December 26, 2006


I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Mine was pretty good, the usual, quite relaxing. And smoke-free! O's mom is trying to quit smoking again, and she didn't smoke at all last night. It was nice to come home not stinky.

Last night when we got home I called my family and said hi to everyone. I get the same questions over and over: "What time is it there?" "What did you guys eat for Christmas dinner?" The first person I talk to should just summarize for everyone else... Anyway, it's weird, both during this call and when I called at Thanksgiving I talked to two of my cousins, both boys, both a few years younger than me, and one has always been a bit weird and we had this awkward conversation where neither of us really knew what to say, but with his older brother, I've actually had these decent conversations. Nothing deep or anything, but he was much more pleasant to talk to than I thought he'd be, and he was asking me questions about what I've been up to and sounding interested... I guess seeing them only very occasionally over the past few years, I've not really seen how he's grown up, so I was surprised by how adult he sounds. And now I'm starting to sound old...

So since last Wednesday we've been catsitting for some friends. Coco is a very strange cat. He stands on his back legs quite often. He likes to sit on your shoulders. You can pet him all over and pull his tail and poke at him and he never minds, but he does like to give "love bites" on your nose and chin (he'll sniff at one part or the other and then suddenly bite at it. Sometimes it's a nibble, sometimes it really hurts). He wakes us up by wandering all over the bed, meowing, and then eventually walking on us and sitting in uncomfortable places, such as right on your chest or right next to your face. Occasionally, when O or I are in the bathroom, Coco'll come in and start rolling around in the shower. We haven't figured out the purpose of this, but he seems to really like it. Overall though he's a very sweet, if rather loud, cat and we'll miss having him around.

Besides tomorrow when I plan to renew my passport, do some shopping, and check in on a friend's apartment, this week has nothing really planned for it. *Breathe in and... ahhhhhhhh...* Jammie day every day. Ok, I do have some plans for stuff around the house, but that's it. I'm glad to recharge a bit before the new year since the last few weeks at work were really busy. Hopefully it won't be so bad when we get back anyway.

December 21, 2006


After weeks of it airing and nearly everyone we know seeing it except for us, I finally caught O's Canon film on MTV. Unfortunately O's out at a work dinner right now so he didn't get to see it as well. He's kinda pissed that I saw it before him. But it was cool to actually see it on TV. One aspect of it that no one's really mentioned, though it is sort of obvious: it's subtitled in Dutch. It's just kind of weird to see someone's choice of words in O's native language for his English voiceover.

At work we got a little holiday present today. Everyone arrived to find on their desks a bottle of Moët and Chandon in an insulated case. Quite nice. Also some vague details for our big party in January were sent around. What we will be doing is a surprise, but they told us to bring warm clothes and walking shoes for one part of the day, and clothes for dancing for later. I hope it all lives up to the hype that the organizing committee has built.

December 16, 2006

Holy blogging

I recently got an email inviting me to join a site called Christian Bloggers. The email said that they found my site while searching for fellow Christian bloggers, which makes me think these are some seriously mislead people. The email doesn't look too spam-like, it has a legitimate web link and such, so why they chose to email me is a mystery. You gotta love their closing line though: "May God Bless you and your blogging efforts." May we all be delivered through Blogger and Word Press, for God wishes it so.

December 10, 2006


Lately, things at my job have been good. The company I work for has been quite successful in the past few months and we've been hiring new people in my department left and right. One new person started last Monday; another new one starts this coming Monday. We have been quite overworked at points though due to a lot of new work and not enough people to do it yet, and our general manager has fortunately recognized this hard work and given us some of the most reward-like stuff I've seen in the 4 1/2 years I've been at this job. One thing was just a nice break for people who'd put in a lot of overhours, which we have tracked when we enter and leave the building and which can be traded in for days off. Twice a year they chop down your hours if you have more than 50 and this was meant to happen in October, but management agreed to not do it this time around because a lot of people had tons of overhours but hadn't had a quiet period where they could take a day off or go home earlier. So they realized it wouldn't be fair to take those hours away. It wasn't a difficult thing to do on the management's part, but it was a nice gesture.

Something that is a bit more of a treat and which requires that they actually have to spend some money on us is that a few times now they've brought people into the office to give us a 20 minute back massage. I've gone twice now and it's lovely. Especially since I tense up my shoulders a lot and sometimes I do get stiffness in my right shoulder from using the mouse so much. It's so hard though to come out of getting a massage and then have to head back to work. It feels wrong to use my computer again and start undoing all the relaxation my muscles gained from the massage. I've heard good feedback from some co-workers, and we've filled in surveys after having one of the massages, so hopefully our company decides to continue offering them to us.

Besides company-wide benefits, work has been good lately because the group of people I know and like has been expanding. This is mostly due to most of my department eating together during lunch, so we've gotten to know each other pretty well. I used to eat lunch with just one friend from my company, but when she left and then some new people started on my team, the habit was started of going to lunch with people in my department. Since we've been hiring more and more people recently, the group keeps growing. Sometimes we can't find a table to all fit at. Anyway, I've just been stepping back and appreciating this lately, that there's this group of people at work who I really like, people all in their 20s and 30s, mostly without kids, from many different countries and with all sorts of stories, and we all get on quite well. I think it's made work more enjoyable, and while I've always liked where I work, I feel like I now have a good set of friends there as well which I didn't have in the same way before.

Last week we got our yearly present for Sinterklaas and it was nice to see that a bit more effort went into the gift than in previous years. Usually we just get a chocolate letter, but this year we each got a little Sinterklaas bag filled with a lot of speculaas and with a little poem attached. I don't know who wrote the note, but it was written in "Dinglish", a mix of Dutch and English (I guess they don't know it's called Dunglish) and I thought it was quite well done:

Dear collega,

Because de Sint's Spanish is beter dan his English
He decided to do dit gedicht in Dinglish
In the kader of Sinterklaas
I would like to geef you deze pieces of speculaas
This speciale department of Elsevier
Gives on this Sinterklaas party a whole eigen zwier
De Sint would like to bedank you voor your hard werk
And makes himself for the kado's of next year wederom sterk

About the bag the speculaas came in though, I bring up the whole Zwarte Piet issue, which is whether it's all racist or it's just a tradition or what. In my first years here I didn't think much about Zwarte Pieten except that they creeped me out, but now it is hard not to see it all as, if not totally racist, then done in very bad taste. I mean, Dutch people of all ages go around in black face and nappy-haired wigs, and it's hard as a foreigner to not think it comes across really poorly. So then there's the bag from work. This is the design on the side of the bag:

The Zwarte Piet looks like a depiction of a black person from the 1800s and early 1900s, with the big, red lips. I'm rather embarrassed to own it. But if I mentioned this to the average Dutch person, they would scoff and say "don't be silly, it's just Zwarte Piet. Sinterklaas is a kids holiday, it's all fun and is harmless." I'd be happy to stand by the holiday if there were no Zwarte Piet, but that's blasphemy here. I'm just thankful O's family doesn't do anything for Sinterklaas and I can mostly ignore it.

December 7, 2006

Applause Mother Nature for the show she put on from about 3:30-4:30 this afternoon. Funnily enough, just before the doom and rain moved in I was actually noting a rare break in the clouds and saw some blue sky showing through. But hardly 15 minutes later, it was suddenly night and soon after that the monsoons came. You could see water just pouring off the sides of the building I work in. There was at least one flash of lightning. I went back to work after checking it out for a bit and a little while later, once the rain was calming down, I saw the reflection of the yellow ball of the sun start to shine through the gray. It was dim enough though that you could look straight at it. It grew brighter and brighter as the wind blew the clouds to the east, and the sky went this really strange colour, a sort of yellowish-gray. It looked really bizarre. I thought to myself "this is what the end of the world will look like" and a colleague also said it looked apocalyptic. To the west you could see the line marking the edge of the clouds and it was heading our way. Right about the time the sun set, the sky was clearer and there was a mix of pink and gray clouds flying past at different levels. There was a vague pink tint everywhere outside. I kicked myself for not having my camera, but it probably wouldn't have been the same anyway.

But speaking of photos, I did take this one of the full moon the other night. Not perfect, but I kind of like it that way.

December 4, 2006

Germany, Germany, and cat

Germany past: On Saturday I went to the Christmas market in Düsseldorf with a friend of mine, finally, after years of wanting to go. We had a very good time and I got most of my Christmas shopping done. Click the photo to see some of the photos I took (which was my camera's first real outing, and, besides the noise in some high ISO photos, I think it did pretty well).

Germany future: We have the concert tickets and train tickets to go see The Decemberists in Berlin on February 14. (Damn cheap train tickets, by the way, only a few euros more than the ticket I bought to Dusseldorf.) Unfortunately the 14th is a Wednesday, and I don't want to take too many days off, so we're only going from Tues-Thurs, and with the 6 1/2 hour train journey, we're only really in Berlin one day. But still, it'll be nice to get away for a few days and see the band there before they come here about a week later.

(Decemberists side-note: The Crane Wife has finally grown on me. I'm not sure yet if I feel it's actually better than Picaresque, but I am happy with it. So, very excited to see these songs played live, especially The Island, and hopefully Shankill Butchers and Sons and Daughters and the unreleased Culling of the Fold.)

Cat: During Christmas week, we'll be catsitting. This is a good thing, we like cats. After being at some houses this year where there are cats, we did discuss getting one, despite the fact that I'm allergic. We've put it on hold for now, but maybe in a couple of years we could get one. In the meantime though we get to borrow one for a week, from some friends who live in Utrecht who couldn't find anyone else to watch their cat while they were gone for the holidays. He really needs to be around people, so it's better for him to come live with us (he is quite ok with strange places, apparently) than for someone to just drop in to feed him. And we're happy to have the visitor. I miss having pets, so I'm really looking forward to having an animal around, though if he is yowling at us at 6 am, I may regret the whole thing. And he does yowl more than meow, at a high volume. He also likes to sit on your shoulder (your very own, 10 pound, constantly warm winter wrap).