Category: Life in Holland

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We met each other exactly 41 years ago in Norway, and married exactly five years later. For our wedding anniversary we went to Drenthe which is a province in the east of Holland. This is where Thea's mother grew up and most of the relatives on that side of the family have stayed there. So on the one hand it was a kind of family reunion and on the other it was a romantic couple days alone cycling and walking through the countryside, relaxing at a quaint little hotel in the middle of nowhere.

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In the train on my way to work.

When in doubt just remember that you were always meant to be what you ended up becoming.

If we fail to focus on who we are on the inside, we risk external disintegration from the outside.

Taking a peaceful walk through the Dutch countryside always helps to reset your mind.

At least that sure helps me out a lot.

While strolling through the streets of Rotterdam one day, my eyes feasted upon this nice mural. Had to take a picture of it on the spot.

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So what's so interesting about the weather? It's not what one would consider the most fascinating subject to write about. However, when it comes to "Het weer" as Dutch folks call it, the topic takes on new dimensions of excitement. If you plan on visiting this fine country, living here for awhile or you are just passing through, there's some important weather details you should know about ahead of time. Please hang on to your "Paraplu" (more about this later).

In the good old days before the effects of global warming wrecked the climate, weather in Holland was fairly predictable. As expected, you had the usual four seasons, each one with it's own particular character. You only had to look outside to see which season it was without having to refer to your smartphone. During the spring it rained much of the time, the summers were pleasant, and the winter was cold and it snowed often. The very famous "Elfstedentocht" would take place when the ice was thick enough.

Turn back the clock to 1980 when I first came here with my backpack and book "Let's Go to Europe on $5 a Day." Born and raised in sunny California, I was accustomed to calm and predictable weather. My mind and body had never been challenged by the inclement fantasies of mother nature. In fact, I was so spoiled that when the first raindrops hit the window pane, I fell into a deep depression. If there were too many clouds obscuring the sun rays, I became quite irritable, fearing I'd lose that beach-boy tan I'd spent days working on at the beach.

Imagine the shock my mind and body received upon experiencing my first winter in The Netherlands. That was back in my post hippie days, so walking around in leather sandals and wearing only a flimsy tie-dye shirt didn't work out well. Especially when my ears started pounding and my fingers froze off. I wondered: how could western civilization ever have migrated so far north, leaving the balmy warm beaches of the Mediterranean, for this? It was all about freedom back then, and a drastic drop in temperature was not enough to keep those seekers of truth from coming north. During the Dutch Golden Era this area of Europe was a sanctuary where the right to free and creative expression formed the core of the new society. Who could then care less about the weather?

In the glory days of 1980 the weather was a predictable cycle from warm to cool to cold to warm again. The advice was simple: buy a thick coat for winter, light clothes for the summer and two umbrellas in case it rains. Why two umbrellas? Think about what makes Holland famous: windmills! These amazing mechanical works of art use the wind to generate lots of energy. There is lots of wind in Holland, and it can blow as hard as "Stormkracht 10" or more. Your poor umbrella is inverted and mangled to pieces. An extra umbrella will definitely come in handy some day.

This applies equally well today, fast forward back to the present. As far as the two umbrella principle is concerned, better make it three just in case. Due to the climate changes, storms have taken on a more sinister expression. Mother nature's mood can become quite inclement, she's upset and wants to punish us for our bad deeds. So have yet another extra aerodynamic umbrella on hand, one shaped like the wing of a supersonic jet: the senz umbrella. Naturally, this newfangled contraption was invented by a Dutch person. You can purchase one at every street corner the whole year round.

Remember the predictable cycle of yearly seasons we used to have? Well, that has all changed now. In winter it never freezes any more and there hasn't been an "Elfstedentocht" since 1997. In general the winter temperature is lower than in summer, so keep that thick coat on hand just in case. Then there are the summer heat waves. On the first day, all your neighbors will rush to the balcony and get sunning. Then afterwards you will boil two to three weeks at a time. Unlike other civilized countries, houses here do not have air-conditioning for some mysterious reason. An extra umbrella will not help very much.

A good old Dutch heatwave is the time to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful surroundings here. There is so much green nature, and all that water reflecting the sunlight in your face. I feel that beach boy tan coming back and it feels pretty good. Time to put on that tie-die shirt again. Whatever the weather may be, no matter how bad it gets, never forget that good old Dutch saying: "Achter de wolken schijnt de zon."

"Zacht geluid van door elkaar klinkende stemmen."

Voorbeeld: "Bij prikkelende beelden in de film ontstond geroezemoes in de zaal."

Synoniemen: gebrom, gemurmel.

This is one of the many Dutch words that when pronounced correctly sounds exactly like what it describes.

Here I am in the middle of nowhere, or not?

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Until now we have had a very comfortable climate considering that it is winter, but sooner or later it was bound to happen. And what a snow flurry it turned out to be! The whole country is pretty much paralyzed under the call of code orange, trains and buses have been cancelled as well as most of the flights out of Schiphol airport. Most people stayed put and worked from home if possible, since I live around the corner from my work I was one of the very few in the office today.

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Be careful, you are now entering the land of the dead.

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These days it seems that the grass is growing really quickly, faster than one might expect. Just two weeks ago they had mowed down the whole area, and nothing was left except for a brown and barren field of nothingness. Taking my afternoon walk with the dog, I crossed the bridge and was engulfed by a vast green sea of swaying grass. Nature will never give up no matter how badly we disrespect her.

I was very unpleasantly surprised to receive a "beschikking" in the mail this afternoon stating that due to a minor red light infraction I have been charged a whopping 239 euros. Seems to me a bit of an overkill for only easing past a stop light a few feet on a busy road.

Here I am waiting in a traffic jam behind a long line of slow-moving cars. I stopped directly under the stop light which due to bad luck was just out of view being above my car and out of sight.

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I wait patiently until the traffic moves far enough forward giving me enough room to pass safely across the tram tracks. My car was barely crawling as I moved forward, not like I could have caused an accident or maybe even killed an innocent bystander.

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To be honest I have to admit that the pictures look bad are very incriminating when you view it objectively. Nevertheless I will write a polite letter of apologetic protest pleading my innocence. Hopefully they too will realize the unlucky circumstances and offer me some form of leniency.

Maybe I should have been more careful, am fully to blame and therefore need to be punished severely so that it will never happen again.

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With weather like this, I think I'll play it safe and just stay home for a couple days. Code orange is not something to take likely, and fortunately I have enough assignments to keep me occupied for the coming period. Hopefully this awful weather will not last too long.

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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.

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Stuck in the worst traffic jam of the year. In Holland they call it a "file" which is pronounced "veela".

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.

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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.

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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.

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What do you think?

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.

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The last slice is sliced thinner and thinner.

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.

Dit heb ik gekocht bij http://bol.com : Uni Inbouw Stopcontact - 3-voudig - Rond - Crème - http://go.bol.com/tb/9200000010588167 ...

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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.

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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,


Riding a solex through the Dutch countryside.

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.

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Maximum speed limit was around 25km/h.

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.

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The view of the countryside helped relax me.

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.

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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.

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Information

This personal weblog was started way back on July 21, 2001 which means that it is 7-21-2001 old.

So far this blog contains no less than 2432 entries and as many as 1877 comments.

Important events

Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed 9-23-1916 ago.

Believe it or not but I am 10-11-1957 young.

First met Thea in Balestrand, Norway 6-14-1980 ago.

Began well-balanced and healthy life style 1-8-2013 ago.

My father passed away 10-20-2000 ago.

My mother passed away 3-27-2018 ago.

Started Gishtech 04-25-2016 ago.