Category: Life in Holland
Scraping ice off of the windshield, shivering in the driver's seat until the interior warms up, windows fogged up on the inside making it impossible to see, all important ingredients for the coming winter. Might as well get used to it now before the cold climate intensifies.
After eleven years of procrastinating, and using just about every possible excuse out of the book not to start, I finally got around to painting the garage wall. The first layer took about an hour and a half, and the second (final) layer less than thirty minutes. In total that's less than two hours. When the builders we hired originally finished putting up the wall in March 2005, they'd just left it as is and unpainted. I was annoyed, as in my opinion they had left a job half done, and I complained regularly how ugly it looked. Thea got fed up with my ranting and said: quit complaining and just do it myself. Not wanting to put my manhood in question, I said proudly sure. Unlike those idiots at least I will finish the job like it was supposed to be done from the start. Eleven years later and it's done. Hurrah, it sure took long enough.
Is it possible to enjoy vacuuming the house? This weekly chore is definitely not my favorite activity. You take the apparatus and rub the end back and forth across the floor, and there's no real feeling of progress or satisfaction. When you paint, you immediately see the results and can feel good about it. With vacuuming however, you just seem to go through the actions without perceiving improvements. How much cleaner did the house get after expending so much energy over a period of so many minutes?
Today for some reason I actually enjoyed it. I stopped thinking about achieving results, comparing the present with the past, wondering how much longer it would take before I reached the bottom floor. I was in the zone, kind of meditating and not caring at all. My mind wandered a bit before disappearing into who knows where. When I realized that the last square meter of the kitchen floor had been reached, that was that.
Now it's time to continue the flow.
According to the newspapers, it is still officially January. Normally this would mean that we are smack dab in the middle of winter. Whenever the December climate seems to have been more temperature than expected, at the turn of the new year mother nature almost always gets back by blasting us with icy cold winds and lots of snow.
Not here though.
Believe it or not, today was the warmest 25th of January in recorded time. Namely the temperature peaked at 16,3 ℃ which is 61 ℉. I was never a fan of winter weather, so psychologically at least I felt much happier inside. I was definitely in the golfing mood which is a good sign.
The yellow flowers in the fields are blooming, the green buds are appearing on the trees, the birds are tweeting away and the insects are zooming around. Nature seems to be getting more and more confused as the years roll by.
Is this a fluke or caused by the carelessness of mankind?
Everyone around here is getting very worried. Rumor has it that Holland could easily be the next target. They say that it's inevitable that there will be an attack here, especially taking note that the Dutch Air Force is actively bombarding ISIS in Syria. It's best to avoid crowded places and large cities, but I guess it could happen anywhere when you think about it. There were a bunch of young students killed and even some Dutch people were injured at the concert and the other Paris attacks, so it all hits home that much more closely. I keep having nightmares that my children easily could have been there when it happened.
Brussels is indeed very close by, a little over an hour and a half drive from here. They've pretty much locked down the whole country in pursuit of the terrorists. Sporting and music events have been canceled, and the police and military are on extra alert. You'd rather not think about it and go on with your own life some how. Ironically I could care less about myself, but I am very much more concerned about the welfare of my children. Unfortunately, they need to travel by public transportation which means the busy train stations are unavoidable. As young students they also still go out to crowded concerts and busy restaurants, despite the boring parental warnings.
To make matters worse, millions of refugees are pouring in everywhere which is becoming a serious problem in Europe. Every day thousands of exhausted folks arrive here at the Amsterdam train station with nowhere to go. They just jump off of the train carrying their remaining belongings on their backs, children at their sides. It's quite a heart-breaking and emotional scene, many people get really sick and even die during the long trek. Winter is coming and there's nowhere for them to go. People are volunteering their homes and I just read that Ikea will donate some housing for them at three locations.
And then you have those conservationist racists who are against letting foreigners in and have violent protest marches demanding we close all the borders. Now with the terrorist attacks this might be the only possibility. Closing the European borders would be a disaster since one of the most basic tenets upon which all of the EU is based is an open border policy. Very messy situation indeed, wouldn't want to be entwined in the busy world affairs these days.
I'm sad to see that politicians like Trump are gaining in popularity, he is such an idiot. They don't know anything about the situation here, and it's so easy to rant and rave in order to win more votes. Crazy system, when will the people ever learn that that is very far away from what our founding fathers envisioned.
Just live one day at a time and see what comes our way. Enjoy the moment while it lasts and try not to get too upset about world affairs.
Whenever my wife has a night shift, I get to take the dog out for a long walk in the evening. Now that she (my dog) is slowly getting older, we cannot go that far anymore. So I take it slow and easy, letting her sniff her way around and explore the grass. We are the perfect couple, man and beast.
This evening was no different from the others. For November the climate is quite agreeable. I can look around and breath in the fresh air. If you take the time to look closely enough around, you'd be amazed at the myriad of interesting things out there that are just waiting to be discovered.
The evening sky for example, what could be simpler? There's that subtle sliver of time when evening turns into night. I tried to capture the fleeting moment on film. Actually, using my phone camera. Not the best resolution, especially when it's getting dark. Still, it does have something important to tell us.
Boy that was sure a close call. I was almost hit by a bus this morning. There I was minding my own business and deep in thought about the various meetings and other chores I was going to have that day at work. Automatically I always check to look right and left for cars on the regular roadway, but at this intersections there's a middle strip reserved for public transport. I would say it's dangerous and I wonder how many near misses have occurred there up to now. Fortunately the bus driver saw me in time. What's that old idiot doing?! I can hear him thinking as the bus barreled down on me at high speed. The sonic honk almost gave me a heart attack, but reflex made me jerk backwards out of the way of certain death. The driver barely braked and nonchalantly swerved the vehicle sharply to the left to avoid hitting me. Just barely. In an instant I could have been killed, just like that. But I wasn't and life continues normally like nothing ever happened.
Whatever you do be sure not to take the very last slice of cake. Even if it has been lying around on the plate the whole day.
The Dutch are very traditional in many ways, and being very polite when partaking in another person's birthday cake is one of them. Just like during lunch or dinner you are expected to have good manners, not talk with your mouth full, eating slowly and partaking in relaxed conversation, and not gulping down your food greedily. The cake is offered to you as a gesture of kindness, and you are expected to display a keen sense of thankfulness. You wait until offered and that's just the way it is.
One of the unwritten laws is never ever take the last piece of cake. This rule also applies to cookies or biscuits during coffee or cheese or a bowl of nuts or whatever. The last bonbon must remain like some artistic decoration. So at work it was a colleague's birthday and he treated everyone to cake. One slice after another was made to appease the eager cake lovers who stood ever so calmly in line, until there was just one slice left.
So what do you do if you really would like some cake but do not want to be cast from society for having grabbed the last piece? Well you take a very sharp knife and carefully slice this piece in two and take the half. Depending on the number of people and the size of the original cake, the last remaining piece of cake can be bisected several times until there is a paper thin slice left on the plate, mostly balancing ever so precariously on its side.
Since I am a boring and impolite American without proper manners, I waited until most people had gone home and the room was nearly empty, checking that no one was looking when I grabbed the thin slice and gobbled it down. It was so thin that it melted in my mouth, but it still tasted great.
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Life is full of fun and interesting surprises which make it all worthwhile.
Nowadays at the gas station you cannot just fill up your tank and pay for it at the checkout counter without getting flooded with a barrage of questions and entreaties to purchase extra stuff, even though you don't feel like it and just want to get away.
"Do you have a discount card? Would you like to buy one? Would you like to take advantage of our special deal today two candy bars for the price of one? Do you collect stickers to buy gifts? Would you like the receipt? Thank you sir, and have a nice day!"
It's pretty predictable and I always answer the same, "No, no, no, no, no, you too have a good day." Until yesterday, when I answered, "No, no, no, no, see you later."
Wait a minute, what's happening? Something very fishy going on here. Rewinding through my recent memory and scanning the events of the last thirty seconds, my mental analysis pinpointed the anomaly.
I smiled and asked the young lady in a serious voice, "Aren't you going to ask me about the special deal today two candy bars for the price of one?
The poor person blushed and started to speak nervously, "I'm sorry, I forgot to ask you. Really, I'm very very sorry. Please take two for the price of one if you will. Please."
I was just joking but she took me very seriously, like I was going to get her fired. I was some kind of secret agent spying on her for her supervisor and I would report her misconduct immediately, yes I would.
I told her, "Don't worry, I'll try and keep my mouth shut and not tell your boss." Trying to look casual and relaxed, so she would realize there was no danger here at all.
When I left and drove away, I could see her through the glass still looking pretty flabbergasted with a flushed face. It was obvious that I had inadvertently ruined an otherwise pleasant evening. Sorry about that.
At least that is what the display in my car is telling me, although it feels much colder than that outside. Fortunately when I turn on the heater full blast, my car warms up within five minutes.
Slowly but surely it has been getting darker earlier, especially now that daylight savings has reverted to winter time just last weekend.
This means that when I drive to work it is still dark, and by the time I get to the driving range after my work, it is nearly dark.
In a few more weeks winter will have kicked in for good. Not really something for me to look forward to. Grin and bear it, and before long spring will be on its way,
To celebrate my wife's birthday, I surprised her with a nice and romantic boat tour of the Reeuwijkse Plassen. I rented a "fluisterboot" (in Dutch meaning a "whisper boat") and traveled for three hours over the various connected lakes, from one end of the recreation park to the other.
I was the proud and courageous captain, navigating across the expanses of water and negotiating the slight waves and wind very confidently. With my wife safe at my side I felt like a brave soul scanning the horizon for interesting landmarks to explore.
At one point I took a wrong turn and found myself blocked by a narrow passageway that led to nowhere. So I turned the boat around and retraced my route back to the open waters. I felt a bump and the boat bounced up slightly and then stopped moving. Oops, I had run aground on an invisible "veenhomp" just under the surface of the water.
We tried to rock the boat back and forth, and there was this low hanging tree branch that we pulled on, without success. We were completely stuck and I was ready to bail out and swim to the nearby shore or call for help.
Fortunately an older couple lying on their lawn heeded our calls for help and gave us a hand. They threw a rope our way and we tied it to the boat. They kept pulling real hard and we continued rocking the boat, thrusting the motor first in reverse and then forward. This episode lasted forever without the slightest budge, and we felt pretty embarrassed.
At last we were jarred loose and thanked the kind couple for their help. We made it back to shore and as a reward for surviving our near disaster we ate a fancy dinner at 't Wapen van Reeuwijk.
For those wondering what a "veenhomp" is, one can best describe it as a broken off slab of peat hunk.
This morning I was part of an amazing historical event, namely the longest traffic jams ever in The Netherlands, namely one thousand plus kilometers.
It took me nearly three hours to get to my work, normally a sixty to seventy-five minute drive. For awhile I was wondering if I would ever arrive there, and whether or not it made more sense just to turn around and go back home.
Under increased pressure from my family, I finally gave in and voted this afternoon for the current Dutch elections.
Actually, it's only the second time in my life that I have ever voted, the first time being way back in 1976 when I cast my ballot for Jimmy Carter. Back then it wasn't so much about which policies he represented, but more the highest chances of winning. I figured it would be very symbolic for me to choose a winner the very first time that I voted, and indeed it turned out to be a very significant unique moment in my life.
The second time I voted is here in Holland, where politics is so complicated with many parties fighting for seats that's it's impossible to follow who's saying what. There's even a website for confused people that you can go to and answer a bunch of questions in order to discover which party best matches your beliefs.
So I went with Lennart on our way to playing squash together, stopped by the voting center, and I cast my vote for the PvdA, De Partij van de Arbeid.
At first I was against socialists and figured it'd be better for me to vote for the more liberal democratic party VVD, De Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie. But if I did that, then I'd just nullify Lennart's vote with mine. I didn't want to make our fun father-and-son outing meaningless by making our efforts to go out and vote completely useless.
Afterwards, Lennart showed who was the boss by killing me 3-2 at squash. The first match was pretty embarrassing, I was leading 10-2 and he came back to win 15-13. By the fifth match I was pretty burned out, Lennart's youthful stamina and perseverence no match for me.
This has been the wettest summer in years, and just about every weekend it has been raining. Not good for golf, not good for anyone. All of a sudden we have the first tropical weekend, it's about time I would say. The summer is nearing it's end so this has come just in time. Let's celebrate and enjoy.
I'm loving the heat and soaking it in. All the boring Dutch people should also be feeling as thankful as I am, but most of them are just complaining. Too hot.
No need for me to hang around at a crowded beach, I think I'll stay at home and read a good book in the garden.
I ate very moderately, didn't have a single drop of alcohol, refrained from setting off a single firework, went to bed by one thirty in the morning, got up early, and had an invigorating run through the cold countryside before it got dark again.
Getting boring and predictable is part of my life right now, preferring structure and a healthy mind over all that craziness, insane parties and hangovers. Now it's time to go upstairs and read a book. What's happening to me lately?
Have a really fun, relaxing and fantastic 2011 everyone, tackling the many challenges of the upcoming year, and finding enough time between to enjoy the true meaning of life.
Damn. I bashed in the left side of my car against that stupid light-pole while backing out of the parking spot. There was this huge bang and then sounds like a tin can getting crinkled flat. A huge dent, lots of scrapes and scratches, and the door won't open anymore from the outside.
Why didn't I see it? I mean it was right next to my back door when I got in the car, and I even remember thinking I should be careful while leaving such a precarious spot. Before getting distracted by the BBC news on the radio and then throwing the gear shift into reverse without thinking.
The guy said it's going to cost me at least a couple thousand euros to get fixed. Oh well, there goes my golfing trip to Scotland. Damn.
What could be better than life balanced between golf, computer programming and spending time with the kids, wife and dog?
What's the link between childhood and old age?
When you dream are you in another more real world?
If God doesn't exist then is being compassionate still a logical alternative?
Last weekend I already did the right side of the house, and stopped because it turned out to be alot more work than I had expected.
This afternoon I will continue on the left side of the house and not stop until all of our rain gutters are freed of leaves and other gunk.
How to clean rain gutters.
"Whenever a curse is made something breaks."
Bond tegen het vloeken is een organisatie die zich inzet voor respectvol taalgebruik, zonder vloeken en schelden.
Mathematical precision completed with just the right mix of chaos, coming down from Greenland, crossing over Iceland and then past England, moving across the North Sea and curving up from the south, the cold front has pushed its way to Gouda.
After a good work out at the fitness center, followed by a nice warm sauna, it's always a nice refreshing feeling cycling back in the snow as the soothing snowflakes fall on my face. I don't want to forget to bring my gloves.
That's what I plan to do in about ten minutes. See you later.
Just a few weeks ago, I could make it to the ninth hole although the low-setting sun made my approach to the green slightly difficult.
Last week, the sun had just set behind the trees but I could see the ball on the fairway just enough to whack a nice approach to the green.
Today after the seventh hole it became hopelessly dark, and my drive off of the ninth tee felt like it went down the middle of the fairway, but I was never able to find it.
Tonight at two in the morning winter time will take effect, so perhaps next week I'll have a slight extra crack of light before the winter darkness ruins altogether my late afternoon golf sessions.
In Dutch it's pretty easy to remember. Even is 'even' (ay-fun) and odd is 'oneven' (own-ay-fun).
However, in English uneven means something subtly different, e.g. slightly lopsided, unequal, rugged. For example: her breasts were uneven.
So when I got confused today and started referring over and over to odd numbers as 'uneven' numbers, some Dutch person got brave and decided to question my inaccurate use by saying in front of everyone:
"Hey, I didn't know they were called uneven numbers, I thought it was called odd."
I was so convinced that this use of uneven was correct, that I told everyone in the room:
"No, you can also say uneven which is the same thing as odd."
Coming originally from American, my expertise in this area was not challenged and everyone accepted my observation.
Unconsciously though this started eating away at me until I came home and had the urge to look it up. I guess I was wrong, so please accept my apologies here as is.
(Actually, according to the dictionary, odd is indeed an archaic meaning of uneven, but that's another story for another blog entry)