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Andy in Amsterdam



"I realize that if I am willing to be patient, something will always happen, somebody will appear, and even though I may get stuck, it will never be for long. The prodigious energy of this land and its people will push me onward as far and as long as I w



Updated: 2017-10-31T20:51:54.295+01:00

 



I've Moved

2009-06-08T09:20:36.978+02:00

(image) Due to recent events, as well as an effort to have more control over the blog, I've moved to andyinamsterdam.com.

Thank you, Blogger, for all your help. And this little archive will stay right here for the time being.



Look Who's Back

2009-06-06T13:49:50.916+02:00

After two weeks of not having access to this blog, I got an email this morning explaining what had happened and giving me a solution. This is a completely different situation than following all the links provided behind that toxic looking red page that was here for two weeks or looking on the Blogger Discussion boards and Forums. That was sort of a waste of time. It was just a bunch of dead ends and circular questions.Here's what happened in a nutshell.About a year ago, I installed a counter - a "goodcounter" counter. Apparently, it contained some "malware" or "badware." Possibly, it wasn't goodcounter, but godcounter, which is a bad site. Two weeks ago, a computer did a sweep of my blog and found something suspicious. My blog was immediately "trashed" and the red page went up. (Sorry if you missed the red page. It was alarming. Be glad you missed it.) I had no access to the template, all of my posts, etc. It was just gone.As the "owner of this site," I was instructed - via links - to put a little code (they provided the code) in the template of my blog. That would prove to them that it was my site and we could proceed from there. Unfortunately, since I had no access to the template of my blog, I could not prove that it was my blog and I could not go any further.As I said, I tried forums, I tried other online groups, there were no answers. And I have to say that I was given the same suggestions several times. It was terribly frustrating. It was apparently a road that no one had gone down before - although in my belief system that really doesn't happen. So I was forced to write a letter on paper and use a stamp. Yes, Virginia, they still make paper, envelopes and stamps. You just have to look.I wrote a letter to Bradley Horowitz. He's one of three Vice Presidents in charge of Production Management. The address of the corporate office is: 1600 Amphitheatre ParkwayMountain View, CA 94043. I told him what had happened with my blog and that their system for resolving this situation didn't work. I also CCed that letter to the two other Vice Presidents in charge of Production Management, a Senior Vice President, the two Co-founders, and the Eric Schmidt, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Google. I sent seven letters off - at €1.90 a pop - and waited.€13.30? Are you serious? Worth. Every. Penny.This morning I got a very nice, apologetic email from a guy named Rick, a Business Product Manager for Blogger, who was given the assignment of dealing with me. He "untrashed" my blog so that I had access to it. I inserted the code to verify that it was my blog, I looked around for the bad code (didn't find it) and I asked for a reconsideration and the blog was back up in minutes.So Blogger came through. Thank you Blogger. Their current system for resolving problems like mine is totally f-ed up, but apparently they know it now and are trying to do something about it.That said, after not having a blog for a few days, I decided to take my domain name and go to another site. It's self-hosting and there are other reasons for the move. I'll keep this here, but my new stuff will be there. Come visit me at my new home.And if you have a Blogger blog, it's fine. Don't worry about it. It's run by Google and they're a completely competent company. If there's a problem, keep pressing them about it. Write a letter. They're good people. They'll help.[...]



Hemelvaart

2009-05-22T00:09:31.197+02:00

(image) Spring in the Netherlands is a whole string of national holidays for months. Lots of odd days off that I'm not used to. For instance, today is Hemelvaart [pronounced: Hay-mul-fahrt] - Ascension Day. Hemelvaart and the rest of these religious holidays are a holdover from when the Netherlands was a religious country. Now it's mostly a free day when some stores are closed and some are not. In the center, a lot of the stores were open. It's the rare person who actually observes Hemelvaart in a religious way.

We had planned to make a long bike ride today. The weather was supposed to be sunny and clear. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was a little overcast until the afternoon. So Fred didn't get moving for a while. It was me who finally said, "Okay. We have to do something. Let's at least go to the Center and walk around a bit."

The Center was sort of busy. It wasn't crazy, but people were out. Lots of boats in the canals. people in shops, etc. Fred's off tomorrow too. It's that Friday after Thanksgiving thing. Might as well make it a long weekend.

We did a lot of nothing today. I knit a lot on a something I'll write about later. I also watched Weeds on the computer after a friend told me that it was really good. It is. I like it. I'm hooked. Fred looked stuff up on the computer and took naps intermittently. After we'd walked around the Center for a while, we came back and we were right where we'd started the day - on the couch with our computers in our laps. I made one of our favorite pasta dishes and then we watched a couple of episodes of The Wire. (We're in the middle of Season 3 and we own the box set.)

When I took the picture at the top today, I said, "How many pictures like this have I taken?" Bridge, canal, boats. Done, done, done. Still, I feel compelled to take another picture every time we're out and about.

We have to do something tomorrow. I've got tests to grade, but if I just sit here again the whole day I'll be disappointed at the end of the day.

I have a friend who used to laugh and laugh at the mention of Hemelvaart - for obvious reasons. Fred just said to me, "It's not Hemel-fart. It's Hemel-faaht."

It means, literally, Heaven-journey, by the way. The only bad thing about all of these holidays is that they come to an abrupt end in a couple of weeks. Then there's nothing until the Autumn. Enjoy it while it's here.



On Over-priced Coffee and Coincidence

2009-05-20T23:30:09.223+02:00

(image) When Fred and I were in Warsaw, we went to Starbucks a few times. They'd just opened the store and it was packed all the time. But when you need an over-priced coffee drink, you need an over-priced coffee drink. Plus, they were so nice.

And just because I am the way I am, when we returned home, I went to the Starbucks website and wrote a note:
We were in Starbucks when it was crazy busy. There was a constant flow of people. The people behind the counter couldn't have been more friendly and helpful. They were smiling and ready to do whatever they needed to do to make us happy. Their English was also really good - one young woman in particular (but I didn't get her name). I wish the Starbucks crew at Schiphol were as nice as those Polish kids. It made me really happy because I've enjoyed Starbucks for a long time and I miss it living in Amsterdam.
I think it's important to not just write complaint letters, but to write good letters. I started that years ago when I first got a word processor. I wrote letters all the time. "Thank you for putting such and such on television," etc. It was a hobby. I didn't have knitting back then.

Yesterday, I got an email. It said:
Dear Mr. Baker,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on our new store in Warsaw. The team there has worked long and hard to bring Starbucks to Poland, and they very much appreciated your positive feedback!

By the way, your wait for Starbucks in Amsterdam will not be long. I live in Amsterdam as well, and share your feelings! We are planning to open a store in Station Centraal. The opening has been delayed due to construction, but keep watching!

Warm Regards,
Andrew Smock
I said, "Hey, Fred! I got an email from Starbucks!" It's a little thing, but it was rewarding for me. But that's not the end of the story. Monday night and tonight we had rehearsals for a one-off men's chorus that will be singing this coming Sunday. I'm a first tenor, and the other first tenor and I were expecting a little support from a third first tenor named Andrew. He showed up tonight. Nice guy, good singer.

After rehearsal, we were walking out and I said, "So why are you here? Work?"

He said, "Yes. I'm regional manager for Starbucks."

I said, "You just wrote me an email. About the Polish kids...in Warsaw?"

Small world. And as a side note, there's going to be another Starbucks in Amsterdam! Over-priced coffee comes to the Netherlands! Double tall cappuccino, please!



The Day I Became Dutch

2009-05-20T23:04:45.818+02:00

This afternoon, while were were walking up to the door of the hall where the nationality ceremony was to be held, I turned to Fred and said, "I forgot my camera." It's a pity, but then during the ceremony, I kept looking around saying to myself, "There's really not that much to take a picture of." I found it soothing - don't spoil it for me.Similarly, Fred and I were about to lift on on our helicopter ride around the Grand Canyon a few years ago and he looked up and told me that the batteries in the camera were dead. I mouthed, "Where are the spare batteries?" He mouthed, "Spare batteries?" I felt my stomach hitting the floor (of the canyon), but I decided to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Does the world really need another set of Grand Canyon pictures? That's how one sooths himself in situations like that.So this is the picture you get. It's the gift all us new Nederlanders got. The title is just The Canon of Amsterdam: For New Amsterdamers. It's a history of Amsterdam since we are not just Dutch citizens now, but citizens of Amsterdam as well. The blue and white pot and the drop is from Ada and Bart. It's from a store called Blond. I've been in there, but it's one of those stores that looks like it's geared towards young pre-teen girls. The pot was a good find.The nationality ceremony was held in a small hall in the Muziektheater - the Boekmanzaal. There was a piano playing when we arrived and everyone had to sign in at the table. Lots of red chairs in rows. You could bring some friends. I brought Fred; his sister, Ada; and Ada's husband, Bart. We had a cup of coffee and sat and waited for it to start. It was scheduled to start at 3:15 in the afternoon. The invitation said that the doors will open at 3:00 and close promptly at 3:15. They were still open at 3:20, which I found slightly disappointing.The crowd was very...ethnically diverse. In fact, at the end of the ceremony, the MC read a list of countries represented. Lots of Africa, Asia, as well as the usual suspects: Turkey and Morocco, and even Canada, and the US. There were probably some folks from South America as well. If you do the math, it's sort of logical. Anybody from an EU country gets a pass on the whole citizenship thing, so it's gonna be everybody else. It was quite a mix. A huge list of countries and probably over fifty people getting their citizenship in Amsterdam today. The whole thing lasted an hour and then Bob's-your-uncle: it was over. (Apprapo of nothing, I keep saying Bob's-your-uncle lately.)The speaker was Godfried Lambriex. He's a politician, an alderman, a city council person from the Baarsjes. He gave a speech sort of bent over the microphone. He just read it really fast. It was one of those pat speeches that anyone could give, the kind of stuff you'd expect to hear at a citizenship ceremony. "People come to the Netherlands for all sorts of reasons...you're one of us now...rights and responsibilities...yada yada" Even Ada said that he talked too fast. He was also completely uninspiring. Well, he did mention that everyone's little idiosyncrasies and differences are okay in the Netherlands. I'll take that to the bank.After Mr. Lambriex's speech, a blond woman stood up there and read everyone's name - one at a time. Upon hearing his or her name, the person stood up and walked to the front so that Mr. Lambriex could give you the official paper and the gift. I have to say that I think the woman reading the names did a phenomenal job. Some of the names were just crazy. Names from many different countries and she just zipped right through them. "Deheer Baker" was one of the easier names, obviously. There were lots of women, as one might suspect. A fair number of men. A handful of children. Those African girls were cheering and taking pictures like crazy.And then, as they say, Bob's your uncle. There were drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Most of the folks beat a path out of there. We stood and had a glass of wine and then went for coffee. (Y[...]



Nationality Eve

2009-05-19T11:33:00.078+02:00

Did I mention that I'm getting Dutch nationality tomorrow? No, I don't think I did. I applied about two months ago and the ceremony is tomorrow. It was an amazingly quick two month wait - and I didn't blog about it once. Part of me was nervous.I went down to the office - alone. I had to go to a couple of places because I got some bad information. It was just a matter of finding all my paperwork. There's a lot that I didn't need. They know everything about me. They know when I got here, when I applied for a staying permit, when it expires, when I got married. Handy, but a little bit ouder broer if I were to think about it too much. Then I got a letter saying that they were missing something, could I send it in. Then one saying that my application was being processed. Very normal, what you'd expect.In the next letter I got, the immigration and naturalization service gave themselves eight months to get back to me with a yes or no. My application for citizenship had gone through the first stage and that the queen had approved of me. However, they informed me that I was not to contact their office for eight months. It said twice do not contact us by phone or email for eight months. So I figured I'd be getting a letter around Christmas. Then out of nowhere, the letter arrived inviting me to go to the ceremony. You have to go to the ceremony. No phoning it in. No attendance no nationality.From what I understand, getting a Dutch passport used to be really easy. I think people just showed up and asked for one and they got it. Then it gradually got more difficult. Nowadays, you have to fit a couple of criteria before they invite you to the ceremony. (This is my experience, by the way. Things change all the time. No promises.)First of all, you have to pass a Dutch language course to a certain level: NTT Niveau 2. The language course was fairly standard and at the end of it, I spoke fairly good Dutch. It's one of those courses where you get out of it what you put in. At that point, I used my Dutch much more, so I was much more comfortable that I am at this moment.Secondly, you have to pass a test about how Dutch society works: The Verklarring Nieuwkomers. I didn't really understand that this was a separate piece, but when I was getting my paperwork together, I realized that it is. The test is over things like where to you put your garbage and who to call when something happens, like a water main or a stoplight. I'd heard stories about being in a class where they introduce the concept of crossing the street or washing dishes in a sink. It wasn't like that. It was useful information - generally. You have to get at least an 80%. Full disclosure, I got an 80%. A lot of Dutch people don't even have that high a score. (Of course their command of the language is better, so it evens out.)Thirdly, you have to have lived here for five years. I'm here five. I think that if you're here for five years and you've got the other two pieces and you want to become Dutch, you can, but you have to give up your other (in my case US) citizenship. That's the rule: you have to give up your citizenship. But there's an exception to the rule.If you're married or are in a registered partnership, you can keep your other citizenship and you just have to be here for three years. Those are exceptions (as I understood them). So I'm keeping my US passport. The letter also said that five days after the ceremony, I can apply for a passport. In fact, when I went in to apply for citizenship, I accidentally (I was nervous) said that I was applying for a passport. My person said, "Nationaliteit." Oops.I haven't really thought a lot about this in writing. I've mostly talked to people who are in favor getting a Dutch passport. No one has said there's a downside to it. I wonder if there could be an objective argument made about not getting Dutch nationality. And, to my great relief, no one questioned my right to get Dutch nationality. The w[...]



What I'm Currenlty Knitting

2009-05-17T19:16:22.013+02:00

Last week or so, I wrote about experimenting with entrelac. I thought it might be good for a baby hat. I think it is. I think it'll work. This was my first experiment. When I finished it off, it began looking like something. It's a very cute hat. This particular color combo is a bit distressing to me, but I was using what I had left over. I didn't have enough of that green (which, for some reason, is bothersome to me here) to go all the way around, so I used a bit of that tan. That blue and green would be nice for some earth/globe idea, if you just wanted to knit a silly baby hat.Entrelac is really not difficult at all. I thought it would be, but it's not. I picked it right up by reading about it in Son of Stitch 'n Bitch - a book that has been oddly useful since I bought it. I read it all the time. Part of what makes the hat work, I think, is the stitch pattern, which is just a K1 P1 on one round and a knit on the other; it's fairly loose. Someone looked at it on Monday and said, "It looks really loose." Being loose is different than looking loose. I think I would prefer plain stockinette. My next experiment will be stockinette and I have a couple of ideas about what to do with the color, as seeing it like this makes me thing of something that I won't say right here. It could be sort of funny. I'm going to try it. I'll keep you posted - if I haven't lost everyone at this point. (I like the star thing that's going on. )I'm also working on an Elizabeth Zimmmerman Pi Shawl. I linked there to Brooklyn Tweed's blog. He made a beautiful and beautifully-photographed shawl/blanket with the the pattern I'm using. I would link to a shawl with the pattern that is more my speed, but those all happen to be the other pattern. Anyway, it's good, straight-forward plain old knitting with some yarn overs. I'm going great guns on it because I can feel that I'm making progress and I want desperately to get to the color change in the yarn. I'm using the yarn below. It's really beautiful and sort of oily. I like knitting with it. It feels strong, sort of masculine (for lace knitting). I asked Fred how he liked it. He said, "So you're finally turning into a real old lady."Mine "shawl fetus" (it's all pre-formed and curled up like a baby in a womb in the middle of that circular) currently looks like a ball of crumpled up yarn, which I know all lace projects are until they're blocked. But mine feels especially ugly right now. I think it's going to be reasonably big. I hope so.This yarn, by the way, was a mess to make into a ball. My ball winder (I'm currently typing with my ball winders) got all messed up. It took me literally three and a half hours. But I got to know the yarn intimately and I really like how it feels. It's Eveilla Artyarn 8/2. It's a purchase I made in the Fall that I am really happy about now.You know, sometimes a guy just needs to write about his knitting. Thanks if you got his far.[...]



Eurovision Song Contest 2009

2009-05-17T19:17:47.186+02:00

Tonight was the finale of the Eurovision Song Contest. It's sort of like Idols - except that it's totally different. This contest has been going on since 1956 and is open to (mostly) European countries only. (Oddly, Israel is now part of Europe.) I think the song has to premiere on the contest. There are no covers like in Idols. It also goes on for three days, not several weeks, like Idols.This is the first year we've really watched much of it. We saw the second night (Thursday) and then tonight we saw the voting. Fortunately, I was able to see my favorite who was on Thursday and who ended up winning. It was Norway. The singer was a young guy named Alexander Rybak, and he is so totally cute that I just want to put him on a key chain and carry him around all day. Norway's song was I'm in Love with a Fairy Tale. Fred thinks it's totally cheesy, but I loved it every time I saw it because you can see that he's having lots of fun and he's got good backup singers and dancers. If you haven't seen it, click on the link and watch it. It's sweet.After Fred said that Norway's offering was cheesy, by the way, I reminded him that the Netherlands had won with Ding-a-Dong in 1975. Give it a listen. One word: Velveeta.The thing about this contest that I really liked was that some of the people, like Alexander, play instruments and appear to have a talent other than just singing. There were also a lot of songs that reflected the ethnicity of the country, like Moldova. I actually got a sort of a feeling for Moldova, whereas some countries just did very American stuff, which seemed to me to be sort of cheat-y. Azerbaijan did very well, but...uh, where is Azerbaijan? (Don't tell me. I know. Fred told me already.) Seriously. Have you ever heard of Azerbaijan?The first time I ever heard of the Eurovision song contest, I was at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen with a friend. We happened to be there when The Olsen Brothers were playing. They played some very nice songs and then the played Wings of Love and the crowd went wild. I said, "What's with this song?" My friend, Mike, told me that it had won the Eurovision Song Contest with that song in 2001. And now every time I listen to that song, I am taken back to Tivoli Gardens.Two years ago, we watched the finale and Serbia won. I said, "Serbia won with that song?" I mean, it was okay, but it wasn't anything I remembered the next day. Holland's offering this year was a completely sappy, cheesy tune sung by the Toppers. I was completely disappointed because it was so very Up with People and it seemed like they were...it seemed like the wrong venue for that type of song. It was just three middle aged men singing a "believe it yourself" kind of song. I felt like, you know, it's a contest. Go in there and try to win. Plus, even given that it was the wrong type of song (IMHO), it wasn't a very good song.Fred looked up a couple of old songs. They used to be just normal songs. Now it's a big show, an extravaganza with fire works and light shows. They also used to have to sing in their native language, which I sort of like the idea of. I think Moldova lost points for that and little Alexander (He's 23. I can have an evening long crush on a 23-year-old.) sang in English. Next year I want to make sure and see they whole thing.[...]



When I Fly Away

2009-05-15T18:51:44.176+02:00

When I had my will made out some months ago, (If you don't have a will, you should. Everyone should have a will.) something I didn't think about was what would happen with all of my online stuff. Our notary wouldn't have added it into the will, but I didn't even think about it. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, my online presence would just sit there for all time. My little corner of the Internet would just stay how it was the day before with no way for anybody to change it. This goes for my Facebook Account, my Twitter (I'm not a good Twitterer), my email addresses and anything else I have online.As an example, my friend Sally died suddenly a couple of years ago and her travel blog is still up and will likely stay up for all time regardless of whether or not she would have wanted it taken down or changed, or to have a note there that says that she's gone. In fact, there are tons of blogs that are inactive. People blog for a day or a week and then give it up. What happened to these people. Are they just lazy or are they dead?While listening to NPR Shuffle the other day (from iTunes: the episode was from 11 May 2009), I heard about Legacy Locker. It's a service where you can store all your log in names and passwords so that your online presence can be managed after your death the way you want it to be managed. You want your email inbox deleted? Let them know. You want your Facebook page used as an online mourning center? Put it there. They pass the information on to someone who you designate. They'll even let you write emails to people that will be delivered after they get confirmation that you have passed on. I love that part. I can write people from the grave? Count on it!The idea of someone managing my online presence (or even having access to a complete list of where I am "present online") after my death appeals to me. It's the unfinished quality of a blog that just stops that bothers me. I hate when blogs just stop and there's no way to contact the blogger and say, "Then what happened? Finish the story!" Years ago, I had a blog that was about a job, and when I left the job, I wrote a last post on the blog - in case someone should find it and read it. (It rarely gets any hits.) I just wanted any accidental reader to know what happened - why X is gone - and how the story ended.The cost of Legacy Locker for a lifetime is $299. That's not that much really, over a lifetime that I expect to be long and prosperous. After hearing about Legacy Locker, I suddenly feel like there were all these loose ends that won't get tied up unless I do something. I could write it down and tell Fred, or Patty or Kathy, but they'll be sad and it won't be that important to them. They might let it sit too long or forget. Plus, I like that Legacy Locker has a system. They ask all the right questions.I'm not the kind of person who left high school and never contacted anyone. I know people who say, "I just want to be that mysterious person who they used to know." I want people to know where I am now and what I'm doing. And when the time comes, I want people to know that the time has come.Legacy Locker is such a good idea. To me, it's one of those, "Of course!" ideas. You can shoot holes through it (how do you know they're not just taking the login names and passwords and screwing with you?), but I think it's a fascinating idea.And, amazingly, this was not a paid advertisement.[...]



Just Like the Movies

2009-05-14T17:15:00.600+02:00

(image) Last night I watched The Celluloid Closet again, which is sort of great for knitting because there's all that looking up and down and I see parts of it that you didn't see before, or I put a voice with a face when I see it again. It's lots of short clips, so it's new all the time. Fred was in class.

Anyway, at one point, Quintin Crisp was talking. He lived in NYC while I lived in NYC. I saw him one morning when I was at brunch with some friends. He was dandied up like he always was with his lavender hair all swooped up. It's always fun to see an icon in person.

In the film, which is about movies, Mr. Crisp says, "Everyone who comes from England to America and goes back says one thing: It's more like the movies than you'd ever dream!" Then he smiles and nods and says, "And it is."

I know exactly what he's talking about. When Dutch kids see movies about American high school, it looks sort of made up and not real. Girls really walk the halls in those cheerleading outfits? And there are really big high school football games where the band marches? People really care about who their student council representatives are? Yes. Yes. Yes. I always smile and proudly say, "It's just like you see it in the movies." Yes, the directors pop it up a notch, but I'm not sure you could tell the difference if you were seeing it for the first time.

Similarly, living in Europe, for me, is often like standing in a postcard. There are many times when I've stood on a bridge or on a street corner and thought, "This looks like a photograph." Sometimes it's amazingly easy to take pictures. I just raise my camera and shoot. It often feels unreal. There are many times when I've wish I had a certain friend with me to enjoy it. Alas, I have snap pictures to tell them about it.

My life path took a sort of a wacky turn years ago and I'm really enjoying where it's taken me.

That picture, by the way, is of me and Fred at a stairwell in Warsaw.



Huisvuil

2009-05-14T10:59:59.730+02:00

When I first saw this tile after moving here, I didn't know what it meant. I thought that it was, perhaps, a marker for something that was underneath that tile: a valve, a pipe. I think I was able, at that point, to pick the words apart and see that it was huis (house) plus something. I knew the other part (vuil) was pronounced foul, so I thought, House-foul...was it poo? I imagined a valve there that led to the sewer system.I was wrong. That's not it. It's just a tile telling people where to pile their trash on trash day. Huisvuil means literally 'household rubbish.' Here's a snap to give it some perspective.I know it seems to ridiculous and mundane after you've been around it for years - or grown up with it - but seeing little things like that used to keep me distracted half ways down the block. There's just nothing like it in my experience. In suburban America, you put the garbage by the curb in big trash cans or bags. In NYC, I used to put my garbage in the cans in front of the building and the super would organize everything for the trash pick up. There were no tiles necessary. So I had no clue.There's a woman at church who collects plastic for recycling because apparently in Diemen - where she lives - they collect plastic for recycling. I would love to recycle plastic. It would drive Fred crazy to have another bag around - which, of course, if part of the appeal. As it is, we just do paper and glass, both of which I am very mindful of. There was a super-crazy and specific recycling project in Brooklyn many years ago that someone once took me by - on our way to something else. There was a bag for green bottle tops (those screw on kind) vs. blue bottle tops. Part of me loves that.In Amsterdam, there are special days to put out big stuff like furniture or...other stuff that's not normal garbage. There is the occasional toxic waste pickup in case you have batteries or ink cartridges. The Dutch or pretty consciencious about trash, which is probably smart.Years ago, I knew a woman who worked in "Solid Waste Management." My first thought when I read that? Poo. She said everyone thought that. It was all about what to do with all that garbage people produce. Garbage is one of those subjects that makes my mind reel. There's so much of it!Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.[...]



Golden Rain

2009-05-12T18:50:35.238+02:00

(image) Fred and I saw these trees the other day and I went back last evening to take a picture. They're Goudenregen (golden rain) trees and they always surprise me when they come into bloom. They're very wisteria like, but I'm pretty sure these are trees, not vines.

I'd never seen them before moving here. They're one of the many things that are new to me since moving here five years ago. They're probably plentiful in certain parts of the US, but my life was limited to North Texas and New York City. Different foliage there.

(image) It's really difficult to get a picture of the trees that doesn't look blurry. (Or maybe the picture is blurry.) There are so many things that are amazing to look at that I can't get a picture of. The light was really nice, not glaring, and there was a stiff breeze. This was right across from a canal not far from us.
(image) It's a pity these blossoms don't stay around for longer. Last year I didn't really start to notice them until the flowers were almost faded. I'm glad that when these go away other flowering trees probably start to bloom.

Also, I'm ready for summer to really be here. I'm over the spring jacket look. Let's move into the summer wardrobe.



Code Pink

2009-05-14T12:47:02.631+02:00

(image) I swiped this from a Flickr page. Alex wrote on her blog recently about this action that was put on by Code Pink. It happened on Mother's Day at the White House. People from all over the world were asked to send in 4 inch by 4 inch knitted or crocheted squares in pink and green that would be put together to make a giant quilt that would be displayed in front of the White House on Mother's Day. The whole banner says, "We will not raise our children to kill another mother's child." (Julia Ward Howe, in case you were wondering.)

Ginni from our knitting group got us to commit to twenty squares. I knit four green squares. After four, I realized that I hate kitting little squares. I kept trying to think of a way to make a lot of them without having to cast on and off. If I could have knit a scarf that was like three feet long and then steek it, I could have doubled my output - at least. But casting on, knitting a bit and then casting off those silly things? No thanks! I'm sure there were no rules for that. They would have taken steeked squares, but I didn't think of it until I was sick of the project. If I would have had a serious challenge, I would also have done a lot of them. I had no takers. When Ginni brought it up, people were like, "Yeah...I'll do one."

(image) The only rules were green and pink. You can see how many shades there are. It's sort of hard to read from far away. And I blocked mine. Some people (I'm not naming names) didn't block or pay attention to the size request. I sewed in a few ends before Ginni sent them off. Can you imagine sewing those together? I bet someone grabbed a stapler before it was finished.

This action didn't get any press here. I didn't see anything. It's sort of a nice idea, but I kept wondering what they were going to do with the quilt after the action was over. Seems like you could take it apart and make blankets for homeless people out of it. Or baby blankets or something. It almost seems like a waste. Do something with it.

My enthusiasm for this project is questionable. Am I hiding that at all?



Entrelac Adventure

2009-05-11T19:12:52.278+02:00

(image) Warning: All knitting

Entrelac embodies one of the things I love about knitting. It looks comlicated or involved, but when you read it step by step how to do it, it's relatively easy. I like how involved I have to be when I'm knitting. There's counting and stuff. It's not just knitting. It's a lot of picking up stitches and decreases. I'm doing a lot with waste yarn to make it managable for me. The original pattern has everything on double points.

This is an idea that I'm working on because I had some left over balls of yarn. I'm sort of making this up. It was a sock pattern from Son of Stitch and Bitch that I modified to what I thought would be a baby hat. It still could be. I'll have to see how it looks when I do the decrease at the top. It might be a floppy baby hat. Different colors and a different stitch pattern would make it a little tighter and neater looking. I'm a little disturbed by the looseness.

Hats are the perfect project to try something out on. I'm a little bit addicted to them. Someone sent a link to The Red Thread Project. Maybe I'll send some of them there. Sounds a little fruity, but it's going to a good cause.

I have a friend who is going to only knit things next year that she designed herself. I would like to do something similar. I already modify things all to heck.



Mixing It Up

2009-05-10T23:37:49.941+02:00

(image) I recently got an email from someone and I went and looked at her blog. While I was looking at it, I realized that the look of my blog really needs an update. It feels like a house that was decorated when I moved in four years ago, but now it's a little stale. There all kinds of different options now. When I started blogging, back in 2004, I chose a bunch of the options that Blogger offered, and I've lived with them since. I've made a few modifications, but it's basically the same as it was originally. I need to mix things up a bit.

My opinions on the look of people's blogs can be severe, but I'm pretty forgiving. The main things is don't like are...for instance music - the kind that starts playing when you go to the page. I'll avoid blogs when there's music. It's so suddenly in my face. I hate it. I like to see YouTube videos when I go to blogs, but I've never done them and I don't expect I will. I'm more of a linker for things like that.

For my blog, I like a straight forward set up. Classic, understate. I like to be able to see the words and I prefer black type on white background - but white type on black background it my least favorite. That said, the blog that made me re-think my set up was white on black. My blog feels like something that used to be crisp, but it's yellowed a bit - like a favorite table cloth.

I wish there were more options in terms of Blogger templates that I like or modifying this template. I feel like I need to strip it down and start over completely - take all the furniture out of the room and start over. I've had people say, "Move to Wordpress," but I'm not going to move. It's too complicated. I just want a different look and I think I can get it with Blogger. For instance, I think I'd like tabs at the top. I've seen things I like on other Blogger blogs. I just need to figure out what I want. I have to do a lot of window shopping.

You know what else I don't like? It's Google Ads. I know people have them, but I don't think they're worth it. They sort of have a look like a house that has a card table out front and a sign that says, "Apples - Twelve for a dollar." It's like people who check every payphone for a quarter someone forgot. It seems sort of low rent. I've heard you don't really make much off those. It's not worth it to me. (By the way, I would love to hear success stories if I'm wrong.)

The label cloud is something that I like. I'm going to have to try a few things. I also told myself that I was going to put up my "Followers" when I had ten and I just got to ten.

So I've got a lot of reading ahead of me. I hope I didn't offend anyone. Am I wrong?



Dutch Culture and Grading

2009-05-09T21:21:45.205+02:00

I spent about five hours today having mondeling (oral) exams with my students. I spoke with each of them for about 7-10 minutes - one after the other. It was a very interesting, if sort of exhausting day. Most of my students speak much better (and certainly more candidly) individually than they do in class. (With a few, it was like a short counseling session.) Some expressed to me that speaking in front of their peers makes them nervous. I never had that problem in Dutch class. I was sort of a loud mouth who always had the answer - especially to grammar questions.Speaking of which, I realized today that I'm going to have to work grammar in more creatively next year. I know I lose a lot of them when we're looking at grammar - and some of them are still totally lost even though I feel like we've beaten the subject to death. It's sort of a pity that I've gotten to the end of the year and now I get it - but that's how I am. I've done fine this year, but only after having gone through the entire year do I really have a sense of these students and of the year as a whole. I'll do better next year.Grading in Dutch culture is different than it is where I come from. I noticed this when I was grading kids a couple of years ago when I was teaching high school. And I felt it when I was being graded by (adult) students at the language school where I teach.Some of my students go on and on about how much they enjoyed the class and how much they learned. But when they are faced with scoring the experience on a scale of one to ten, Dutch students consistently give an 8 if they really got a lot out of the class. A ten is reserved for absolutely perfect and a nine is reserved for almost perfect. An eight means that the class was really great. I still get eights and I think, "Really? I thought you liked the class."An eight to me is like a B. A nine feels like an A and a 10 is like an A+. Honor students in my high school could get even higher than an A+. (Generally, honor students were kept away from the likes of me, but I wooed one with my youthful humor and good looks, and learned their secret ways.) I'm willing to concede that maybe I didn't merit an A+, but I feel like an A wouldn't be out of the question in most cases. An eight still feels a little bit like a slap in the face with some of my students.Similarly, when I was grading students in the high school, I had to be really tough, picking at flow and pronunciation and every little grammar slip. And these are kids who many native speakers (especially Americans) would speak to and be completely impressed with in terms of their ability.So I start with an eight when I'm grading these kids. No one gets a ten and few people get a nine. I have kids who are satisfied with a six! I had a girl tell me today that her 5.5 was really a six, so she was fine with it. I said, "It's not a six. It's a 5.5. You were a tenth of a point from failing and having to take the test over." I should have failed her. Next time I will.The whole experience is an exercise in bending my brain (figuratively) to how the Dutch think. It feels like the slap in the face that some of them to give them an eight. But they understand it. And similarly, if I give some of them a six - like they deserve - they'll get it and be okay with it. I have to do more reading on the Dutch educational system. It's fascinating. Structurally, it's pretty different than the US system. (And I don't like some of it.)Ahh...Learning never stops.[...]



Five Random Thoughts

2009-05-08T00:41:26.532+02:00

(image) 1. I did a lot of paperwork today. Administrative stuff that it took me a while to get my head around. I had to do it in little steps. It was very put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of stuff. I finally got it done and it was a huge load off my back. And then the other little things that I have to do - as follow up - don't seem like such a big deal.

2. A baby hat I've been designing is finally finished. I've written it down and I need to get someone to test the pattern. It's a simple pattern, but it's exactly what I wanted. I was going back and forth about how to end it, but I picked something and I'm happy about it. I think I'll expand it - as someone suggested - to an adult size. I really like it.

3. A headline I read said that the governor of Maine just signed a law legalizing same sex marriage - if you hadn't heard. I love that this keeps happening in these random states with no warning. It's just one after the other. It's such a nice surprise with all the other crappy news that we keep hearing lately. It makes me hopeful that more people will realize that opposition to same sex marriage is stupid. Maybe I'm tired, but I'll go ahead and say it: If you're still opposed to the idea of same sex marriage, you're being a prick and you need to get over it. It's nothing but prejudice and that's ugly. Don't be ugly.

4. It occurred to me that I didn't give an update on my friend, Patty - after requesting good thoughts and prayers. That reminds me of a person in my life who is always telling the first half or the last half of a story - leaving me hanging or bringing me in halfway through a story. That drives me crazy, so I should close the book on the Patty story. She had surgery and is recovering. She's doing fine. It was something that needed to be done, but there were no complications and she's feeling better. All good thoughts were appreciated.

5. Fred and I just watched The Celluloid Closet. It's really good. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's an eye opener. It's about gay people in film throughout history. We also watched The Times of Harvey Milk recently, as well as Beefcake. The Harvey Milk film is an inspiring piece of history and is about an amazing man. Beefcake is just eye candy. I bought all three at a local bookshop. Money well spent.



A Little Bag of Memories

2009-05-07T10:41:43.966+02:00

While we were going through security on our way to Warsaw last weekend, I had my knitting needles confiscated. The security guard actually stood in front of my holding a tray which held my 3.5mm (36 inch long) circulars and a mechanical pencil. She felt the tip and said, "This is too sharp. You can't take it on the plane."I picked up the pencil and pointed to the tip and said, "This is sharper than that is."She knew I was right, but she was being told by someone with some authority that knitting needle are bad and can't be taken on the plane. I've done it tons of times before, but I've usually already cast on, so it looks more like I'm knitting than that I've got a long wire shaped weapon with sharp ends.As we were walking away, I tearfully screamed, "Confiscating knitting needles is so last year!"I didn't really. I was too stunned. What does a person do on an airplane besides knit? Fortunately, I had a crochet needle with me. And I had my ipod.Then, for some reason, my ipod quit working. It wouldn't do anything. I couldn't even play solitaire. And I can't crochet in silence. So I read a book I'd bought. It's a Dutch book - a thriller. Fred was unbothered by the whole incident. And he gets on the plane, reads a bit and falls asleep.So I was in Warsaw for three days with no knitting, a single crochet hook and a ball of yarn. I made the little bag in the photo. When we got home, I finished it with a picot edge and turned to Fred and said, "I just made one of the most granny things I've ever made." But it's totally sturdy. And it's fairly well designed. The icord goes through a row of double crochet. It's not just tied on.In Warsaw, we met a couple of American women. The one who was most taken with us was Vicky, a hard boiled woman who is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas and who will one day return to her husband and son who live in Houston. Vicky loves tall bald men. When we walked in, her table had discussed whether or not Fred and I were gay. Vicky said she had voted no. Of course the tall bald gay Brits she was with voted yes. (It's call Gaydar.) The other woman, Marsha, walked over and the first thing she said after Vicky mentioned that I was originally from Texas was "I hate Texans." Charmed, I'm sure. Marsha was a thin little thing with bad dental work and she was dee-runk."And, Marsha? I love your hair. The Eighties was fun, wasn't it?"So strange to meet Americans while away for the weekend. They've both been in Warsaw longer than I've been here. What a random place to spend seven or eight years - and neither speak the language. I like talking to American who live outside the US. It's amazing the ways people cope.[...]



Warsaw Recap - 3 of 3

2009-05-05T22:58:44.436+02:00

I'll jet through this last post. It's a bit of architecture, churches, and food - and not a lot of any of them.A lot of Warsaw's architecture has that post-WW2 Socialist Realist feel to it. The building above, for example, the Palace of Culture and Science, was a gift from Soviet Russia and it was designed by a Russian architect. I liked it. Fortunately for us, it was right across the street from our hotel, making our hotel easy to find. Unfortunately, it's sort of square. So a couple of times we were looking at it, but we weren't sure which side we were standing on - and it's a long way from one side to the other. We never went in. We meant to, but we got back to the hotel on the last day, realized we'd missed it, shrugged and said, "Oh well...next time."This was shot from the courtyard of the Banking and Finance Center. We walked by on a bank holiday. These square, gray, solid buildings look really great when there's no one around. There was another couple - a mother and son combo - who were taking pictures of this building while we were there, but it was big enough that we were able to avoid them.There are a lot of palaces in Warsaw. This palace, that palace, a former palace, etc. (I think they're overusing/misusing the word.) The photo above is of the Palace on the Water. It actually looked like a palace, whereas some of the other buildings looked like just another a very large building. This had a lot of repairs done to it after the war because rather than blowing it up - as they had planned - the Nazis just set fire to it before they left. Thanks, you guys, hope that taking over the world thing works out.The palace was crowded with people and there were a couple of peacocks, which were causing a bit of a fuss. They were squawking and people wanted pictures of them. The peacocks weren't cooperating. Not a lot of "back feathers up" photos. But some nice snaps of the canals and lakes.Something else there were a lot of were churches. A huge church filled with statues and art and right next to it would be another huge church. It was ridiculous planning. Warsaw must have a lot of Catholics. However, if you've seen a lot of old European Catholic churches, you've pretty much seen these. They're pretty, but I sort of felt like I'd seen them already.One thing I hadn't seen was some really good relics. I've seen relics before, but these looked like they'd just been cleaned and remounted. I forget what church this was, but they were beautiful and fascinating. A lot of the ones I've seen are just brown bits of a bone that were glued to a piece or red velvet 70 years ago. These were big and nicely mounted. (These are relics, right?)We visited the Royal Castle on the last day. I was a bit ambivalent about going in. It's a massive structure, and it's beautiful, but the real castle was destroyed by (say it with me now...) the Nazis, in 1944. So this is largely a reconstruction and - I hate to say it, but - it sort of feels like it. Everything is really new looking - especially some of the statuary. That said, I liked seeing it because it's beautifully done and it does give you the feeling of being in a really old Polish building. But it didn't give me a "King Zygmunt III slept here" feeling.Complicating matters were several groups of school children (on a Saturday?) who were...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh - groups of school children. Avoid. at. all. costs.This is me buying stamps at the big post office in Warsaw that is - this is my favorite part - open 24/7/365! When I went to get a number (they are very organized) an old woman walked right[...]



Warsaw Recap - 2 of 3

2009-05-04T16:25:38.357+02:00

On Friday, we headed out to see the Former Jewish Ghetto. It's in a completely different part of town than the Old Town and the New Town. We walked to get there. It felt really far away.There's a Path of Remembrance and it starts with the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes - shown here. It's large and, as with a lot of these monuments, it includes a lot of empty space.When we walked the path, it led us along some streets where we saw little markers like this one. They're engraved with why the spot is significant. However, they are only engraved in Polish and Hebrew. If you don't read either one, you're sort of left out of the experience.The main problem I had with the walk was that the ghetto is gone. There's nothing much to see. But on top of that, there was no real hook to draw me into the whole experience. I couldn't even read the monuments. I was made to depend on my scant knowledge of the war and the uprising, plus whatever help the guidebook could give. I know, poor me. I'm a white Protestant American male and I feel all left out. Boo hoo. I'm just sayin'.The part of that walk that I found the most moving was the Umschlagplatz Monument, which is where people were loaded into boxcars and shipped off to death camps. It's designed to be in the shape of a boxcar. Now that's a well-designed monument. The walk as a whole, however, was a bit disappointing. Granted, they don't have much to work with since most of the buildings were leveled, but most of it didn't speak to me the way other monuments like this have.The site of the Pawiak Prison was also well done. Again, it's empty space. There were not any tourists (except us) around. It's just these monuments in the middle of a neighborhood. It would be interesting to live near one of these and see it every day. I like that they didn't build anything where the prison was. It's just a gated off space. On the other side of the wall that is on the right in this photo is a tree.Fred and I discussed whether or not the tree was real. It's definitely not alive. But it looks like fiberglass to me. There are obituaries nailed to it. It's a nice addition to the whole prison monument.One thing I liked in Berlin and that I liked here - and there's even one here in Amsterdam - is a line in the ground where the wall used to be. In Warsaw, it's the Ghetto Wall. I tell you, spending a whole day reading about the havoc wreaked by the Nazis was disturbing. We walked towards a piece of the wall that is standing, but got turned around and ended up missing it. We didn't go back. My feet were killing me.When the walk down the Pat was over, we walked back to the hotel past these lovely buildings. Big gray buildings. Fred said that the EU is sending Poland a lot of money. I said, "Just send paint." Everything is so gray. It's just cinder block gray buildings.Street after street. It's everything you would expect a place like this to be. It was not the prettiest side of Warsaw.Then there was this sign - the one with the girl. I have no idea what it means. Yeah, probably children playing, but what's she holding? Is that a lollipop? A balloon?When we got back from Istanbul, my friend Venessa read my posts and said, "Well, I can see you didn't enjoy it." We did. We just weren't...taken with it - like she was. That's sort of how I feel about Warsaw. We enjoyed it, but then there's this whole cloud hanging over the city with the history and with how cut off it felt.Oh well. Tomorrow is churches and other architecture - and a bit about the food.[...]



Warsaw Recap - 1 of 3

2009-05-04T15:19:24.275+02:00

One of the advantages of blogging every day is that not every post has to be fabulous. It just has to be. Another is that I can draw things out a bit. Thus, this will be the first of three posts recapping our recent weekend in Warsaw.I'll start by saying that I enjoyed it the trip as a whole, but that I don't think either one of us were blown away. (Part of this was that after he booked the trip, Fred heard the Kraków would have been the better choice.) However, we saw some new stuff, saw some stuff (very much like stuff) we'd seen before, and we have now changed the Warsaw pin in our world map from white (trips we'd like to take or that we have planned) to red (places we've been together.) The white pin went immediately to Kiev, by Fred's decree. By the way, the mermaid at the top is the coat of arms of Warsaw.I've divided our tour up into three posts. This first post is about Old Town and New Town. It's easy enough to write about the Old Town - and the New Town - because they're so darn cute. They've been restored or rebuilt or transformed into everything you want a little Eastern European city to be. If you were just staying for a day or two, it would be a great area to stay in because being there would bookend your day. We stayed a little further out, which was fine.We approached Old Town by coming across the square in the photo above. After walking the long avenue (not such a chore), we rounded a corner and saw the square. Seeing it made me really happy. It's got that old feeling with the quaint houses all painted up in various earth tones. Totally cute and worth the price of admission. (No, you don't actually have to pay admission; it's just an expression.)While we were there, they had a big military thing where they were marching around. May 3 is the anniversary of the Constitution of Poland and there was a lot of stuff going on that had to do with that the whole weekend. Most notably, closed shops on Saturday.The square in the New Town is totally cute. There are outside restaurants and people selling things. There are a lot of shops around the square. One thing about these shops that I noticed is that they are filled to the brim with lots of little things. They have multiples of thimbles and figurines and postcards, etc. Doing inventory in one of those stores would be horrible. There's also lots of authentic really old Polish stuff to buy - if that's your thing.We also spotted some carved handicrafts. Old Jewish men were a popular subject. And speaking of carving/sculpture, there is lots of this kind of thing around...There are other details that give the square lots of charm.They're definitely trying to convey the Eastern European charm of Warsaw in better times - i.e. pre-WW2. The colors and music on the square made it a nice place to sit. Of course that means that it was flooded with people. However, it never felt totally crowded or claustrophobic. Maybe it wasn't that bad because tourism is down a bit. But I heard several American voices. I was surprised at how many. I wouldn't think this would be where a lot of Americans wanted to put their tourist dollars. There was some very interesting art on sale in around the square. We bought a small print.Right next to the Old Town was the Monument to the Insurgents of the Warsaw Uprising. It's large and imposing. It's sort of impressive in terms of its design, but the artist in me didn't love it. It was sort of stiff and cold. I sort of missed that whole Warsaw Uprising story when I was in history class. Fred missed taking a pic[...]



Last Day in Warsaw

2009-05-02T23:12:19.847+02:00

(image) While we were at the bar getting our "welcome drink" - on the night before we leave - Fred said, "There's no seats. Let's sit next to the whore." A little later, a woman starts talking to us and it turns out she's from Texas. She works in IT at some bank, and has lived here for seven years! And it turns out that the other woman really was a whore. Who knew?

Fred.

Did lots of walking today. Saw lots. We saw lots of the Old Town and the New Town today. We toured the castle, which was overrun with school children - and it turns out that the whole thing is reconstructed because the Germans blew up the real one during the war! Who knew?

Looking forward to getting home tomorrow. I'll write more about the trip later.



Warsaw

2009-05-01T22:51:15.745+02:00

(image) Fred and I are on the road for the weekend. Just a long weekend in Warsaw. Our friend, Dalia, is watching the apartment. She wanted to sell (on Queen's Day) in a better neighborhood than she currently lives in, so she's is holding down the fort for us while she does her thing.

Meanwhile, we are walking ourselves silly. We didn't wake up today until about 11:00, which was fine with me because I knew Fred would be go-go-go as soon as he woke up. We walked for about eight hours before finally sitting down to eat. But according to Fred, "Well...we sat for an hour or so with the coffee breaks, so it wasn't really eight hours." Tell that to my feet.

You can really tell that Warsaw was under someone's thumb for a long time. Lots of gray concrete and the trams - like in the picture above - are really old. Of course we haven't ridden one because we have to walk everywhere. Seen some interesting stuff. I'll elaborate when I'm not in the lobby of a hotel.



Queen's Day Ads

2009-04-30T21:14:00.147+02:00

I amsterdam is the marketing campaign that does the whole tourist promotion thing for Amsterdam. It's very I heart NY, but sort of a bad rip off. I don't hate it. I like it in a way. It's memorable and the logo is nice to see. I don't know a lot about it except that it seems like a cute idea that people aren't really buying into. There's a whole article about the campaign on Expatica.Anyway, they've been promoting Queen's Day with posters like the one above. I recognized the guy on the right. That's the French president - Nicolas Sarkozy. I knew the face of the other guy, but it turns out he's the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.There are other posters around that I haven't seen. There's one of Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin holding hands and wearing "Kiss Me I'm Drunk" T-shirts.And there's one featuring Hillary Clinton.I heard the one of Hilary Clinton was photoshopped. And the Obama one was removed from the campaign.While the campaign is cute, I don't know who in the world it's aimed at. It's not the people who live here. People who live here sort of already know about it. And visitors to our fair city who might be here and see the posters...does anyone expect them to stick around or return in hopes of seeing Mr. Sarkozy in a boa?Maybe they're trying to draw people to Amsterdam from other cities in the Netherlands. I don't know. Maybe these posters are all over the world. I only know.Queen's Day always makes me think of Sally. She loved Queen's Day. I miss her a lot, but all I have to do is think of seeing her on Queen's Day and it brings a smile to my face. I don't think she'd love the campaign, but she'd think they were cute. Happy Queen's Day![...]



Bezet!

2009-04-29T21:13:48.588+02:00

Tomorrow is Queen's Day and the sidewalks are being marked up. People are using chalk and different kinds of tape to mark their spots. I have heard that in a parallel universe where the world is ruled by dogs, the Dutch dogs just pee on their spot and they don't get all the visual mess of the writing that we have here.There are a variety of ways that people mark their spot.My favorite is chalk. Last year, some kids chalked up the front of the building every day for a week and the super of the our building washed it down every morning. I think it's the least offensive. But the little bit of rain we've had recently has caused problems for people who use chalk. Pity.Another option is tape. On Sunday we saw some people out front writing their names in tape. Unfortunately for them, it was packing tape. They spent a while putting it down, but I thought it was a little early, so I ripped it up. They came back yesterday and put their names back using duct tape this time. I left it alone. Sunday was just too early. It was offensive.Apparently someone had already started the party.My favorite is the combination. I just saw it this year. I could rip up this tape, but it's still there. I like that. Think ahead. They're prepared for the super of the building or me.Another thing I notice this year - but has probably been going on for years - is the sign. All along the street there are civilized signs. This one says "The area in front of 152 is reserved for the residents." Bezet, by the way, means "Occupied."The worst thing I saw today on my walk was where someone had squirted some kind of paint or ink on the sidewalk in an effort to mark their spot. It was in front of the wine store. The guy was out there scrubbing it down with a straw broom and lots of soap and water. I can't imagine how angry I would be. I went by later and it was cleaned up. I hate seeing paint on a sidewalk - where there's been a spill or something - it just creeps me out.I've decided that two days before is enough to mark your spot. We weren't here for Queen's Day last year, but it seems to me that the lead up to it is less than it was in previous years.Fred says that every time he sees an adult marking a spot it makes him look at them differently. He sees it as a very "kid" thing to do. Of course he doesn't like anything second hand and can't imagine why anyone would. He's like that. I always bring something home when we go out on Queen's Day. I'm like that.[...]