was also at the front near us at the Clap Your Hands show, and who very much resembles Janeane Garofalo. Maybe she'll be around at other shows we're at too.

So before I move onto talking about the actual concert, there is the little story of the Stuck-Up Photographer (Prick) Who Took 1000 Flash Photos During The Intimate Two Gallants Show (I add in "prick" at O's request). We saw this guy when we got to the hall, he was sitting at a table near us and he eventually pulled out a camera. I pointed it out to O, only because O decided in the end not to take his camera this time, so it was like "well, there's one person with a camera..." Then he pulls out one of those big, add-on flashes, and sticks it onto the camera. Hrm. I said something to O about how you don't need the built-in flash, let alone one of the big fancy ones. When the guys from the band finally came out on stage, the guy with the flash already was at the very front of the stage, to the left, flashing away every 5 seconds while the band was still just setting up. And this of course continued as they played, the guy standing right at the front with his camera glued to his face, always using the flash. It was giving me a headache, not to mention my eyes were having to readjust for a few seconds after each time the flash went off. It was more noticable in this setting as well, since it was in the small hall and there wasn't some big light show going on, it was fairly dark and the stage lights were static. Except for the *pof* *pof* *pof* of this bloody flash. Gaaaah. A few songs in, a guy came from a few rows back and said something to Flash Man, to which Flash Man just scowled and muttered what was likely a dirty name. And continued taking his annoying photos. So, a few more songs later, O suddenly shot past my right side and decided to have a word with Flash Man. Flash Man was not happy and he argued back at O, moving back to where I was standing so as not to be talking right there at the front of the stage. I heard Flash Man say "Do you work here? No? Well, then shut up." And he went back to the front. Then he came back over to O and complained that O wasn't telling off a girl who was using a flash as well, and O told him she wasn't being as annoying because she only took a few photos, she wasn't doing it constantly. Flash Man stomped back off to the front and carried on taking flash photos for the rest of the show.

O told me later that what the guy first said to him was "I get paid to do this and I have an obligation to take good photos of the band." O told him he should invest in a better lens then and he wouldn't have to use the flash. Heh. After all, there were about 3 other people taking photos and they weren't using flash, and a couple of them didn't even have SLRs like Flash Man did. Regardless, the guy was an ass and breaking all the rules of good concert photography, well, the ones that professionals follow, namely: don't use flash, only take photos during the first 3 songs, and don't piss off the audience members around you. There was a discussion about this on a Dutch blog recently, which complained about the proliferance of people taking photos at shows and how it can be really annoying, but if you follow some common-sense rules you aren't going to piss people off. This guy did, then he obviously didn't care when people complained.

I am now setting aside my anger at Flash Man, and will describe the brilliant show that the Two Gallants put on. It was at least as good as when we saw them open for The Decemberists in November, which was the first we heard of them at all and they blew me away. They were just as chilling to watch this time.

They started with Steady Rollin' from their album that just came out, What the Toll Tells. They began with it in November as well, and it's a great start. It has a long intro that slowly builds and builds, and then the singer finally steps forward to sing, unleashing this growling voice full of pain. It's truly awesome. And the drummer is all pounding away on the drums while jerking his whole body into the movements and the sticks are flying up through his hair which is hanging over his face. They have a very raw, stripped-down feel, which suits their painful music perfectly.

I have their new album, but I've not listened to it yet, though seeing them live again has made me want to listen to it as soon as I can. Many of the songs I liked so much both times that we've seen them are on the new album, as opposed to their older album, The Throes, which I bought at the show in November. I've unfortunately only listened to the older album once, partly because most of what they played wasn't on it, and partly because it is rather low-fi and I found it a bit hard to listen to. But I will give it another chance.

I can imagine that word of mouth will grow and that perhaps in a year or so the Two Gallants will come back to Amsterdam and perhaps be able to play in the Melkweg at least. All I can say is that when they come back, you must be there.

Next up, as already mentioned: Death Cab for Cutie on the 8th. The show I'm least looking forward to of our Insane Pile of Concerts - Spring 2006, but it might be better than I expect.

The Ongoing Package Saga

To continue the story of our lost packages, we got a package slip in our mailbox on Monday, which I assumed was for one of the things we'd been expecting, though it was a guess as to which thing it might be since there was nothing on the slip about the company it was from. It was all a bit fishy though since I doubted the Lands' End stuff that had been re-sent to cover the lost stuff had arrived in only 4 days, and the package slip, coincidentally enough, had the same date on it as the date they supposedly lost our packages. So basically it looked as though a lost package had been found.

We went to pick it up yesterday, and sure enough it was a big box from Lands' End, which contained two pairs of shoes. And it was the original shipment, sent at the beginning of February, not the one that was shipped again last week to replace the thought-to-be-lost one. So they found this one at least it seems. Except now we have a replacement shipment coming as well. So I'm not sure what we're going to do with that. We don't need two pairs of shoes each, so I would want to send the shoes back to the company, but I would want the post office not to charge us for this since it's their fault we will have a big box to ship back to the US. I realize the unlikelyhood of wrangling this out of the post office, but I'd want to give it a shot. O though suggested just rejecting the other box when it comes, saying we just don't want it. Can you do this? At the very least, I suppose we could just leave it at the post office for the 3 weeks they keep packages, after which time I assume they send it back to where it came from. So if we just don't go pick it up, they should send it back for us eventually. Right? Thank you TPG for this pain-in-the-ass problem.

Thank goodness the shoes seem to fit, though a bit loosely, because if we also wanted to trade the ones we have now for a different size... It would all be such a pain.