Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dust & Polish Day

Out with the old! Old dust that is. It's dust day here... or more correctly, a dusty day. The living room has stayed clean. The kitchen is good. The paper pile in my dining room still stands, but it's noticeably weaker now. The only room that hasn't seen a dramatic change since Rogier's leaving is my own bedroom.

Primarily employed for sleeping purposes, it's also the last great bastion of organized dust armies. And today I've started to do something about that. Although it will be a multi-day process. A multi-multi-day process.

I have to admit, my redecorating plans feel more like a chess game than moving. I need to buy a dresser for my bedroom. Then I can transfer the clothes from the bookshelf I'm currently using as a dresser. The bookshelf is needed in the dining room, to accept books and such from the overburdened table. Keeping in mind of course that I intend to paint the table and bookshelves. So the bookshelves will get moved from the bedroom, then painted, then loaded with stuff from the table, then the table can be painted. But before I put a dresser in my new bedroom, the floor needs cleaning and polishing. It goes on like that in a nearly infinite circle of little tasks.

Not that dragging a 30 kg wooden unit onto the balcony and painting it in January is a "little task". But it's an example.

A multi-multi-multi day process.

But in the mean time, every day brings progress, and I love that. Today I took all the clothes off my bookshelf. I sorted them, checked the socks for holes and removed everything that hadn't been worn in a year. The result was a halving of my wardrobe. Or at least a halving of my storage requirements. Nothing I normally wear, or even might wear, has been removed.

After such work, my allergies leave me only one option... open the window wide and flee the room. I need a low dust option now. Thankfully, the pile of old socks I'm throwing out have reminded me that they could be used as rags to polish the floor before they go. It hurts my knees just to think about, but it does appear to be (1) a dust-free activity, and (2) next on the list.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hello new cable box...

Instalments three and four of "The Cable Story" really got tucked as quick mentions into other posts. But now I think we're on part 5... or part V (looks better) and I think this is the final chapter in the tale.

Some 12 days ago, when Rogier moved out, the digital cable went with him. Although of course it wasn't supposed to. 11 days ago I called them up and they said wait 48 hours and it will be back. 7 days ago I called them again and told them it wasn't back. They made an appointment to send a technician today. Then 4 days ago the cable came back! Where it had gone, I never found out, but clearly it had had a rough time while away.

My cable was back, but either broken or hungover. The signal kept cutting out, and some features weren't working.

Rather than call the cable company, I remained quiet and let the technician arrive today. He was surprised to see the system working. But as soon as he started poking he found problems. Rather than diagnose them, he swapped the converter box. It's new and shiny (even shinier than the old one) and seems to actually work.

There was a moment of uncertainty as to whether I should be charged for the "installation" service but apparently the quality of my coffee swayed the issue. I got my cable, and no bill.

And this brings me to the greater point. It's something that I learned in the corporate world years ago, and that life always confirms for me. You can call, you can complain, you can email, you can wait on hold and you can shout. But nothing gets you further in life than simply offering a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It keeps staring at me!

There's half a cake sitting in the fridge. I can hear it calling me. It stands between me and the fixings for a proper dinner. I could cut and chop and fix and fry. Boil and blend and stir. Or I could just open a huge space in my fridge by removing and safely disposing of the menacing g√Ęteau.

Yesterday was a blast! Rarely can you have so much fun without leaving the house. In my case, Christmas was myself and three friends in the living room with dozens of DVDs, tons of food, and plenty to drink.

It went pretty well considering my apartment was at the fully rated capacity. I only have 4 plates, 4 large glasses, seating for 3 etc.. So serving a meal to friends was a juggling act of washing, serving and washing. The upside was the near lack of dirty dishwear this morning. My dishpan hands will recover.

But now it's the night after. The sun is down. Everything's clean. I've lit the remaining candles. And that darn cake is calling, calling me from the fridge, reminding me its a limited time offer.

Pardon me, it's uhm... dinner time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to pass along that idea while it still was Christmas. Ho Ho Ho!

Peace and love.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's all about your tools...

Having the right tool for the job can make things much easier. And using the wrong tool can make life difficult. Or in my case, can make breathing difficult.

Last week I bought the hardware I needed to mount my TV and stereo. My decision to stop using the ten euro hand drill I own and to rent a good one was critical. The professional drill went through the concrete wall "like butter". So easy, so simple. It could have all gone so quickly.

But vacuum cleaners are more complicated beasts than they let on. Indeed I do most of my vacuuming without ever looking at the vacuum. So I had already picked up three holes worth of concrete dust when I noticed; everything going into the hose was subsequently being thrown straight out the back.

The plume of fine dust was momentarily hilarious. The moment was a short one. Apparently if the bag isn't mounted properly into the vacuum, what goes in comes out. But what went in was a discrete pile. What came out was a room filling cloud.

Yet it was all a success! The hard work I expected the holes would give became the cleanup instead. But given the results... could I really complain?!?

And just to keep it all feeling like Christmas, the cable TV works again! Yesterday I called and made a technician's appointment for Thursday. Today I woke up and it was working. Huh? Okay. I suppose the decoder liked how it looks and decided to play the part.

There's still lots of cleaning and arranging to do today. Christmas will be three scuba divers sitting here, watching movies, and eating. So if I'm to host guests, I'd best get on with it. In the mean time though, I just couldn't help but share my latest creation. A work in progress still... but my latest pride and joy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh what a beautiful morning!

A white Christmas in Holland? December 21st will do. Yesterday I awoke to trees covered in ice. Last night a true and proper snowfall blanketted everything else. Isn't it beautiful?

And today is the last work day. Five-day weekend!

Let's just hope the fools at the cable company don't go on vacation before turning my service back on.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

... I thought of you when I read this!

What more can you ask for when after a year of blogging one of your friends sends you this comic? Alas, said friend is too far away to turn a coffee mug over her head. "Frustrated creator"? Well okay, I relate to that. "Delusional outlet"? Well, I do think a couple people drop by to read this... so possibly. "Published"? Certainly not! I think that maybe someday a person who may publish something (and make money from it) might find ideas and material here. I hope that the person is a future me. But that's also possibly delusional.

I should admit, the idea of blogging from the perspective of a psychotic inmate scribbling poetry is very tempting. But honestly, I'm much too busy.

Char, I wish I had a snazzy comic on people who count fish, but I don't. So to your comic I say... "Oh Yeah?!?"

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (a photo essay)

The Good: It's Monday (that's bad) and I was late for work (that's also bad) so I decided no harm could come of hopping off the train at Schiphol and enjoying the country's first publicly accessible Starbucks. A Grande Mocha, low fat, half whip, and a 1/2 pound of coffee beans. Hmmm, coffee at home this week will be fresh ground and delicious!

The Bad: It's always shocking to see a car accident. In this case more so when it's a car versus a city bus. The streets were blocked in two directions and it looked like the half dozen police cars and emergency vehicles were going to be there a while.

The Ugly: My apartment is a disaster! But honestly, compared to a bus accident, it's not *that* bad. Still, it is pretty bad! While not a speck of dust remains in the apartment, bits of wiring, cables, and boxes have filled the void. Metal brackets and bags of screws dot the living room floor. Silliest of all... the digital cable that did work yesterday, no longer works. Help!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Moving Weekend!

Oh these are exciting times, if Morphius is right and all. I can't wait to see what this place is capable of... once it's been emptied and cleaned and put back together by me.

This is the weekend my roommate Rogier moves out. He's with family and friends painting his new living room. And tomorrow all these boxes and so much more is going to be carried across town to said living room.

And I'm nesting... using what I've got to improve the festive qualities of my living space. Indeed I'm so pleased with the Christmas lights that I may restring them afterwards as simple balcony lighting.

Can you believe it? Christmas is right around the corner and a new year is soon to follow. And looking around at the mess and destruction in my home, I can't but feel excited by the possibilities the new year will bring.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Join Me

If you're reading this within an hour or two of the post time (GMT+1) then you're joining me live from the Maralyn Manson concert in Den Bosch NL.

Update: Wow! Great concert! And I've now rotated the pic properly. Alas, the train got me home between 2 and 3am. So everything today has gone a little slowly.

Monday, December 10, 2007


It took me a while to wake up this morning. Eventually I started planning my work day; what needs doing, who needs to be emailed, etc.. And I began to wonder if I should work from home. I could get more done, fewer distractions... But wait. *blinks* I seem to be on the train already. Good thing too, because I was about to decide not to go.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Perfect Sunday

I got my hands dirty with soil and mud today. That just doesn't ever happen any more. But today I did a little planting. This will be Rogier's Sinterklaas, Christmas, moving, housewarming present from me.

It's been a homey day. After too many weekends of packing or unpacking from trips, I've finally had a lazy Sunday at home with a blue sky and bright sun. And bright sun always illuminates the dust. So it's been a day of cleaning.

And to add to the homey feel, I purchased furniture! On my way back in from taking out the garbage and recycling I came across a neighbour moving a coffee table. "Is it for sale?" I asked. And it was. Just the oak it's made from is (I think) worth more than the 35 Euros I paid.

How's that for colour matched? Never mind the bargain and the convenience of "at home" shopping.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

When rocks start to roll, and the nature of luck

When rocks start to roll, they can really get up some good speed! Things in life lately have started to roll and they are clearly picking up speed. I don't know how fast it will get, nor where it's all headed; like being caught in an avalanche. But I'm pleased with it all and happy to just relax and find out what it's all about; completely unlike being caught in an avalanche.

Work is getting more fun. (Why isn't funner a word?) I'm completely thrilled with the upcoming apartment "move", some upcoming work travel, and life in general. So much so that I even felt confident in offering a friend some of my good luck.

Not saying,"Good luck," but actually hoping that my luck could be shared. Which brings me to the nature of luck.

I'm a lucky person. I know that. But I believe in the idea that "you make your own luck." Whether or not you can actually share the luck you make... well I don't know. But I do know that the moment I tried, things got silly.

For example, I walked the long way to the bus stop, and only then realized I didn't have my bus tickets. And transit was slow this morning, meaning I had to run for my train to make it. Definitely data points to suggest I've given some luck away. But also today I had the cash to pay for the bus (don't usually) and the train left just a few seconds later than normal, making it possible for me to be on it. Two signs that I haven't given all my luck away.

Indeed, if you can share luck, then I think you can also grow it. Like happiness or love, it seems to have a positive feedback built in. The more you use, the more you have.

And what happened the moment my friend was done needing luck? My luck seems to have flooded back to me! Moments ago another friend passed me an email. It was about a job opening for a person with my skills, to work for a mobile phone operator, in the Caribbean. In the Netherlands Antilles, specifically Curacao. I love Curacao!

I don't understand the nature of luck. I'm not sure how to write the formula, what the limits are, or how to exchange it for other things like happiness or money. But I'm pretty sure that if you are lucky you should share your luck. And by sharing luck, I hope it comes back to you ten fold again.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happiness is Engineering

What do you give an engineer who has everything? You give him (or her) a problem to solve.

I became a very happy telecommunications engineer today when my new Internet and telephone hardware arrived! And I'm even happier to report, it works!!!

As usual (believe it or not) I started with the instructions. They're always in Dutch, but these days there's little I don't understand. And this time, as normal, they confirmed my idea on how the system should be set up.

Due to the lack of a key, currently carried by Rogier, I couldn't get into the main source of the cable feed. Ooops. So I worked around the issue and hoped. Untangling the cables that make up my old computer network was more than half the battle. Then a few quick connections, resetting a router, a few WEP keys, and a total system reboot later... I had Internet!

Technically I'm not supposed to. Firstly, I haven't received or signed those papers to transfer my cable service. Next, I really shouldn't be able to use this modem properly the way it is connected. But it's working with 6Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up. Tested and working as advertised. Lastly, the instructions explained how to activate my service with a user name and password from a different letter that I haven't received. So I really thought I was just taking apart my network, playing with the new equipment, and putting the original system back together for another few days. But instead, the system never prompted me to activate. It just worked.

I'm using my new Internet connection right now! Initial Skype tests say that voice quality is nicely improved. And at I got my highest numbers ever.

Isn't technology great!?!

B'rer Rabbit and the Briar Patch

It's been a long time since I've read/heard the story of B'rer Rabbit and the Briar Patch. My Dad loves the story and even has a sign above his garage com carpentry workshop that proclaims his retirement haven to be "The Briar Patch". The important idea being, that B'rer Rabbit convinces his antagonists to banish him to the horrible brier patch (full of thorns and branches) which was actually his home and the place he is happiest.

I had a meeting yesterday to discuss my work since starting this job and to make plans for my future work. And what strikes me most afterwards is that I think they just threw me into my own briar patch.

Amongst other things, a new priority for me is to ... write a book. We're sorrowfully lacking in proper documentation for our rather complicated products. While there is a part of the company that writes training materials and documentation, they're a bit behind. So we're going to bypass the system and do it ourselves. And who should get "stuck" with the difficulties of writing and organizing? Hehe, it's me! I've got a green light to spend my days writing.

At the same time, they want to expand the scope of my other work. So suddenly I'm looking at a couple of winter (December/January?) trips to Florida and Sao Paulo Brazil. Any guesses what I'll be doing there when not working??? (Hint: bubble, bubble)

No no, please, not the briar patch!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Too Many Elves!

Tis the season, Ho Ho Ho, and yada yada. Christmas is wonderful and there's something special about the combination of crisp, cold air and red-hot shopping bargains.

But this is also the time of the year when people start letting their inner elf run amok. (And we all know, amok is not a good way to run.)

Humanity, mainly thanks to hero warriors and wise wizards, has long kept elf-kind in check. We let them make our childrens Christmas pressents, and some times we enjoy their crackers or a pair or made-late-at-night shoes. But we can't suddenly just have elves dancing around just because it's Christmas! What's next? Elf-themed birthday parties? Elf-beach-parties?

(sorry, link only works in MSIE)

As you can see, this can clearly get out of hand quickly. So I beg you; please don't elf yourself this holiday season. No good will come of it! And most importantly, if you do elf yourself, please don't send me the link. I can't listen to that song one more time.

Well... maybe one more time. But then that will be it!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pictures as promised....

It took a day longer than I said, but here are a few pictures of Paris.

The French have so many monuments and historical sites in Paris that they leave them laying about, such as this one left in the middle of a road.

Christmas lights are now out in the City of Lights.

A Really Good Rain

Outside it's raining. And not the standard drizzle we get all too often. Today's rain is a storm. A hard rain, seemingly perpetual, soaking everything. Driven by the wind, cold and strong, the drops are forming rivers, flowing willy nilly.

We could stand for a bit of lightning. Rolling thunder perhaps. But the flags are standing straight, and the wind is whistling in gusts as rain pelts the windows. So it's a pretty good storm.

Pretty good weather for a lazy Sunday.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rabbit Rabbit

Rabbit rabbit, in digital glory! Or is that digital TV I'm thinking of? Yes, yes I think it is.

"We" got a notice on Thursday that my hardware from the cable company had arrived and needed to be picked up at the local post office. Trouble is, the notice was in Rogier's name. He's the one moving out, not the one ordering more cable services.

So Ro picked up a big huge box this morning, then called UPC Cable to verify he wasn't paying for it. The helpful lady on the other end suggested the following:
1) Take the box that's just arrived from the post office and return it to UPC.
2) A cable technician will come out to disconnect the service.
3) Wait for UPC to receive the box, then "send an identical unit" back in my name, which I'll have to go to the post office to pick up.
4) UPC then sends a technician out to reconnect their service for me.
5) Once all connected & in my name, UPC will send me the telephone and Internet boxes.

I got passed the phone and had this explained. I asked, can't you just move the service from Rogier's name to mine? After much stalling and delay, the lady admitted it was possible. BUT! It requires a form... for me to sign!

I explained to her that receiving a letter and returning it was much simpler than returning and receiving large boxes. You could hear the gears turning as she thought through this. And turn well they did, for now the processes is:
1) Receive envelope and sign a form.
2) Watch digital TV while I wait to be sent the telephone and Internet boxes.

Some days I wonder.

I'm home....

I'm home, but I haven't missed a night away from home. So is such a thing blog worthy? Rogier seemed impressed. After a brief chat he stated," You just said 'meeting in Paris' like it was going to Maastricht."

It was like that. *shrug* What can I say? Got up early, spent a long time travelling to get to a 3 hour meeting during which I was the presenter 90% of the time. Lunch was in the office cafeteria (decent stuff for a cafeteria) and dinner was at the airport and a complete let down. That was Paris.

Oh, and a pic of a triumphant arch! Which I'll post tomorrow.

But barring any miscalculations or fraudulent corporate behaviour, I should have my Silver level for KLM's frequent flyer program... and in only 6 months! This means that in 2008 I should be able to use the Business Class check-in and baggage drops. And build points faster, to get me to Canada and Bonaire once or twice for free. Nice!

But not quite as nice as being home. Because now I can go to sleep, in my own bed, without setting an alarm or needing to travel across any boarders for the whole rest of the weekend.