Friday, March 30, 2007

Straight from my desk

Go-karts and laser tag, according to the Dutch, go together like cookies and cream, or eggs and bacon. I'm not sure why, but where ever there's a go-kart track in Holland, there's a laser tag game to go with it.

Actually, I do think I know why. Since here almost all go-karting is done indoors, these two space-intensive indoor activities compliment each other nicely.

Last night a group of about 8 of us from the office went go-karting and laser-tagging. The event was to celebrate the freedom of a cow-orker who's just quit to persue something (anything) else. Smart guy. And the best karter and laser shooter out of the whole group also.

I found the events fun, but tiring. As the only english speaker, non-dutch, in the group I was tasked with trying to follow a 7-way conversation between excited people. It was impossible. So thank goodness that the activities were fun.

Tonight I'm looking forward to hanging out with my expat friends and only enjoying english. Sad, but communicating in Dutch is still so much work that it takes the fun and joy out of simple social situations. Thankfully, with the karting lasering obsession here, when you get tired of speaking Dutch, you can take your frustrations out in physical ways.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ramblings while I walk (part 1?)

I often lament that I can't take my blog with me as I'm walking around Amsterdam. Every detail seems worth a story in itself. And there are so many details. Night and day people are always walking or biking along with you. I don't think you can be alone while any where in the centre of town.

I usually take my own neighbourhood for granted as I walk through it. I'm usually rushing off some where and - as I'm oft likely to do - probably thinking of other things. Which is why its nice to have people drop by, so I can see it through their eyes. Like this rather long stretch as we head into town from home. The houses on the right are all rather homogeneous. Doors sprout 2 or 3 to a house. Tiny gardens with little 6 inch picket fences take up the bits of space not used for doors.

The intersection is a good place to point out the various paths: walking, biking, driving. Stand on the bike path and the cyclists will ring their bells frantically, right before they bowl you over. It's funny to watch, but let's not let it happen to us.

The big attraction is the park on the left. Over the street and over the canal that parallels the street is Westerpark. Long and narrow like everything else in Holland, Westerpark follows the road all the way down to the end at the plein. It's beautiful in the summer time. In the winter you can see the train line that takes me to work. I like the view I get from both sides of the park each day.

The plein is clearly dominated by its huge Roman arch. Perhaps only half the size of the Arc de Triomphe you none-the-less begin to wonder what city you're in. No worries. From here a bunch of the trams and buses meet. It's the edge of the oldest part of town and the "newer" bits. Newness being relative of course.

As you would see, the street we would take from the plein carries a straight line from where we've been. It's full of things to see! So full, perhaps we should stop writing here, lest we never make our final destination.

At least, that's probably maybe I think perhaps the kind of stuff I would write if I could write while I walked.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saving Daylight

The European Union began its annual plan of saving daylight at approximately 2am last night. While many people save money, and some save little bits of string, members of the EU can now save daylight as well.

The system, which consists of a constellation of ESA satellites blanketing the sky over Europe, works by trapping incoming daylight, storing the light energy in nanoscopic quantum light cells, and then releasing the daylight at a later time, directing it towards the land areas that were previously shaded.

Flaws in the system have drawn into question the usefulness of the project. Primarily, the nanoscopic quantum light cells are currently only capable of holding 1 hour's worth of daylight before it must be released. Thus instead of truly being able to save daylight - for a rainy day for example - the system is only capable of postponing sunrise and sunset by one hour.

Unhappy with the government tampering with their light - a natural resource previously unregulated - a large number of European citizens have decided to react. Throughout the 27 EU countries, citizens protested the shift in the daylight hours and chose instead to adjust their clocks ahead one hour to compensate.

Originally designed as a system intended to bring the entire EU into a single time zone, it was hoped that start of business in London, Milan, and Warsaw would all one day coincide. Others believe that saving daylight will one day allow the EU to compete more favourably for position in the growing Chinese economy, by moving all of Europe into the same timezone as Beijing. Critics point out that the entire idea is complete idiocy and have reset their watches to compensate.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Let's get this party started...

Okay, not a real party. Not any kind of party. But it's time to get started. Laundry, shower, groceries, perhaps the gym, cook a good dinner, and visit with friends tonight. Busy.

The question is, after an 11 hour sleep and waking to feel tired and weak, will forcing myself into action produce energy I can use later? Or will a busy day of chores and errands result in feeling too tired to go out tonight?

One point of interest. My favourite local hangout is CLOSING next Saturday. So if nothing else happens, I need to stop in and say hi. Hopefully that will be after all the other things are done and just as friends are arriving there too. We'll see.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Still alive

So much to say, so little energy to say it with. It's Friday again, and I'm still not recovered from last weekend.

Joby came to visit and it was a blast! Alas, by Sunday I thought I was dealing with one of the worst hangovers I've had in a while. By Wednesday I realized that it wasn't (entirely) a hangover. I've had the flu the whole week, even though I've been trying to ignore it.

Some how I've managed to spend the week doing fun things and going fun places inspite of the fact that, if left to myself, I wouldn't have left my bed. But at no time this week was I left to myself. Work's been busy and Joby needed to be shown the town, friends have called to "demand" my time. So I've been going like the energizer bunny. And going. And going. And ....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Too Much Energy!

I'm back from work and have lots of cleaning and prep for my weekend guest. Good thing I've got lots of energy. Too much energy. In fact, I've gone through the day with WAY too much energy!

I was a butterfly today at work. I fluttered about the office (in a relaxed masculine way) going from conversation to conversation; and occassionally email to email. I even made an effort to ease off on my usual coffee consumption. It didn't help, since today's energy wasn't physical but was instead a nervous mental chaos that just couldn't be satiated.

So thank goodness it was a happy energy! I had a big (nearly maniacal) smile on my face the whole day. And as a result I got met by smiles all day. Shucks darn I was in the new office with all the beautiful young women.

Come to think of it, it's bloody amazing any work got done. And yet a good bit did.

Tomorrow I suspect the energy will still be there. All the greater for the knowledge that the weekend will be just hours away. And then no work will go well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PARTY this weekend!

Many moons ago I made reference in this blog to Joby and Mike. Both world wanderers, both crazy party-type (when they were younger) people, both friends of mine almost since the start of my professional career, and both coming to town THIS WEEKEND!

Mike lives here but has been working in the states for months now. (He took over my work in Boston.) Joby is Joby. Apparently he's working all over and living no where in particular. He and his wife are preparing for a move (mostly likely) to Europe and he'll be crashing on my couch this weekend.

The couch isn't comfy. It's okay. It won't cause any kind of terminal back problems. But it isn't comfy. THUS, it's my responsibility to make sure my old friend is sufficiently wrecked before tucking him in each night, lest he complains about the "bed".

So to all, I appologize in advance. The party this weekend will be loud enough to keep everyone everywhere awake a little later than desired. Sorry! >:-)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's Spring. So sayith I.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boyz and Girlz, I declare that spring has arrived in Amsterdam!

This is definitely a spring weathered weekend. The sun has shone all day, and is forecast to do so tomorrow too. The weather is warm, but windy, and only the thinnest whisps of cloud have highlighted the sky.

And with this bright sunny day, came the sudden realization that spring cleaning was needed. The bright rays of light highlighted every dust covered surface. And so out came the soft yellow rags until matte grey stereo equipment was replaced with shiny black. Each surface, patch by patch, got it's portion of T.L.C.

Tomorrow will be for the floor. Mountains of dust continue resettling into corners and behind doors. But they won't escape. Not so long as the spring sun shows me their secret spots.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ramblings from my desk...

One day along a lonely desert highway, a penguin noticed his air conditioning wasn't working as well as it should. Being a penguin, and appreciating cold, he decided to pull into a garage at the next town and asked the mechanic to look at the car.

The mechanic said he'd be 30 minutes making a diagnosis so the penguin waited across the road at the local diner. When he returned to the garage, the mechanic said to him," You've got some serious problems. Looks like you've blown a seal."

The penguin immediately wiped his beak, blushed slightly, and said," No, I was eating vanilla ice cream."


The pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of pleasure are not the same things. Still, I'm willing to use my imagination and ignore the contradictions.


My office chair has a little lever that allows you to raise its height. If you want to lower it, just bounce a bit or sit and wait patiently. I think it's a designed feature intended to maximize the value of the up lever.


I'm extremely motivated to exercise, eat well, and keep fit. It's not so I can look better; it's so that I can keep abusing myself into old age!


From an article at:

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Two-thirds are above average? Statements like that piss me off 117% more than is possible.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My First Dutch Class

Gisteravond heb ik mijn eerste nederlands les gehad. Af zes jaar ben ik eindelijk nederlands leren. En dat vind ik leuk. Goedzo omdat als thuiswerk moet ik iets over "wat vind ik leuk" schrijven. Ik vind het leuk om te nederlands schrijven. Dus mag ik nu wat ik wil?

De les was ook leuk. 5 studenten en de doecent. Allemaal collegas van mij. En vrienden van mij maar niet mijn vrienden. Ik heb dat geleerd.

Mijn huisgenoot (de huisgenoot van mij?) is vanavond weg. Dat vind ik wel leuk. Het werd een rustig avond.

Wat meer vind ik leuk? Eerst is duidelijk SCUBA duiken. Ik ben gek op duiken! En daarom Bonaire ook. Bonaire is hemel voor duikers.

Ik vind Amsterdam wel leuk and ik hou van stadsleven. Zoveel leuk plekken en vreemde maar leuke mensen. Billiards is zo wel leuk en "nog een beerje?" is altijd leuk om te horen.

En dus ver zonder de woordenboek. :-)

Maar heb ik wel een vraag gehad. Wat bedoel "netjes"? Danks de woordenboek weet ik dat netjes verzorgd en schoon bedoeld. Ik vind dat ook leuk. Vandag een vrouw op mijn werkplek hebt over me netjes geheten. Leuk!

Even leuker, nu ben ik klaar met mijn thuiswerk.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

To Gym Or Not To Gym

It's Sunday! And a wonderfully relaxed day it seems to be. Lots of time, little to do. The laundry is almost done and the fridge is full of food, including left-overs that just need heating. So I really have plenty of time to get to the gym today.

I'm just not sure I want to. I haven't been for about 8-9 days due to a few pulled muscles. And there's so little to do today I would hate to ruin that with stressful activity. But then again, I know I need to stretch out and use those pulled muscles. And I know I'll feel great tomorrow thanks to the exercise. And I'm always thankful I exercised afterwards, regardless of my mood before hand.

So to work through the "I don't wanna" blahs I'm using a tricky morning ritual of caffiene overdose and motivation.

This technique doesn't always work. But it usually does. Firstly, I've had a ton of coffee. More than I was "thirsty" for. I forced toast down my throat as early as possible, and now I'm backing that with a whey protein and fruit shake. I've got the TV muted and dance music playing. My "workout music". It makes it hard to sit still.

Next, once the food settles, down will go a single Red Bull. That will hit my brain like fire and for about 20-30 minutes going to the gym will feel like the obvious way to rid myself of the excess energy. But it's a narrow window. If I overdo the Red Bull I may just as likely start vacuuming or folding laundry. And then I'll ultimately end up missing the gym, as they close early on Sundays. (And I'm ignoring many hours worth of cleaning.)

There's also the "danger" of something really interesting coming on TV. With my mood right now (it's Sunday!) that could mean "something I didn't just see in the last week." I'm not feeling picky.

Down goes the last of the smoothy milkshake. More coffee awaits as does some loud and fast music. Will it take me where I want to go?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Forgot to Mention...

I'm legal again! Not that I've ever been here (Holland) illegally, but my last residence permit took nearly a year-and-a-half to arrive. But arrive it has!

In We've Gotten Through To A Human I expressed great hope that things between me and the IND (dutch imigration authority) had improved... dramatically. As it turns out, it was all true! Unbelievably, I'm now a valid resident through to the year 2011!

Until now, this has been an annual process. Months worth of paperwork, lining up, waiting, each and every year. But no more! Or at least, not so much more.

What really makes this incredible news is that this last permit was originally denied. Apparently years ago I filed a form past a deadline. So my residence permit was denied and the one before that was retroactively nulified. Pardon? Yes, that's correct.

So I'm pretty excited. Not only was I granted my permit, but it's the "semi-permanent" 5- year version. Next step... inburgering!