On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


It's Not You, It's Me

Blogger, you've been good to me. You give me near total control over my templates, and you don't complain about traffic or disk space.

But the truth is, I've been seeing someone else. I was hanging out with my inner circle over at akaijen.Vox.com, and I dunno. I guess we just get along better. You can't control your feelings, ya know.

I didn't mean to cheat on you. It's just that when Vox was in beta, you had to have an account to comment on other blogs. Then, well, I guess we hit it off.

I'm sorry. It's not you. You're great. My needs have changed. My life has changed. I wish it didn't have to be this way.

Don't be a stranger, ok? Visit me anytime at http://akaijen.vox.com. Maybe we could get coffee some time?


Oh Oh Den Haag

Since we'll be leaving soon(ish), we've started compiling a list of all the things we want to see or do before we leave - both in Holland and in Europe. Meanwhile, I'm snapping as many photos as seems reasonable to document our time here. I'll start sharing some of the more everyday things that we generally overlook like tram stops and such.

But maybe I shouldn't bother, because this guy has not only posted video footage of my foster city, but wrote a song as well. It's not quite "New York, New York," or "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," but it's a bit catchy, if not a bit tropical or something.

This video is at least 15 years old, but generally it still looks the same. Notice the overcast sky?

BTW, my Dad found this clip. He could probably ghost write my blog after we leave. That guy's never even been here!



Where Did April Go?

Hey look at that - it's already April 18. Poof! Weeks gone in the blink of an eye.

So, OK I've been back from Costa Rica for a week or so. Unfortunately, I returned to the final stretches of a freelance project, and I've been busy sorting that out along with immigration, scheduling yoga workshops, etc. Life happens, man.

My trip was exactly what I needed to recharge. I have so much more energy, which is good b/c somehow I'm swamped even though I'm a person without a steady job. How does that happen?

This was the view from my mat for two hours each morning and afternoon.

The yoga retreat was held in a small, rural surfing village on the Pacific Coast. It was hot and humid, and my body loved it. My skin cleared and softened, shedding years off my apparent age. My joints started moving again after a year and a half in a cold, dank climate. I sweat quite a lot of toxins out of my pores and received the best massages in my life. I connected with wonderful people and started the long road to getting back in shape.

A week later, I still feel pretty good. It helps that the it was unseasonably warm and sunny when I got back. It's starting to return to normal though. The temperature dropped Monday night, and today the clouds are circling around the sun. Clearly they're looking for a real fight this time. Yesterday the sun prevailed. Today I'm putting my money on clouds.

In other news...

While I was away, B- and his bosses decided that DC was the best place for them to base their US office, so back to DC we go. Excellent for us, though it is a bit strange. There was no way to know that we'd only be away for a couple of years, but still... I might have put our furniture in storage instead of lugging it over here. Well you live and learn.

I wonder if things will be much different? You know how it always seems weird and surreal when you visit the town you grew up in? Alien yet familiar. By time we get back it will be about two years since we left. Has my town changed very much? Will it reject me like bad kidney transplant? I know at least one of you left and returned -what was that like?


Change of Scenery

Sorry I've been out of pocket a bit. It's been crazy. I'm writing this in a hurry, so my writing may be rougher than usual as I don't have time to edit and obsess. Also, I'm addicted to blogs after I followed Reid's advice and starting using Google Reader. And THANK You for the Comics Curmudgeon.

Last week was my 3*cough* birthday. No worries if you didn't know, because I probably didn't tell you. I'm long past getting excited over birthdays. I will give the Dutch credit for birthdays, though. Instead of wishing people "Happy Birthday" they say "Congratulations!" It's like three cheers for making it another year! Woohoo! This I like.

Back in January, B- and I made a deal that I could go with my yoga teacher from back in DC to a retreat in Costa Rica. She takes a group each year, and it's conveniently around my birthday. B- got to go to Australia recently, so I get to go bliss out in the tropics. Congratulations, indeed! I leave tomorrow. Hence the reason I've been busy.

This will seem tangential, but I'd also like to point out that while I was shopping for last minute travel items I noticed that some aspects of shoe fashion are showing improvement. For instance, the worn out look seems to be on the way out. However, one notably scary 80s throw-back is "in." Like the banana clip, I urge you to show restraint. Remember jazz shoes? Consider this a public service announcement.

Yet, Chuck Taylor's (aka Converse All-Stars) are also back. This is the third cycle of the low-tech basketball shoe in my lifetime. I've always loved them. I bought myself a new pair for my trip.

You'll see from the photo that I'm also learning to knit socks, which is a special project I'm taking on while I'm in Costa Rica. Bring on wacky, wacky socks. I figure if I'm going to wear shoes that I wore in the 8th grade again, I might as well go balls out on footwear in general.

And the last thing I have to say is in regards to the Obama 1984 YouTube thing. Meh, I don't think Hillary seems fakey or like Big Brother in the clips that they used. Those clips aren't damning at all, and frankly I think the ad falls flat on its face. And if the pre-teen that probably made that video ever read "1984," he'd know that anyone who invites differing opinions (as does Hilary in the clips that were lifted) is incongruous with the themes of that book. I'm just sayin.' I'm not buying into that hype that dumb ads like this are going to change how campaigns play out. And c'mon really. He didn't even think it up himself - he did a "mash up" (can someone tell me what the hell a mash up is? I thought this was plagiarism, but what do I know) of an awesome Apple ad. Must everyone rip off Apple? And lastly, to the guy who hosts "Talk of the Nation" on NPR, b/c I'm sure you read my blog, the ad was a dig against IBM, not Microsoft. Microsoft wasn't even around then. Pshuh, journalists.

BTW, this by no means I necessarily support Hillary. I dunno yet. I have big reservations about all of them. I just don't think she deserves that, especially from freakin' Democrats. The woman gets enough crap from Rush and Newt. Can Republicans ever have normal names?

Anyway, you see that I need to go bliss out in Costa Rica. See ya'll in a week!


There's No Basement in the Alamo

In case I was pining away for Texas, I could go here for my birthday dinner: Condor City. Heh. Yee Haw!

One of my all time favorite movies has one of my all time favorite movie scenes. I could watch "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" any day just for the scene when Pee Wee goes to the Alamo looking for his stolen bike in the basement. Few movies feature the city I consider my home town (yes I get to choose b/c I was an army brat) even though it boasts one of the nicest downtowns anywhere. Pee Wee's film is particularly choice.

What I miss most about about San Antonio, and it isn't ranch-style houses with the gravel landscaping, is the food. As much as French food intrigues me and Indian food calls out to me every day, nothing and I mean nothing compares to a sloppy plate of TexMex goodness. You haven't lived if you haven't had heuvos rancheros in the wee hours of the morning while still a little drunk.

Even though I haven't eaten meat in 10 years, save for one Xmas dinner at Ivaner's Auntie's house and a desperate McChicken sandwich in New Jersey, I do occasionally have cravings for flesh, usually Texas delights. Obviously we can all wax poetic for a juicy, Texas Longhorn steak. But, there is one item that might compel me to eat meat right now: the Macho Cheeseburger from Chris Madrids in San Antonio. That is some seriously good hamburger right there. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I'm not the only one that feels this way. I took that photo of the famous Chris Madrids bumper sticker last October on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was stuck to the box that was supposed to contain the log. Surreal and yet not surprising.

As much as I love, love, love TexMex food, I've never really been into Fajitas. But what I wouldn't give for a Taco Cabana bean and cheese taco any day of the year. Back in high school, I lived on that $0.39 goodness. Yep you read that right. Thirty-nine cents.

And of course I miss Dr. Pepper (also from Texas) like my life depended on it. Thank god I had a fast metabolism because I nursed a 40oz tumbler of Dr. Pepper everyday, all day for three years. Sometimes we refilled at lunch. Crazy.

Long about 1991, Stop-n-Go sold these giant bottles that would change color depending on the temperature of the liquid inside. If you bought a bottle, then you got free soda refills all summer. Good for me and my low-on-cash friends. Bad for Stop-n-Go. Several franchises went out of business from this promotion. Say what you will about the rest of the film, there is real truth to the Big Gulp bit in the movie "Reality Bites," though I can't speak for the Houston soda drinking scene . Reid will have to fill us in on the haps in East Texas.

I apologize for this ramble, but consider this the first entry in a series of things that are great about 'Merica. I leave you with a clip from one of the best movies. Ever. Too bad nobody has uploaded the Alamo clip on YouTube.



Happy O'Postraphe Day

B- and I have decided not to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We've redubbed it O'Postraphe Day in celebration of our Irishness, as opposed to a lasting symbol of British oppression.


B- turns to me this morning and says, "what did St. Patrick do anyway?"

Jen: "Ran the snakes out of Ireland. I dunno why we celebrate that though."

Cue Wikipedia with the scoop on St. Patrick. Seems that Patty wasn't even Irish. He was a Briton, and a missionary at a time when the Catholic Church regarded Celts as godless animals. So, Patty was at the front lines of quashing Irish heritage. And we love him why?

And the snakes? There were never any snakes in Ireland. Wikipedia suggests that the snakes were actually Druid symbols. Wiki goes on to speculate that Patrick was instrumental in introducing the concept of threes, so prevalent in Irish symbology, a three leaf shamrock if you will. Basically, Patrick was manipulating the existing belief system to be more compatible with the Catholic Church.

I didn't used to care about the historical problems between Ireland and Britain. My family has been in America for several generations now, and I'm a typical mut. Owing to my mom's Irish maiden name, however, I've always identified more closely with my Irish heritage.

A couple of years ago, Mom and I traveled to western Ireland on a pilgrimage of sorts. The West is relatively rural, providing a glimpse of traditional life. It's also the region most devastated by the famine that compelled so many to leave their home for America, including mine and B-'s Irish ancestors.

What struck me was the sheer beauty of the land. It's the Emerald Isle for a reason. Holy cow that is one green country. It's just so spectacular. And the sea is so blue. So blue. Everywhere you go is evidence of the rich and ancient culture that prevailed for centuries before the Romans came to muck it all up. The Irish are a people that love their country. The soil is fertile and families are close. There is no reason to leave.

It's not easy to piece together the circumstance of the famine. It's a very controversial topic with some likening the English behavior to genocide. Wikipedia's account is notably balanced, but the view within the hardest hit regions is that the neglect was deliberate. Keep in mind that at the time it was a widely held belief that the Irish were a subclass of humans, inferior to the English. The idea that Irish and English are different was only recently debunked by a DNA study of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English people revealing that we are all from the same stock. The growing rift between Protestants and Catholics is also considered to be a contributing factor. Regardless of why, the British government had an obligation to feed its starving people and they didn't. The just didn't.

They forced my family to flee their beloved country, and that hit home as I stood atop the cliffs of the Dingle coast gazing at the treacherous sea. On the one hand you have an amazing land and a strong sense of place. On the other hand you have a dangerous passage to a country that doesn't really want you, where you are going to be treated like dogs. What a choice! What a crappy, crappy choice.

People sometimes snicker at Americans with Irish heritage who cling so strongly to a culture that isn't really theirs. For me, it's because in my heart I know that my ancestors didn't really want to leave their land, and that they sacrificed so much for me to be here at all. To hold them in memory is to honor their struggle.

So, what does this all have to do with me and B- rejecting St. Patrick? Patrick was British and among the first to treat our ancestors like so much crap, though he did it less obviously and bit more subversively. The only reason he's the patron saint of Ireland is because of the strength of the Catholic Church and good marketing. I'd even be ok with that, even though we're not Catholic, but for him playing a role in suppressing our ancient culture - the very thing we celebrate on his day.

Instead, we'll raise our glasses to the O'Postraphes in mine and B-s' family (even those that dropped the O' to avoid stigma in America), for their courage and sheer will to live. We remember.

Éirinn go Brách

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To Wii or Not to Wii?

Wii's are still in short supply and high demand over here in You're Up. The word on the street is that new shipments have come in here and there. Also, the PS3 makes it's European debut next week. I'm thinking PS3s might distract some potential Wii buyers, upping my odds of getting my grubby paws on Nintendo's new sensation. Awe yeah.

But. But.

Everyone knows that Euro TVs are different from U.S. TVs, so the game consoles are different as well. Game developers also employ the same pesky region restrictions on the games themselves, meaning that your console must match the game region for it all to work properly. I'm sure you can hack them, but do I want to sift through the fodder of that Google search? Not sure. Do I want to risk busting a 250EUR purchase? Really not sure.

So. What to do? What to do? I can't take a Euro Wii to the U.S. I can't leave for six long, gloomy months.

What if I bought a PS2? Might that be a good compromise? Given it's low, low price I might even be willing to hack the PS2 to get it to work in the U.S. What do you think?

C'mon people. Can you tell I'm bored here???