January 29, 2007

Goings on

I haven't been writing much this month, which I suppose is due to January being rather busy, if anything because of the amount of birthdays which means a dinner or a party nearly every weekend. Even though I've been busy, it feels like it's been a very long month and I keep being surprised that it's still January. About time for it to finally end.

So, what have we been up to then? Most recently, O had drinks for his birthday on Saturday night, though it was his birthday a week earlier. A fairly large group turned out, despite some last-minute cancellations, and we had a good evening.

One friend gave O a Moleskine for his birthday and those little buggers have been popping up a lot lately. I only really saw them for the first time at a paper shop in the Negen Straatjes when I was Christmas shopping in mid-December. The name sounded familiar and I coveted those simple little books (and they came in so many styles!), but then I coveted many of the blank books in that shop. I was in the paper shop again about a week later and ended up giving in and buying myself a pocket Moleskine, not really a notebook but a sort of small accordion file in the same Moleskine cover which you can use to store tickets and receipts and whatnot. I think it'll be a fixture on my holiday packing lists from now on. But then at a Secret Santa lunch I went to, someone brought a Moleskine as a gift, and now O has received one. They've become popular quite quickly...

Also on Saturday O and I helped a colleague of mine move. It all went very quick, though it helped that she had no furniture to move. Her old place is on the 3rd floor, so rather than exhaust ourselves on the stairs, we set up a chain so that each person only had to go up and down one flight. It worked really well and we were done in half an hour. We unloaded into her new house in about half that time and then we went to a nice cafe on the Overtoom where I recharged on a yummy tuna salad sandwich and a slice of cheesecake.

Slightly more fun times with my colleagues were to be had a few weeks ago when we had our company party. Since we had a very successful year last year, they wanted to throw a bigger party than we had in 2005, so we all had the afternoon off for an event that was kept secret until it started. It turned out to be a scavenger hunt through Amsterdam that we competed in in teams of about 5-6. It was put together by a company so it was all well planned and very sneaky. Each team first had to go to the lockers at Centraal Station where we got a little briefcase with gadgets and instructions. We had high-tech things like a mini-computer, GPS unit and mobile phone, but also things like a compass and tape measure. We were lead on quite a large path, going to the Dam, the Spui, the Red Light District and back to the Dam and Damrak. The organizers kept track of us and would show they were watching us by calling or SMSing us on the phone and referring to something a team member had just said or done. It really made you paranoid. At the end of the day we found out we'd been filmed all day and at times the one taping us was right behind us, but we never knew. I loved the whole thing, and even as we were in the middle of it I was thinking how great it is to do something like this in a city like Amsterdam because you start to wonder who is part of the game and who is not. After hours of walking around and knowing you're being watched, you start to get suspicious about anyone who comes up to you, so when a homeless guy came up to my team on the Dam (as we were trying to measure the distance between the lions in front of the national monument, one of the silly things we had to do) and he mumbled some nonsense to us, I did wonder "Is he part of this? Is he spying on us? Or is he just the usual kind of weirdo you find around Amsterdam?" At the end of it all, we headed over to a boat cafe on the IJ and there were drinks, dinner, dancing and a lot more drinks.

As for the future, in about two weeks O and I will go on our short break to Berlin. And I'm trying to plan a trip to Portland for the spring. I'll hopefully talk to my mom tonight and set some dates. I'd like to take advantage of the long Hemelvaart weekend in May, which is a good time to go weather-wise as well. The last time I called my mom we discussed going to the coast because I realized that I haven't been to the beach since O's first visit in 2000. Which still seems impossible to me, that I've not gone to the beach for so long. So I want to go and I discussed with my mom how we've not seen much of the southern Oregon coast, so it'd be nice to go there and see some new towns. It made me happy to hear her sound excited about the plans.

January 18, 2007

Hunker down inside

Yeah, for anyone in Northern Europe, the blasting winds are not news. I certainly cannot remember seeing winds this bad here. A co-worker of mine was with a woman who got blown over on her way into the building and I later saw a guy skitter a good 10 feet across some grass when it started monsooning around 3:30. Also in the morning two women heading into work with bikes (not riding them anymore, but walking them) were hardly able to keep hold of their bikes and were being pulled off into some bushes by the wind around our building (which is bad even on good days). The bike shed was losing parts of its roof and a large part of what was left was heaving up and down and threatening to let loose at any moment. An email was eventually sent around saying no one was allowed in the shed until further notice "due to the severe winds we are experiencing today and the effect this is having on our bicycle shed construction." Heh, that is one way of putting it.

Many people I work with went home early and quite a few who were left when I went at 4:15 weren't quite sure how they were going to get home. I especially wonder how they did get home since all trains were cancelled at some point in the evening. O and I were fortunately given a ride home by a co-worker of his, though in the end he wasn't able to drive us all the way to our house. The overpass near us that crosses over the A10 was closed to even foot traffic, so we got out and walked the rest of the way home. Luckily it was a bit calmer at the time and the rain had stopped. It was even mostly clear. We did try at first to head up and over the A10, but a cop finally stopped us. We had walked quite far though before any of the 3-4 cops standing around noticed we had walked past them.

We have winds, the Portland area has snow. Either news I read, there's weather dominating the posts. I would get confused sometimes though, like I would read Portland's news saying that the new OHSU aerial tram was still running despite the weather and think "In this wind?! Are they mad??" and then I would remember that in Portland it's just snow and cold, and it's here that we have the wind.

So tomorrow is O's 27th birthday. Everyone go to his site and wish him a good one. He is currently in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies to take to work tomorrow. He actually had this idea months ago, mostly based on the desire to be the one lording over the cookie dough and baked cookies, since I'm normally the one baking the cookies and thus telling him how much he can have. Just makes me laugh though, he has hardly ever baked anything and now he's making American cookies with my measuring cups from the US.

January 10, 2007

Look at me go

Only 10 days into the year and I've already finished a whole book. That's lightning quick for me these days. Amsterdam was pretty good, I like Ian McEwan's writing style very much (however much of it is his), but the ending seemed rather staged and set-up. It felt like it maybe should have been a short story rather than a novel.

In a strange move, though one I may try to do more this year, I've decided to read a book I've already read. Usually I'm dying to move on to the next book waiting for me in my growing pile, but this time, perhaps feeling optimistic over finishing a book so quickly, I chose to reread something. So up next is The Golden Compass, which is a book I love very much, reason number one to reread it, but also a film version is meant to come out this year and I felt like reading the book again before seeing the film (and likely being very disappointed by it, but you never know). I have other old books I want to read again, but it was not hard to choose this one first.

January 2, 2007

Missed and caught

I went this holiday period without having any oliebollen. I just kinda forgot to get some and then it was New Year's and I missed having some and now all the gebakkramen are gone. I don't love oliebollen (I like appelbeignets much more and at least I had some of those this year, though they were just from the Albert Heijn), but they're a Dutch thing that I can enjoy and they're seasonal, so I like having some in their season. But I missed getting some this year. Kind of like I almost missed getting a bag of pepernoten before Sinterklaas. What makes me sadder about not having any oliebollen this year is that I'll be in Australia over the holidays next year, so I'll miss them again. Unless I find some nutters making oliebollen down there in the middle of summer, which isn't totally out of the question because there are a lot of Dutch people in Australia.

A day or two after Christmas, O finally saw his Canon spot air on MTV. He was getting very peeved that so many people had seen it except for him. His mom happened to catch it after we left on Christmas. Even his hoity-toity aunt apparently saw it, though god only knows what she was doing watching MTV. She seemed a bit confused anyway because she said that O was the one with long hair, wearing a green shirt, which sounds more like the guy who was the lead singer of the band. Who looks nothing like O. Then again, we don't see her that often, she likely still thinks that O has long hair and just thought that was him then.

After he finally saw the film on TV himself, he realized how much it had been bugging him that he hadn't seen it yet. He was really relieved, more than he thought he'd be. And thankfully we can stop watching MTV so much now, cuz... gah. By the way, Canon UK have a site up now about this series of The Shot films. The idea behind the films is described as: "Accomplished photographers share a photograph and the story behind it. The passion for photography combined with brilliant photographic abilities make for remarkable photographs" (made with Canon cameras, natch). O's film is noted as being "exlusive" (sic) to MTV, which is pretty cool, though it makes sense because it has to do with music. The other 3 films from this series can be viewed there as well.

January 1, 2007


First the big switch: I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year's. O and I actually went out instead of doing our usual stay-at-home- and-have-champagne- and-light-fireworks thing. We went to see the Presidents of the USA, along with a couple of other bands, at Paradiso and it's the first time I've really gone out for New Year's since I rang in 1998 with Sleater-Kinney in Olympia (and then 1998 turned out to be a very good year). The show was pretty good, but it felt like a lot of the audience lost interest at some point. It definitely didn't compare to the energy of the first time we saw them in Amsterdam. There was a quite wacky band that played before the Presidents and lead in the ringing of the new year. They were called Misty's Big Adventure and they featured an interpretive dancer who is apparently called Erotic Volvo. They were a lot of fun and they seemed to have a little fan club section dancing their hearts out at the front of the stage. The evening also included yummy caipirinhas and free champagne and indoor sparklers and huge Happy New Year's balloons being bounced around the crowd. More fun than dodging flying fire outside.

The more personal switch: O finally convinced me to ditch Windows and change over to Linux. Even a year ago I would have never considered it because I thought Linux was only for real computer geeks, but after O installed it on his computer and I saw what it was like, I thought maybe I might like it. I have mixed feelings at the moment, but that's probably because I'm not good with change and I was whinging for days just about my fonts all looking funky and wrong. I know, it's just the stupid letters, but everything looked different and I didn't like it. I think I am getting used to it now, just in time to go back to work tomorrow and be back on a Windows computer. But then other things weren't working quite right, like I can't use Adobe Elements anymore to edit my photos because there isn't a Linux version, and the alternative that does exist in Linux I found to be crap, so I was very frustrated for a bit, but I sorted out a solution eventually. This afternoon I was getting really pissed off with the MP3 player not doing what I wanted it to, but I also needed lunch, so I was extra cranky. I think I'll be happier in the end though, once I learn how things work and get used to it.

So back to work tomorrow, no more days of sleeping in til 11:30. I did get a lot done that I wanted to over the holidays, though I feel that I could still use at least another 2 days off. Oh, and the cat went back to his home on Saturday. It felt so quiet without him, though if you ever had to put up with the racket he makes when he wants to be fed, you'd know just how silent it suddenly was. But it was sad to go to our closet and know he wasn't in there sleeping in the corner he'd claimed, or have him come out and sit on our laps while on the computer or watching TV. We might be able to watch him again this summer though, so he'll likely be back.

Last Wednesday I went into the heavily-fortified American consulate to renew my passport. There was a guy ahead of me at the gate going in and I noticed he had on an Oregon State Beavers hat. So I asked him if he was from Oregon or if he just went to Oregon State and he looked a bit sheepish and even ran his hand over the front of the hat, like "Damn, forgot I had that on and now someone goes and recognizes it...". He said he actually went to the University of Oregon, but didn't explain why he was wearing a Beavers hat then (the two schools are age-old rivals). But yeah, not something I see too often here...