At long last I’ve uploaded our photos from Thailand and Laos to Flickr. They were shot during September and October of 2005.
Why Socialism? By Albert Einstein
Unknowingly prisoners of [our] own egotism, [we] feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
An investigation into reprogramming a typical unit of private vehicular space by leasing a metered parking spot for public recreational activity.
- The Cosmo-touch - Retouching/Photoshopping in modern media.
- The Universal Viral Machine - Bits, Parasites and the Media Ecology of Network Culture.
- A Young Person’s Guide to Brainwave Music
- Phylotaxis - where science meets culture.
- Watch a meditator “stop his brainwaves” - Follow the “Broadband” link at the bottom.
The second country we visited was Spain. We flew from Paris to Barcelona, travelled down the East coast (mainly by bus), and then cut across the country towards Portugal. (October 2004)
I’ve started organizing our photos from the past 14 months. Here’s a collection from Paris, our first stop outside Canada. (Late September - Early October 2004)
Some of these were posted back on Oct 11th 2004.
We’re “home”, by the way; or are we?
I’m sitting in my sister’s new apartment using an Internet connection stolen from the Aether. I’m eating winegums. The past three mornings we ran around Wertheimpark. In the park are sheets of broken glass housed in more glass; shattered and transparent, the Auschwitz monument is covered in leaves. It is fall. They have fallen.
We are glad to be back in this city of brick and water. Our flight ‘home’ took 11.5 hours. We arrived at 9:00AM. To fight the jetLag I took a walk. The city felt empty and calm.
I walked by a office building. Duct-taped to a 3rd floor window was a painted canvas; the city is a gallery.
Droog is a brand and a mentality: design of products that do what they should and think about why they’re doing it in the first place: function? fun? wit? criticism? All of the above?
Their website is a “100% hypertext environment”:
This means that every word on this site is a link, which when clicked will generate associated information displayed on the right. A click on a sentence in this ‘concordance’ will open the associated text[.]
Droog is currently hosting a show by the Swedish design group Front. If Design turns you on, and you’re in (or near) Amsterdam, I urge you to head over to Staalstraat 7a/b for a shot of inspiration.
The show features such items as: vases that (through mysterious photographic means) take on the reflections of their surroundings, hence displaying a visual history of where they have been; chairs created through explosions; metal lampshades perforated by bullet holes; tables that move (slowly) and collapse with time; a lamp that lies on the ground until needed; and wallpaper, hooks, and lamps, designed by dogs, rats, snakes, and rabbits.
Most interesting was their use of the video game Unreal Tournament. The game engine was exploited as a non-material design tool. (What can be designed when the constraints of the real world are abandoned? Can a designed object exist without being materialized?) Most of the physical designs from the show were present within the gameSpace, along with many others that could not exist in meatSpace.
I am going to miss Amsterdam.
We have returned to Vientiane after six days in the village of Vang Viang. There, we chilled on the banks of the Nam Song, kayaked, explored caves, and ate delicious organic food. In the evenings we ran through the villages along the hi-way. (The roads in this country would make even the most jaded Winnipegger think twice about their local pothole complaints.) While we ran the locals would give us thumbs-up signs, and the children would wave and shout enthusiastic hellos: SA-BA-DI!
Kayaking along the Nam Song river we were surrounded by limestone giants and jungles of Bamboo. Later we swam through an underground river and trekked deep into the heart of one of these giants. The cave was a massive labyrinth of waterways, and tunnels full of bats and spiders. One of the girls we were with slipped and fell down a hole. We had just been joking that it was bottomless, or that it lead to another underground river. When I heard her scream, and watched (in slo-motion) her body disappear, I thought she was a goner. But the hole had a bottom, and the top of her head was still to be seen. Dirty and shaken, she was pulled out.
Before we finished our trip we kayaked to a river-side bar, drank some BeerLaos, and swung on a crazy rope swing into the river. (Imagine standing on a swing attached to small mountain-side tree. You are hanging in the middle of a river. A long rope leads back to the shore. Strong boys grab the rope tug-of-war style and run until you are almost parallel with the river. And then you drop, swing, swear, jump, splash, laugh, swim, return.)
This afternoon we will begin our 16 hour journey to Bangkok.
And now for something completely different.
Stories written by a computer:
John became very lazy at work
John lost his job
John decided to get drunk
He started to commit crimes
John went to prison
He experienced bruises
He looked at himself differently
Mary went to the zoo
Mary learned about animals
Mary experienced enlightenment
Mary felt superior
Mary became a snob
Mary was disliked
Mary felt ashamed of who she was
At the border we changed 5 thousand Baht (Thai currency equivalent to 100 Euros) into Kip (Lao currency). The result was shocking. I was handed a stack of bills that did not fit in my wallet. The exchange form stated that I now had over 1 million Kip. Money, it is said, is power; however, I felt more uneasy than powerful. The bulge in my money-belt was daunting.
I’ve since warmed up to the Kip. A coffee shake, for example, costs 3 to 5 thousand Kip. A large grilled fish, served with plates of fresh herbs and vegetables —like the one I ate last night— cost around 30,000 kip. A pitcher of Beer Lao cost 10,000 kip, (that’s under 80 cents). The stack has been decreasing in size.
It’s standard in Thailand and Laos to bargain in the markets. If you are a foreigner, this bargaining is usually done via a calculator; the seller types in a cost, you smile, shake your head and type in a counter offer. The game continues until both sides are happy. I’ve discovered that the best deals are made when I joke around, laugh, or even do little jigs.
Yesterday, I thought I had scored big when the calculating finally stopped at 60 for a “Rolex”. Like earlier bargaining that day, I assumed we were dropping the final ‘000’ due to lazy fingers. Actually, we were both making assumptions; the watch seller thought I knew that watch purchases were made in US dollars. When I handed her 60,000 kip (around 4.70 Euros) she stared in disbelief. It was a very nice watch.
This is how we discovered the three-tire currency system. Although the Kip is the only true legal tender, Thai baht and US dollars are used for expensive items.
Final story on the money front:
We had a bit of panic today when we read in our Lonely Planet that there were no ATMs in Laos. How were we going to get more money? My first thought was my Mastercard, but on closer inspection we saw that it expired this month. My second idea was to wire money from my Dutch bank account. Luckily, when we arrived at the bank we were greeted by a sign announcing their newly installed ATM.
Oh technology, I am truly your grateful slave.
The beds on the train were comfortable. The A/C was chilly. The food was expensive and of low quality. We arrived at the Laos-Thai friendship bridge around 9:00AM. After buying our visas at the border we took a Tuk-Tuk into Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
This is a capital city like none I have ever seen. It has the look and feel of a small town. After lunch we went for a walk. After wandering around a few Buddhist Wats, we were invited out of the hot sun by a Tuk-Tuk driver sitting with a group of neighborhood kids. We sat with them on wooden benches under a tin roof, watching the Mekong river, laughing and practicing each others language.
One of the girls spoke English very well. Her English teacher is from Edmonton. She explained that everyday, all around Laos, neighbors young and old sit together in the afternoons and evenings, to talk, joke, and relax. She also told us that the Tuk-Tuk driver was a great joker, and that he was sad he couldn’t speak with us. We spoke to him using the universal language of smiles.
Most Lao are Buddhist. They believe that Karma, more than hard work, sets the course of their lives. Our guide book mentions that a commonly held Lao belief is that ‘too much work is bad for your brain.’
A French saying (from their colonial days):
‘The Vietnamese plant rice; the Cambodians watch it grow; the Lao listen to it grow.’
Tonight (around 16:30) we’ve been invited back to the shaded hut to watch (and listen to?) the sun set.
Shannon’s makeup bag was stolen during our overnight bus trip from Koh Samui to Bangkok. Silly thieves, used makeup is for losers.
Yesterday I felt homesick, or maybe just Amsterdam-sick; possibly, I was just craving stability, and angry at the makeup snatchers. The feeling has passed, pushed away by thoughts of our next adventure, and the knowledge that we will be back in Canada in one month. (Have we really been gone for one year?)
Tonight we board our night train to Laos.
p.s. Last night we witnessed our first monsoon rainstorm. It was short but intense. The streets flooded. We wore ponchos and splashed our way to dinner.
p.s.s. For those who haven’t heard, my friend Jeff proposed to his long time gf Maureen. She said yes. In similar life-changing news, my friend Matt and his wife Casie are expecting a baby. Congrats all around!
When I travel I find and trade books. I read them passionately, pen in hand, scribbling comments in the margins, underlining text. Often I’ll read two at a time: one story-book, one non-fiction.
The current non-fiction is The Mind’s I, a collection of stories and essays focusing on consciousness and artificial intelligence, compiled by by Douglas R. Hofstadtler, Ph.D. & Daniel C. Dennett, Ph.D.
Is God a Taoist?, a dialogue from this collection, was written the year I was born. Not only does it cover some interesting moral and theological issues, it’s also an entertaining example of the Socratic method. (In this case, God plays Socrates and leads the conversation by questioning a mortal.)
Spirit, by Allen Wheelis, is also worth a few minutes of your time:
We come into being as a slight thickening at the end of a long thread. Cells proliferate, become an excrescence, assume the shape of a man. The end of the thread now lies buried within, shielded, inviolate. Our task is to bear it forward, pass it on. We flourish for a moment, achieve a bit of singing and dancing, a few memories we would carve in stone, then we wither, twist out of shape. The end of the thread lies now in our children, extends back through us, unbroken, unfathomably into the past. Numberless thickenings have appeared on it, have flourished and have fallen away as we now fall away. Nothing remains but the germ-line. What changes to produce new structures as life evolves is not the momentary excrescence but the hereditary arrangements within the thread.
We are carriers of spirit. We know not how nor why nor where. On our shoulders, in our eyes, in anguished hands through unclear realm, into a future unknown, unknowable, and in continual creation, we bear its full weight. Depends it on us utterly, yet we know it not. We inch it forward with each beat of heart, give to it the work of hand, of mind. We falter, pass it on to our children, lay out our bones, fall away, are lost, forgotten. Spirit passes on, enlarged, enriched, more strange, complex.
We are being used. Should not we know in whose service? To whom, to what, give we unwitting loyalty? What is this quest? Beyond that which we have what could we want? What is spirit?
A river or a rock, writes Jacques Monod, “we know, or believe, to have been molded by the free play of physical forces to which we cannot attribute any design, any ‘project’ or purpose. Not, that is, if we accept the basic premise of the scientific method, to wit, that nature is objective and not projective.”
That basic premise carries a powerful appeal. For we remember a time, no more than a few generations ago, when the opposite seemed manifest, when the rock wanted to fall, the river to sing or to rage. Willful spirits roved the universe, used nature with whim. And we know what gains in understanding and in control have come to us from the adoption of a point of view which holds that natural objects and events are without goal or intention. The rock doesn’t want anything, the volcano pursues no purpose, river quests not the sea, wind seeks no destination.
But there is another view. The animism of the primitive is not the only alternative to scientific objectivity. This objectivity may be valid for the time spans in which we are accustomed to reckon, yet untrue for spans of enormously greater duration. The proposition that light travels in a straight line, unaffected by adjacent masses, serves us well in surveying our farm, yet makes for error in the mapping of distant galaxies. Likewise, the proposition that nature, what is just “out there,” is without purpose, serves us well as we deal with nature in days or years or lifetimes, yet may mislead us on the plains of eternity.
Spirit rises, matter falls. Spirit reaches like a flame, a leap of dancer. Out of the void it creates form like a god, is god. Spirit was from the start, though even that beginning may have been an ending of some earlier start. If we look back far enough we arrive at a primal mist wherein spirit is but a restlessness of atoms, a trembling of something there that will not stay in stillness and in cold.
Matter would have the universe a uniform dispersion, motionless, complete. Spirit would have an earth, a heaven and a hell, whirl and conflict, an incandescent sun to drive away the dark, to illumine good and evil, would have thought, memory, desire, would build a stairway of forms increasing in complexity, inclusiveness, to a heaven ever receding above, changing always in configuration, becoming when reached but the way to more distant heavens, the last… but there is no last, for spirit tends upward without end, wanders, spirals, dips, but tends ever upward, ruthlessly using lower forms to create higher forms, moving toward ever greater inwardness, consciousness, spontaneity, to an ever greater freedom.
Particles become animate. Spirit leaps aside from matter which tugs forever to pull it down, to make it still. Minute creatures writhe in warm oceans. Ever more complex become the tiny forms which bear for a moment a questing spirit. They come together, touch; spirit is beginning to create love. They touch, something passes. They die, die, die, endlessly. Who shall know the spawning in the rivers of our past? Who shall count the waltzing grunion on the shores of ancient seas? Who shall hear the unheard poundings of that surf? Who will mourn the rabbits of the plains, the furry tides of lemmings? They die, die, die, but have touched, and something passes. Spirit leaps away, creates new bodies, endlessly, ever more complex vessels to bear spirit forward, pass it on enlarged to those who follow.
Virus becomes bacteria, becomes algae, becomes fern. Thrust of spirit cracks stone, drives up the Douglas fir. Amoeba reaches out soft blunt arms in ceaseless motion to find the world, to know it better, to bring it in, growing larger, questing further, ever more capacious of spirit. Anemone becomes squid, becomes fish; wiggling becomes swimming, becomes crawling; fish becomes slug, becomes lizard; crawling becomes walking, becomes running, becomes flying. Living things reach out to each other, spirit leaps between. Tropism becomes scent, becomes fascination, becomes lust, becomes love. Lizard to fox to monkey to man, in a look, in a word, we come together, touch, die, serve spirit without knowing, carry it forward, pass it on. Ever more winged this spirit, ever greater its leaps. We love someone far away, someone who died long ago.
“Man is the vessel of the Spirit,” writes Erich Heller; “. .. Spirit is the voyager who, passing through the land of man, bids the human soul to follow it to the Spirit’s purely spiritual destination.”
Viewed closely, the path of spirit is seen to meander, is a glisten of snail’s way in night forest; but from a height minor turnings merge into steadiness of course. Man has reached a ledge from which to look back. For thousands of years the view is clear, and beyond, though a haze, for thousands more, we still see quite a bit. The horizon is millions of years behind us. Beyond the vagrant turnings of our last march stretches a shining path across that vast expanse running straight. Man did not begin it nor will he end it, but makes it now, finds the passes, cuts the channels. Whose way is it we so further? Not man’s; for there’s our first footprint. Not life’s; for there’s still the path when life was not yet.
Spirit is the traveler, passes now through the realm of man. We did not create spirit, do not possess it, cannot define it, are but the bearers. We take it up from unmourned and forgotten forms, carry it through our span, will pass it on, enlarged or diminished, to those who follow. Spirit is the voyager, man is the vessel.
Spirit creates and spirit destroys. Creation without destruction is not possible; destruction without creation feeds on past creation, reduces form to matter, tends toward stillness. Spirit creates more than it destroys (though not in every season, nor even every age, hence those meanderings, those turnings back, wherein the longing of matter for stillness triumphs in destruction) and this preponderance of creation makes for that overall steadiness of course.
From primal mist of matter to spiraled galaxies and clockwork solar systems, from molten rock to an earth of air and land and water, from heaviness to lightness to life, sensation to perception, memory to consciousness-man now holds a mirror, spirit sees itself. Within the river currents turn back, eddies whirl. The river itself falters, disappears, emerges, moves on. The general course is the growth of form, increasing awareness, matter to mind to consciousness. The harmony of man and nature is to be found in continuing this journey along its ancient course toward greater freedom and awareness.
The crowd at the full moon party consumed many buckets: mickeys of whiskey, served with a can of coke and a bottle of red bull, in a child-size SandCastleBucket. The following day, we travelled by long-tail boat up the coast to explore a more secluded part of the island.
We have since hopped islands to Koh Samui. Our beach-side hut resides in a town with one main street; taxis file back & forth, honking at potential fares. We soon grew tired of this game. HONK!
Today we rented a motorbike and drove to a waterfall, where we met elephants and played with monkeys. (No monkey paw for you Moser.) We had one motorbike incident; it began with a parking-lot: deep sand and first gear do not mix. Yes Mum, we wore helmets, and no, we were not hurt. Shaken, not stirred.
Eventually, we need to reach Laos.
We are now on Koh Phangan island. Speedboat ferries from the mainland make the trip in under two hours. Our “night ferry” took seven, while we slept, side by side, by side, our luggage at our feet. This ferry could be described as every mother’s nightmare: old, wooden, bantam*, ramshackle, full of cargo and sleeping strangers. :P
On the mainland, we had been travelling with our friend Mimi. A few days before we parted ways, we visited a small town known for it’s Buddhist temples; you couldn’t turn a corner, or walk down an alley, without finding one, some of which were thousands of years old.
There were few other tourist in town. The locals were all smiles. The monks, clad in bright orange robes, waved and laughed. For a small donation we fed their fish. In the middle of the pond stood a scripture library, on stilts, built there to protect it from ants and other knowledge-eating bugs. Some temples contained giant golden Buddhas, the walls of others were covered in ancient murals depicting both Hindu and Buddhist history and mythology.
The full moon party is on Sunday; however, we’ve just been told that the island’s power will be cut tomorrow, and will not be at full strength for the following five days. No power, no party? I’m sure the locals will come up with a solution. I wonder if this has anything to do with the proposed ban on the full moon parties?
*Sam once advised me to never use bantam as a synonym for small; I thought it fitting here, as I’m sure there was fowl on board, hidden somewhere amongst the cargo.
A summary of Shannon’s first day in Bangkok:
We arrived in Bangkok safe and sound. The flight was over 10 hours long. Wow, that was the longest flight I’ve every been on. The time is now almost 9pm and the weather is very hot and humid. We are lucky because we are staying at a lovely hotel that is air cond. We will be staying here for 4 nights and then heading to the islands for some beach time. We are also planning on attending a Full moon party which will take place in 2 weeks.
There are many different types of smells in Bangkok, smells of Lemon grass, seafood, sewers, and tasty food cooking. Everything is quite different from Europe. You are allowed to set up a little kitchen on the street and sell homemade noodles and all sorts of tasty treats. There are also more cars, motorbikes, Tuk Tuks and people trying to get you to buy many different items.
We adventured over to the main shopping area and I was amazed by how everything is so cheap. I am definitely going to do some Christmas shopping here. :) We bought a Cd for 2 Euros and some food for 50 cents.
I feel a bit like a movie star as I get many looks because of my blond hair. ;) A cute old ice-cream vendor even took pictures of me on his cell-phone and sent them to his pals. ha! He then gave me a strange icecream bar that was full of bean sprouts.
Ten and a half hours in the air, plus one in a taxi, led us to the Thai capital city. We’re staying at the Shanti Lodge, a true oasis.
After a sweaty afternoon nap, we began to explore the city; the colours are bright; the smells are pungent; the buildings, a mix of grimy and ornate. Stray cats and dogs roam the streets, alone, and in packs. In the markets you can buy anything from chicken feet, to batteries, to Buddhist amulets.
It’s been a long day. Sleep beckons.
Tomorrow at 14:25 (GMT +01:00) we fly to Bangkok. We will arrive at 06:50 local (Thai) time.
It’s just past midnight and we aren’t packed yet. I’m tired; we’ll pack in the morning.
Wish us luck.
Update (10:43 05/09/05):
What did we forget?
Off to catch a magic carpet?
Our Amsterdam experience wouldn’t have been complete if one of our bikes hadn’t been stolen. Based on the state of the lock, I believe bolt-cutters were used during last night’s liberation. The bike will be missed. The cycle continues.
Enough with the sad news. Yesterday, Shannon and I celebrated the one year anniversary of our marriage. We are soon approaching the one year anniversary of our departure from Canada, which also happens to be my birthday. Good times.
Last Saturday, Andrew and I took our bikes on a ferry across the river Ij. We then began our search of “the island” for the 80 meter long party boat, the Stubnitz.
Machine translated from German:
The motor ships Stubnitz, a non-profit registered association, is operator former cooling cargo boat of the GDR high sea-fishing fleet. Since 1992 became the ship a mobile platform for music, cultural production, documentation and communication transformed. Three former loading spaces are used regularly as meeting areas for live-musik, exhibitions, performances and installations. Artists and coworkers can be accommodated and boarded on board. The drivingready ship is used for projects in European ports, in order to investigate and present innovative culture. The meetings can be documented and archived with own technology systematically. Onboard jobs and studios for audio, video, photo and diagram Design make a preparing possible of the multimedia information and their publication in the Internet.
The inside of the boat had been gutted and converted into a giant club with three bars and three separate dance floors. The party was called Rock Da Boat, and the music ranged from crunchy ska, surf-guitar, and dance hits from the 40s-70s, to hip-hop and techno. Be sure to view the QuickTime VR and Flash presentations found in the info/press section of the Stubnitz page.
After the party we found a bunny living at the end of the pier with her three babies. Using my mad bunny skillz I tamed the mother, and we hung out with the four rabbits. Cute.
On the fifth of September we will board a China Air flight to Bangkok. After forty-two days of exploration (Thailand, Vietnam?, Malaysia?) we will begin our journey home:
Bangkok -> Amsterdam -> London -> Montreal -> Winnipeg (Friday 04 November 2005)
Three thousand years from now, when keen minds review the past, I believe that our ancient time, here at the cusp of the third millennium, will be seen as another such era. In the years roughly coincidental with the Netscape IPO, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning.
—Kevin Kelly [quote]
Culled from the connections:
- Stoned scientists
- An Introduction to Quaker Business Practice
- less grammar, more play
- A Celebration of Women Writers
- Yntrodxkshxn tu Nuspelynh
- Douglas Adams - How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet
- What to Do If You Have a Proposal for the Unified Field Theory
- Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep, But Were Too Afraid To Ask
- Good sleep, good learning, good life
- O’Reilly Open Books Project
- Bibliomania Study Guides
- Literary Resources on the Net
- The Literary Machine
All links via zniff.com.
No worries 'bout the 3 emails. Enjoyed your declaration of health.
The past few weeks have been very musical.
Highlights of the Oxegen festival were The Prodigy, and The Streets (UK hiphop). Green Day mainly played their slower, ballad-ish tunes. I enjoyed their faster, more rambunctious numbers. It was interesting how they played up to the anti-Americanism present in the Irish youth, denouncing Bush and whatnot to great cheers.
Camping with 10s of thousands of people was interesting - I think there were 70,000 during the day. The Irish kids were a friendly bunch, a bit too fond of the drink me thinks. ;) Were many pirates Irish, because the accent lends itself well to "argggg" and "matie"?
The Guinness tasted different, smoother.
The U2 concert was a powerful experience. When we arrived at the ArenA two long entry queues had already formed; we were 4 hours early. Our attempts to sneak into the line failed. ha! I'm surprised that we managed to get so close, considering our place in line. The Dutch crowd was very polite in the "pit," we stood near the front barricades and had room to jump, sway, and stretch.
(Note that the Pim Fortuyn article on Wikipedia, like many others that mention Islam, is marked with a neutrality dispute.)
I'm off to AH for groceries.
From Language Is A Virus:
- Ezra Pound on Language in Poetry
- Allen Ginsberg's Mind Writing Slogans
- Jack Kerouac's Essentials of Spontaneous Prose
- Explore this virus, many treats to be found.
Last Saturday we went to an Electro party at the 301 Overtoom squat (or ex-squat?).
Besides places to live squats are often socially interesting places, hosting give-away shops, pirate radio stations, (often vegetarian or vegan) restaurants."
There is a long history of squatting in The Netherlands, and throughout the rest of Europe. In Amsterdam their are squatted restaurants, bars, internet cafes, and of course apartments.
Despite political pressure and police evictions, there are a few remaining squats in Canada and the US.
On Thursday we'll take a train to Eindhoven and then fly to Dublin for the Oxegen festival.
Some of the acts I'm excited to see (in no particular order):
- Tingling in my upper back and neck that [...] can go as far as my scalp.
- "advice for living"
- Music and Depression
- Interacting with people, making friends, or handling stress.
Hijab (in various levels of 'modesty') influences the dress of many women in our neighborhood. HeadScarves are worn by a majority of the check-out girls at the SupperMarket across the street. You wouldn't know it living in my 'hood, but tension is rising between the Dutch and their immigrant Muslim population.
Activists within the Amsterdam gay community have begun to blame Muslim immigrants for the rising number of attacks on gay couples. Others see Islam as a threat to so-called 'Dutch Tolerance'.
Meanwhile, many Dutch are being less than tolerant towards Islam.
Seven months ago, Hirsi Ali's implacable campaign against what she views as Islam's oppression of women prompted a Muslim fanatic to ritually slaughter Theo van Gogh, her Dutch collaborator on the film Submission. The murderer used his knife to affix a five-page letter to the corpse promising the same treatment for Hirsi Ali and another Dutch politician who has criticized Islam. The murder sent Dutch society into paroxysms of rage and fear, sparking dozens of attacks on mosques and schools.
I bought a computer system for 100 euros, so we now have high-speed Internet at home. There is however, one catch: we have a download limit of 250MB per month. That's like downloading 50 MP3s, something easily accomplished in under 30 minutes.
We are surfing under constraint, with images and flash disabled. All downloads are precious, although I splurged by installing the latest critical updates for Windows, along with some anti-virus and spyware tools. Shannon also called home using SkypeOut, (an ace service indeed).
Back in my BSS days (early 90s) I was lucky to download 200MB a year, and my hard-drive could only store 140MBs. How quickly things change. Then, I could download at a rate of 1MB/hour, and I only used the Internet as a gateway to dialouts for calling foreign BBSs. Today, the Internet serves as my external memory, and my personal research assistant; it is my link to the noosphere, a source for inspiration and wonder, and a satisfying waste of time.
For example, the other day I wanted some information on typography:
Tomorrow is Koninginnedag, the 'orange' festival honouring Her Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. It is also the one day where 'free trade' is allowed amongst the citizens of Holland, and the entire city becomes a rummage sale. There will be DJs and bands blasting tunes around town, (legal) drinking on the street, and crowds that could make even a Londoner feel claustrophobic. Or so I am told.
...for leaving the Scissor Sisters on my HD.
My favorite letter in the Dutch alphabet is 'ij', pronounced "eye". This letter -yes, two characters can be a single letter- puzzled me when I first arrived in Amsterdam. Locals would laugh when I pronounced mijn (English translation: my) with a 'j' sound in the middle.
Then one afternoon, I saw the word bedrijf (company) written in cursive.
Try this yourself: Grab a pen/paper and write the word "bedrijf" in cursive. What does the 'ij' remind you of?
'ij' in cursive = ÿ (A y with a diaeresis.)
The Dutch alphabet doesn't contain a 'y'. I find it fascinating that they would represent the 'y' sound with this cursive pseudo-y.
Check the Wikipedia entry on the Dutch Y.
Side note: I bought a computer, and hope to be Net enable in a week or so.
p.s. I just bought 2 tickets for Garbage.
I am now fielding both English and French technical support calls. Although my vocabulary is currently limited, my comprehension of spoken and written French hasn't suffered from my lack of exposure/practice.
I am forever grateful to my parents for enrolling me in French-immersion in Kindergarten. As a result, my second language is hard-wired in my brain; I hear French as I hear English, no need for internal translation.
I am also grateful to the French customer I've been dealing with. They are very patient with my slow-motion French, and my occasional butchering of their beautiful language.
In a recent email to some friends, I noted that the word 'Unfortunately' is often featured in my work correspondences. It's a word that comes with the tech-support territory. The French equivalent for this word is 'malheureusement'. A look at the root words 'unfortunate' and 'malheureux', provides a glimpse into the divergent thought-processes encouraged both languages.
Characterized by undeserved bad luck; unlucky.
Qui n'est pas heureux, qui est dans le malheur. [That which is not happy]
When I say, 'Unfortunately, we no longer provide service for your product,' I am telling the customer that fate has dealt them a bad hand.
When I say, 'Malheureusement, nous ne fournissons plus le service pour votre produit,' there is no indication that the customer's luck has come to an end. I am simply stating the sad fact that we can no longer help them.
From a customer service perspective I think the later is preferable. From a philosophical/linguistic perspective, I find it interesting that the prior subtly reinforces the concept of fate and fortune, a concept I think we would be better off without, (but that's another entry in itself, so I digress.)
(Well... three and a found couch.)
Our musical adventure continues. Moby is next.
In reference to my previous post:
A search engine for the WWWW, the Worthwhile World Wide Web.
Sticking to the topic of net based collaboration: I submitted my story about a weatherman to the Kuro5hin edit queue. Although it didn't survive the voting process, I did receive some quality feedback.
Congratulations are in order. Shannon has scored a job as a waitress at Hard Rock Amsterdam.
My mom and sister spent the past weekend in Paris, while my dad continued to scour the streets for treasure (read: garbage). His finds to date include, an orange leather couch, a few chairs, a collection of wooden frames, a small wooden cabinet, and a tram driver's button-up shirt unopened in a plastic case. He was especially pleased with the shirt. :)
I am now gainfully employed. I was hired by InFocus Europe as a technical support agent, and began working last Wednesday. The inFocus offices are located in the Amsterdam World Trade Centre, a ten minute walk from home. InFocus is a multi-lingual company. At one point today I heard Dutch, English, French, German, Norwegian, and Italian simultaneously. An interesting sonic treat.
The computer repair business is going well. The most successful means of advertisment has been the classified ad in the Amsterdam Weekly. Most of the work involves removing viruses and spyware, but I also helped spruce up the Natucin website. Their original page was done in Flash, and was therefore 'invisible' to most search engines.
Shannon had an interview yesterday at the five-star hotel Krasnapolsky. I have also submitted her CV to inFocus for a customer service position.
We live in the Oud-Zuid (Old South), a suburban neighborhood near the Amsterdam Olympic stadium. Within walking distance there is a grocery store, a fruit and veggie market, a butcher, a baker (I have yet to find the candlestick maker), a video rental shop, three of four pubs, along with a handful of cafes and coffeeshops. On Saturday night we discovered Vakzuid, a club one block away from our apartment. What more could we ask for?
We have been planning our trip to the Oxygene festival in Dublin. I just bought our plane tickets over the Net. The festival takes place on the 9th and 10th of July. We will be leaving on the 7th and returning to Amsterdam on the 12th. The U2 concert is on the 13th, so it'll be a busy music week.
Speaking of music, we are going to see the Chemical Brothers next Thursday, and I just found out that both Jack Johnson and Sage Francis are coming to A'dam.
My parents, my sister, and her boyfriend Moses spent the weekend in Germany. Moses has just opened a flavoured popcorn business in Frankfurt. It appears to be a success. It's always inspiring to see a great idea make the journey from mind to reality.
This was a fairly fractured entry. Forgive me, my neck hurts.
We bought tickets to see U2 in Amsterdam on July 13th. Because Shannon is a member of U2.com, we were able to buy these tickets as part of an Internet pre-sale. This was our second pre-sale attempt, the first round of pre-sale tickets were available on Jan 25th.
During the first round, tickets for the UK and Belgium concerts were available. Brussels is very close to Amsterdam, and the date suited us, so we attempted to buy tickets for the Belgium concert. Mass traffic events like this are never a pretty sight on the Net. Both the U2.com and Ticketmaster sites were hit hard. After receiving multiple time-out/error pages, our pre-sale authorization code was rejected. We were not alone.
Today, armed with a new code, we accessed the second round of the pre-sale. The code was accepted, but after we entered our credit card info we were presented with a page that instructed us to buy the tickets over the phone, an impossible feat as this was an Internet pre-sale. ARG! After some frustrated clicking and reloading we were finally brought to a confirmation screen, and supplied with a purchase reference code.
Our problems did not end there. During the purchase process we created a Ticketmaster account under Shannon's name. When it came time to enter the credit card info, we noticed that Shannon's card-type, an American Express, was not accepted. We used my Mastercard but were not given the option to enter the name of the card holder. Would Mastercard deny access to a charge bearing Shannon's name? A quick call to the credit card company calmed our fears; everything was copasetic on their end of the transaction.
Our final predicament: The tickets are being sent to the billing address on of the Credit Card. This is my parents address in Canada. Our tickets for the Oxegen festival are also being sent there, for the same reason. Only time will tell if this is troublesome.
For the curious: We got general admission, stand-up-and-jump-around at-the-front-of-the-stage tickets.
Last Wednesday I met my first computer repair customer. Friday night, I met another, and yesterday, a third. All problems were solved, (1: Ancient modem short-circuiting the motherboard, 2: Loads of spyware and viruses, 3: Webpage advice and instruction).
I designed a new flyer for the business, (the first wasn't as enticing, and included a spelling mistake) and posted a classified ad in the Amsterdam Weekly. The ad brought the second and third customers; the first found my number on the bulletin-board of our neighborhood grocery store. Each customer was supplied with some flyers for friends and family. The remaining flyers were distributed by my parents as they explored the city.
My quest for full-time employment continues, having sent my resume to many IT companies, and multilingual employment agencies.
Shannon was disappointed as she was not asked for a second interview with Boom Chicago. Fearful of employee turn-around, they were looking for a waitress with stronger ties to Amsterdam. During the interview they expressed concern with the amount of time we planned to stay in the Netherlands.
The wind here is strong, and the weather changes rapidly. The sun has just appeared, banishing the grey skies that have oppressed us for the past week. Time to head outside.
The night before last, we ran through a hail storm, as lightning brought thunder. We had been celebrating: Shannon has a job interview tomorrow with Boom Chicago, an English language comedy dinner-theatre. She had been worried that her lack of Dutch would be a major employment obstacle.
During our celebrations we met an interior designer from Kenya. He analyzed our handwriting, and mystified us with his insights into our personalities, and our relationship. Then he mentioned that he had blood ties to Dracula. Blood ties, eh? Exit stage left.
My job search continues. I've submitted my C.V. to the various English language temp/employment agencies, as well as directly to a few programming firms. I've also started a computer repair/troubleshooting business, but have yet to see my first customer.
This past weekend, we had a night on the town with the parental units, sister, and her boyfriend. Our evening began with a boat ride on the canals, followed by Chinese food on the edge of the Red Light district. Later we watched a movie in an amazing Art-Deco theatre. (In how many movie theatres have you had the urge to photograph your surroundings?). Some beers rounded off the night.
Of note: My cousin Jane has started her own blog. She writes well. Explore.
On Dec 16th we flew from Prague to Amsterdam. After spending a few days in Holland, we took a train to the Black Forest (famous for their ham and cake). In Germany we saw snow, and streets lined with houses. The first, we hadn't seen since last winter, the second since the fall, (European cities tend to be peopled by apartment dwellers.) We spent Christmas and New Yea's Eve in the Black Forest along with my sister's boyfriend, his family and my parents.
On New Year's Eve we set off a large number of fireworks. These were not your standard off-the-shelf North American fireworks. Although there were some Roman Candles amongst our explosives, we were also able to acquire many large payload rockets, (i.e. the kind of fireworks I normally associate with government sponsored Canada Day festivities.) Much to my delight, firecrackers are also legal in Germany. Boom boom snap boom.
We returned to A'dam on the 1st to continue our work-abroad bureaucratic paper trail. To start, we registered with the Alien Police. This took two days as they didn't accept credit cards and the 25 euro processing fee caught us by surprise. Once the appropriate forms were filled out, and the processing fee paid, we were each issued a 6 month residency permit. Next, we made an appointment to obtain our SOFI (tax) number. We had our appointment today, and all went well. After we were issued our numbers, we were told to report our address to the Public Registrar's office at City Hall. There we were given a form our landlord (aka my sister) needs to complete, which in turn must be taken to the Alien Police. Round and round we go.
A quick note on Dutch toilets: In the place of the toilet bowl there is a concave shelf, holding less than one inch of water. This is the "inspection shelf." The flushing mechanism also leaves much to be desired.
If you want a glimpse of the city we currently call home, watch Ocean's 12. (Ignore the meandering plot.)
This city reminds me of home: Colder weather and friendly people.
Once again, we are impressed by the public transport system (Trams & Metro). The Europeans know how to move people. Also, the seats on the the trams are heated.
Tonight we are going clubbing.
I expected to have more to say.
Shannon is taking a nap. It's time to wake her.
I cannot bring myself to write group emails. My internet rations are spent booking hostels, trains, buses, flights; finding directions; updating this blog. I do, however, reply to the emails I receive. If you're missing my pseudonym in your inbox, send a message in a bottle. I will respond. The ocean isn't as formidable as it once was.
I've started a second blog: structured thought.
Since last we spoke, we've relocated to Madrid. Our last weekend in San Sebastian was spent with Howie and Tania. Tapas and Paella were enjoyed. Beaches were slept upon. The Guggenheim, and the art within it, marveled at. (Saw 3 or 4 Kandinsky pieces. What a museum!) Crab and prawns were purchased, cooked, then devoured. Pubs were occupied. Clothing was bought. Sangria was made. Streets were wandered down, around, and through.
We spent today visiting Faunia, getting lost in the suburbs, and drinking espressos. The animals were magnificent; the suburbs, illuminating; the coffee, strong.
I am currently reading, The Game, by A.S. Byatt. I think she loves commas and semicolons, more than I.
- Lewis Thomas
We spent a week living in a restored 18th century fort, 15 minutes outside of Lisbon, in Oeiras. Our hostel was beach front, complete with a paved 2km boardwalk for morning runs, and evening strolls.
Our directions for locating the fort were sketchy. We got lost. But only after taking the train from Lagos to Lisbon, locating and navigating the metro, locating the inter-rural train station, arriving in Oeiras, and walking to within 15 minutes of the hostel. We were lost for a good hour, in the dark, with our backpacks on. As always: Good times.
The night train from Lisbon to San Sebastian was long, yet un-eventful. We shared our sleeping quarters with two Portuguese grandmothers, and one grandpa. They fed us, even though we insisted that we were full.
We'll be making a day trip to Bilbao soon, in order to visit the Guggenheim.
Both Bilbao and San Sebastian are in Basque Country. Yesterday, in broad day-light, we watched as two kids peppered the streets around our hostel with Basque liberation and pro-ETA graffiti. [More Basque info]
Yesterday, I bought a 4 CD comp of Spanish Hip-Hop.
Howie and Tania will be here in under a week. Excitement.
Yesterday, I swam in the ocean. Today, it rained. Tomorrow, Lisbon awaits: the anticipation of new.
Last night, we had fun at a local pub, chatting with the owners and fellow temporary friends.
Portugal is beautiful. The hostel in Portimao was a bit of a bust; It was on the edge of town, and nearly no one else was staying there. Combined with the occasional rain storm, this lead plenty of reading and walking.
It's been a while, since I've been able to tear through books at this rate. I'm glad most hostel facilitate used book trading; It's a great way to discover titles one might never have run across, at book stores or at the library.
Shannon is on antibiotics now. Her cough decided that it would stick around for two weeks, so we went to the Portimao walk-in clinic. From there, we went to the local Hospital for an X-Ray. We thought the X-Ray was a bit of overkill, but I guess over-cautious is better than under-cautious. The final prognosis was that of a chest infection.
Navigating the Portuguese medial system was a little tricky, considering the language barrier, but we managed.
The internet cafe we're sitting in right now, is in Lagos, Portugal. Good times.
In certain parts of Spain, 'C's and 'Z's are often pronounced as 'TH's. Whereas, I might be inclined to express my thanks with "Grassy-ass", a local will say "Gra-thi-as" or "Gra-thi-a." Similarly, the word "plaza" is spoken as "pla-tha."
Our bus to Portimao, Portugal, leaves in a couple hours. I'm told the pronunciation of Portuguese can be tricky for foreigners; the vowel sounds are often muted, or nasalised. Our phrase book describes one tourists impression of the language, as sounding like "a drunken Frenchman trying to speak Spanish."
One morning, while eating our free youth hostel breakfast (baguette, jam, tea) in Paris, an Asian couple asked us a question.
"You grew up with bread?"
They grew up with rice. The crusty bread, the French are so fond of, was driving them crazy; they were tired of all the chewing.
Yesterday, in the Granada bus station, we bumped into them again. They were leaving. We were arriving.
In a flurry of excitement, we traded travel tales. They had seen a bullfight, and had the ear of the bull in their backpack. I saw it: A rich chocolate brown. The exposed flesh was starting to rot. The attached hair was longer than I would have expected.
They gave us some fruit and some postcards. I gave them some stickers.
Later, when we arrived at our hostel, we were hungry and without food. A small shop around the corner supplied us with dehydrated soup, and a can of bean salad with tuna.
While waiting for access to the stove, we watched a soon to be friend, prepare a pasta feast. Our mouths watered. We looked down at our dehydrated soup, slowly hydrating in a small pot. The pasta chef looked down at our dehydrated soup. He smiled. We smiled back. Smiles of embarrassment at the inequality of our meals.
Let me tell you, the pasta was delicious. So was the salad and bread, that our new friend so graciously shared with us.
Hostel life is like that.
Tomorrow, we leave Valencia for Granada. I believe it's a six hour bus trip. Luckily, we have music, and 2 kilograms of Mandarin oranges. I am looking forward to visiting the Alhambra, a former Moorish fortress [google images].
Our stay in Valencia has been relaxing. Known as the orchard of Spain, due to it's fertile soils, Valencian farms are still watered via an irrigation system devised by the Moors, many moons ago. The fruit and vegetables here are tasty and succulent, yet cheap. A bottle of local wine cost 75 Euro cents.
In the mornings, we have been running in a picturesque park, which spans the entire city. After extensive flooding, the river that ran through town was diverted. The river-bed was converted into snaking green-space, soccer fields, fountains and trails.
We found the bus terminal today, and bought two tickets for Valencia. We leave on Saturday, at 14:30.
We also visited the Barcelona Aquarium. The sharks and penguins were our favourite aquatic beasts.
Shannon has been a little under the weather. Last night, she awoke to chills, and then a fever. To make matters worse, the man next to us was snoring, loudly. I reached for the earplugs.
I managed to purchase a bottle of cough syrup for Shannon.
Me: Habla Inglés?
Me: Me pone, algo para el catarro, por favor?
Pharmacist: [Points to her throat]
Props to Erin, for giving us our European phrasebook.
There are parrots here. We are no longer in Paris. Barcelona is now our home.
Howie and Tania came to Paris on Friday. Hence, my recollection of Friday night is a bit of a blur. Our night began with 4 bottles of wine. I remember debating the limits of love with a fellow traveller named Chris. We ate Mexican food. We stumbled home, happy and full.
During our stay in Paris, we lived in 4 separate locations, in 3 different parts of town. By the time we left, my rusty French was starting to flow.
We had been warned that Parisians were rude. Not so. Perhaps they appreciated my rusty French?
Now, in Spain, Shannon and I find ourselves in the same boat: We do not speak the language. Actually, I should say languages. Since, Spanish, Catalan, Basque are all spoken in various parts of this country.
Last nights dinner was a true hostel experience. Our food provided by the kitchen's free shelf. All markets being closed on Sunday, past noon.
Just a quick note: I've uploaded a few photos from paris.
The metro here is fantastic; the entire city is a snap to navigate and explore.
Today we visited a creepy cemetery. There, we located Jim Morrison's final resting place. Guards were posted nearby, supposedly to stop spliff-toting pilgrims from lighting up in homage.
On Saturday, we jogged around the Place des Vosges, a symmetrical park, near what was once Victor Hugo's home. We were joined by a handful of Parisian runners. The streets were wet on the way home. The morning cleaning crews had washed away the dog shit, and rubbish from the previous day.
That evening, after a long game of phone tag, we met up with Jake, Val, Ian, and his girlfriend, who's name now eludes me. We took an evening boat ride down the Seine, and enjoyed the evening festival, that had people partying in the streets until the wee hours of the night.
We are presently bunking with my sister Colleen, in a small hotel, around the corner from our last hostel.
Side note: The French laugh in the face of Dr. Atkins, (and all of his fat friends.) Carbs galore, and we have yet to see an obese Parisian.
Nous sommes arrivés à Paris.
We arrived in Paris on the 28th, and have been staying in a hotel in the Latin quarter. Back in the day, this was the university district. The instructional language for all classes was Latin, hence, the name of the area.
Notre Dame cathedral, and the Seine river, are five minutes away from our hotel. In the mornings, we have been jogging along the Seine.
Yesterday we took a bus tour of the city. The tour drove past: La Madeleine, L'Opera, Louvre, Saint Germain-des-Prés, Orsay Museum, la Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Trocadéro, la Tour Eiffel, les Invalides, and a few other notable locations. So many sites to see. At each stop, we had the option to leave the bus to explore.
Our friends Jake and Val arrive in Paris today. We will meet up with them tomorrow.
Today's Mission: Locate our hostel and move in.