Top 10 – Flickr isn’t gay

Not too long ago DB and I told members of his family that we used Flickr. We know full well that “flikker” in Dutch means a flaming homo, which made for pretty funny looks on their faces. We then explained that Flickr is photo sharing and storage online and is really very cool indeed.

Flickr isn’t perfect however. The bulk upload is painful to use. Browsing photos is slow and not customizable. But the faithful followers of Flickr have created many plug-ins and tools that makes it even cooler.

Here’s a link to Thomas Hawk’s top 10 Flickr hacks. Check it out. Really.

What happened to winter?

Some people think that global warming is just a fantasy of tree hugging lefties or mad scientists. Every year that I spend in Europe global warming becomes more obviously a fact of life. We don’t need scientists to tell us that ice-skating on Dutch canals is a thing of the past, relegated to those lovely old Christmas card images. We don’t need the government to tell us that you can no longer count on any snow skiing season before January or that you can count on finding any snow below 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) in the Alps or any mountains in central Europe. Go ski on a glacier, while they last.

This year, for example, has been the warmest winter so far in centuries. It’s now mid-January and I think we’ve had only 1 night below freezing here in Amsterdam. My camelia bush is in full bloom. I pruned back my roses even though they were still putting out leaf buds. Tulips are for sale everywhere. It’s just not normal.

Also not normal is the storm we had last Thursday. Five people in the Netherlands are dead because of the storm. There is millions of euros of damage to buildings. I don’t know if anyone has counted the number of cars smashed by falling trees. We had force 9 (out of 10) winds and walls of rain coming down. Flights were cancelled, schools were closed and employees were told to go home early Thursday afternoon. Trains were stopped so lots of people just couldn’t get home at all. I left work at 4:30 Thursday afternoon not realizing what chaos there was in the city. Luckily I phoned DB on my way out, who was himself trying to get home from Haarlem. He told me to take a taxi home because the trams were not running, or were running strange routes due to down trees or power lines. On the ride home I saw just that – police everywhere in the city directing traffic or cordoning off dangerous areas, people struggling against the wind, bikes fallen over littering the streets and sidewalks, dead trams, fallen trees. What a mess!

There is an article and some good photos on the Radio Netherlands website.

And just when I thought that would be it for a while, last night we were woke up by hail hitting the windows, thunder and hard rain and high winds. And its warm. Too warm.

It’s times like this that I’m thankful the Dutch are better prepared for too much water than the people of New Orleans were. I’m thankful they’ve had centuries of experience holding back the sea and rivers. I’m trusting those mad scientists know what they’re doing.

Top Ten – New Year’s Resolutions

It’s well past Jan 1, but my Official New Year’s Resolutions have not yet been published. This does not mean that, on 14 Jan I have only figured out what they should be. It only means that I have not yet been living up to all of them, namely

#10 – Post on the blog at least once per week. The poor blog has been sorely neglected lately with holidays things to do, starting a new job, and basically not much leisure time. No excuses. Just get on with it, or delete it altogether.

Of course #10 would be helped greatly by

#9 – Get organized. We live in a small apartment. OK, small by any other than Dutch standards. By Amsterdam standards it’s damn near spacious. No matter how big you think it is, there is absolutely no space whatsoever to accumulate stuff. And I get grumpy when I feel surrounded by clutter and am unorganized. Already I’ve got 3 bags of old clothes to go out, have shipped unused xbox stuff to my nephew, and we’re nearly finished setting up new IKEA closets. Ah… I feel better already.

To keep down the clutter you just have to stop bringing stuff into the house. Don’t buy stuff. In my case

#8 – It’s OK to get rid of books before you buy more books. We don’t own a library. We don’t have space to build one. Not every book I’ve ever bought and read is a lifelong friend that I will miss if it leaves my home. I’ve regretted getting rid of some books, like my university books from 25 years ago. But I won’t regret getting rid of the paperback version of …. of…. of….

I’ve just returned to the couch after having a look through the bookshelves to find the books I CAN get rid of without looking back. I know they are there. I’m sure of it. Just can’t find them at the moment. I’ll get back to you on this one.

#7 – Know where your money goes. Do you start to see a theme here? Getting organized goes farther than stuff and books and time. It also involves money. If I want to save money I need to know where it’s going and make decisions about where it should be going. I have a copy of Quicken. I just have to use it. What better time to set it up and start tracking the ins and outs than January of a new year? I plan to start this very afternoon. Promise.

#6 – No more toys. I don’t need any more toys. I am rich with toys. A MacBook and an iMac. A drawer full of iPods. A new mobile phone (ok, that was free so it doesn’t really count). A TomTom ONE. A nice camera. It’s enough already. I have more toys than I have time to play with. I am going on a toys moratorium.
Having said that, last week I bought a 60eur electric milk frothing machine. It makes perfect milk for coffee. It’s small and cute and matches my espresso machine perfectly. Do kitchen toys count in this resolution? I guess so. First failure of the year.

#5 – Run the Dam to Dam. Last August I was about to sign up for this race when I found out that I was too late. It was full. 30,000 people had already signed up. 30,000! Now I have 9 months to get ready for this year. I’ve never run in a race before. I’m not even much of a runner. But I want to be and I’m pysched to do this. Now, if I can just stop getting injured (shin splints, sprained ankle) I’ll be ok.

Closely related to #5, and what would make running 16 miles easier is

#4 – Lose 6 kilos and keep it off. This is the one resolution that I started right away in January and have pretty much kept at it. I’m doing the South Beach diet – sort of. I’ve lost 1.5 kilos in 2 weeks which I think is ok. What will be interesting is going on vacation to New Zealand in February for 3.5 weeks. Will we be active enough to make up for eating more? If I go somewhere on vacation I really enjoy eating local food as much as possible. I want to taste everything. I like food. I like to eat. It likes me too and hangs around too easily. In the last 3 years I’ve gained those 6 kilos. My niece calls this “happy fat”. If you find yourself in a happy relationship, you cook together, you eat together, you share food as a social and intimate ritual of meals. And you put on weight. That’s what has happened to me. I’m still happy, but I just need to get my body back to healthy.

#3 – Stay healthy. Go to the gym regularly. Yoga at least once a week. Don’t stress at work. Learn to relax and do nothing.

#2 – Read a novel in Dutch. For Christmas this year I received a paperback novel in Dutch. Hint. Hint. I started a Dutch class last Fall but ended up dropping it because I had to travel for work more often than I thought I would have to. I missed half the classes in the end. But what I realized is that I know the language pretty well. I understand nearly everything. But I struggle to find the words when I want to carry on a conversation myself. I need to improve my vocabulary. I need to practice speaking. Teachers say that the best way to do both, without attending a class, is to read and also read out loud. OK. I’ll give it a try. I’m determined.

#1 – This isn’t really a resolution because you can’t really resolve this kind of thing. But anyway, its on the list – Celebrate becoming a Dutch citizen with a big party. I don’t have the approval yet. I haven’t been through the ceremony or have the piece of paper. But I know that it will come through some time in the next six months and deserves to be celebrated. I’m happy to be here. I feel at home here. Me and my Dutchie are a great team. Let’s celebrate!