Happy Friday

It was only a 4 day work week, but man it felt like the longest week ever.  Friday after 5 I really needed a beer.  The sun was shining and the tables had been set out on the terrace in front of Vapiano, so the team met up for big glasses full.  It wasn’t exactly warm, but the sun felt good and the beer went down quickly.

When I got home, DB was sitting around the table with 5 friends, also drinking beer.  They were busy planning an event that will take place in Haarlem in June (more info later) so I grabbed some food and took myself, and my laptop, upstairs.  Ahhhh, some nights there’s nothing better than a comfy bed and videos on the laptop.  After watching the latest Grey’s Anatomy (yea torrent search success) I picked up my latest obsession  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  I can’t remember the last time I read a book so quickly and voraciously.  I can’t put it down.  I read it on the train instead of knitting.  I’m a bit late to the party since nearly everyone I know has already read the entire Millennium series.  If you are looking for a thriller that is smart and entertaining, you need to get this book.  Get all three in the series.  There are also movies made of the books – the third one is just now out in theaters here in NL.  I watched the trailer for the first movie on Amazon and it looks really good.  I’ve got to track down where I can buy it here with English subtitles.

I hope you are having some sunshine on your Friday too.

Teylers Museum

This afternoon we went to the Teylers Museum in Haarlem.  Neither of us had been there before, which is a damn shame since we live here in this town.  It’s one of those things.  When you live somewhere you never go to the places you should.  This trip was organized by the librarian twitterers around here.  DB is one of them.  I’m just a hanger on.  We had a special library tour.

We were surprised to show up at 12:45 and find a LINE of people waiting to get in, and this was 45 minutes after they opened.  I think part of it was that there’s not much else to do on a Sunday afternoon after Christmas.

The first part of the museum consists of fossils of large and small animals.  The second section is a collection of very early scientific instruments.  These two rooms alone could take up a LOT of my time.  We didn’t look around there long as we were staying together as a group and waiting for our tour guide.  I managed to get some photos though.

A lot of the stuff in this room was dedicated to power generation.  That grouping of large cans in the second photo above is actually a battery.  A battery.  Can you imagine?  It must have been so exciting to have been a scientist 200 years ago.  Everything was possible.  Turning lead into gold was possible.  Finding God in a spark or a mathematical formula was possible.  I guess our expectations have changed quite a bit.  We expect to now find the God Particle at CERN in the most tiny particle imaginable.  Most everything else we think we’ve figured out.  Ha!

In the third room ahead were more instruments along the side, and a collection of minerals and stones in the center.

Upstairs from here is where we had our library tour.  It was a tour just for our little group.  The inner library holds books from the 1600’s to mid-1900’s.  The library is specialized in Natural History.  I so wanted to look at one of the oldest English books they had, just to see how those old scientists wrote.  Would I understand it?  Maybe one day I’ll ask.  They are very busy digitalizing their entire collection so maybe one day I can at least read online what is there.  It was a very beautiful little library.

Even the floor grating was beautiful.

Here’s a photo of the Tweet Meet group.  In the Queen’s Christmas speech she said that people should depend less on online social networks and more on real face to face meetings.  Well, Madam, here’s one group that met online and now meets in person.  You can’t get much better than that for expanding your social contacts!

Presents!

My mom sent us a gift certificate from Amazon for Christmas.  Look what I bought with it!  The box arrived today and I’m pretty excited to dig into them.

I wanted the book The Best of Lopi because I have some yarn from New Zealand that feels almost like Icelandic wool.  It’s that same kind of single ply thick stuff.  I thought I might find something in this book that I can either make directly, or at least use for inspiration for a yoked sweater made completely in the round.

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Hand-Dyeing (Teach Yourself VISUALLY Consumer)
was highly recommended by dyers on Ravelry.  It looks very thorough and covers a lot of different techniques and materials to dye with.  I can’t wait to try it out!

The SELBUVOTTER: Biography of a Knitting Tradition and Latvian Mittens: Traditional Designs & Techniques

books are full of the most gorgeous gloves and mittens, plus pages and pages of charts to keep you busy for years.  I’ve never made gloves or mittens before and I’m curious if I will fall in love with it just like I did sock knitting.  More instant gratification!  I’m planning to make mittens as soon as I finish my Christmas knitting so I’ll something warm and beautiful for my cold hands this winter.  I’m looking forward to doing some color work with fingering (no pun intended) weight yarn.

Thanks Mom for such great presents!  You always know just what to get me. 🙂

Free

Wednesday began my 2 weeks off from work.  YIPPEE!  We aren’t going anywhere, just staying home and doing some work on the house and just hanging out enjoying local things.  My first day of vacation was spent just how I wanted – doing NOTHING except some knitting and blog surfing and reading.  Ahhhhh.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was a busy day and a very fun one.  I went first thing in the morning to Haarlem city center and got my hair cut (yes, AGAIN).  Haarlem is so quiet at 9:30 in the morning.  The shops aren’t open yet.  No one is out and about.  I love it.  Here’s a photo of the street where I get my hair done.

After that relaxing and useful time, I headed first to Amsterdam and then to Hilversum.  I was in search of shoes.  Not just any shoes.  I was in search of Nike Free running shoes.  I had already been to all the running shops and even the Nike specialty shop in Amsterdam and NO ONE is selling these shoes here!  You just can’t get them in NL.  So I emailed my ex-colleague at Nike European HQ in Hilversum and asked if he knew where I could get them.  He said “come on out to Hilversum to the employee store”.  Yea!  

I used to work at Nike in Hilversum.  It was my first job when I move to NL.  It’s an amazing place to work, at least facility-wise.  I took the train there yesterday and when I walked up to the campus I got this little buzz of excitement.  There are people jogging here and there.  There are people playing tennis on the tennis courts.  I could hear some kind of aerobics class going on.  I walked into the reception area and smelled coffee from the new Starbucks outlet (only the second one in all of the Netherlands – the first one was at Schiphol airport).  People were walking in and out, busy and bustling, and they all looked happy.  There’s a buzz in the air at Nike.  Man, I thought, I miss this!  Maybe they’ve all drank the Kool-aid, but who cares?  They’re working and happy – what more do you want?

 

Backside of Nike EHQ, running track being refurbished
Backside of Nike EHQ, running track being refurbished

 

Nike EHQ, reception area
Nike EHQ, reception area

I met up with my colleague, who got me a visitor’s badge and entrance to the employee store.  I headed straight for the shoes and found what I was looking for.  I’m glad I went there and tried the shoes on first and didn’t just order them online.  They DO run small and I bought a pair 1/2 size larger than my normal running shoes.  I also bought running shorts, running shirt and a gym shirt for DB.  I was only limited by my small budget.  Man, I could have spent a fortune in there.  It’s a fantastic shop with all the best of what Nike makes.  Thanks to my friend I also got a nice employee discount, which I just couldn’t refuse. 🙂  Here are my new amazing shoes – 

I left Hilversum and headed back to Amsterdam.  My big day out wasn’t over yet!  My colleagues from my old department were taking me out to dinner to say good-bye.  I met them in front of the Bieb and we walked over to A Tavola, an Italian restaurant kind of close to Nemo.  We drank wine and ate really nice food and laughed and laughed.  They bought me presents, which was totally unexpected!  My ex-manager even tried to find some kind of knitting present for me, but gave up after realizing he had no idea what to buy and knew nothing about knitting really.  They bought, instead, my second love – books!  I now have:

I don’t know which one to start with! They all look really interesting and I haven’t read any of them before. The friend and colleague who picked these out picked just the right things for me (we talk about books a lot).

So, that was my fabulous Thursday! Oh, and I didn’t even mention that with all that train time I got some knitting done too. I’ll have to see how I can top this during the next two weeks.

Have You Read….

Redshirt Knitting is on my regular blog reading list.  Her last entry was a MEME that she got from kmkat’s blog, who got it from CursingMama’s blog who got it from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts).  OK, the NEA article is very old, but the internet doesn’t always move at light speed!

The point they are making is that Americans don’t read literature anymore.  The NEA asserts that most Americans have only read SIX of the following 100 books.  That would be very sad if really true.  Of course, people who are going to send this list around the internet are probably those who have read a lot more than SIX of these books, so it’s not any kind of survey.  It’s still fun to do.  I pass it along now to you.

Below are listed 100 works of literature.  The rules for the MEME are:

* Bold the books you have already read
* Italicize the books you intend to read
* Notes in parentheses next to note-worthy titles.

1) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
3) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4) Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6) The Bible (most of it anyway)

7) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
8 ) Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell 
9) His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

10) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
11) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
12) Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
13) Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (it’s sitting on my bookshelf just waiting for me)
14) Complete Works of Shakespeare (some – but certainly not ALL)
15) Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
16) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
17) Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
18 ) Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
19) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (one of the best books EVER)

20) Middlemarch by George Eliot
21) Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
22) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
23) Bleak House by Charles Dickens
24) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (condensed version)
25) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams  (the answer is 42)
26) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
27) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 ) Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (hits close to home)
29) Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
30) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

31) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
32) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
33) Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
34) Emma by Jane Austen
35) Persuasion by Jane Austen
36) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
37) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (also in my bookshelf, waiting for me)
38 ) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
39) Memories of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
40) Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
41) Animal Farm by George Orwell
42) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (They’ve got to be kidding!  This is one of the WORST books of all time!!)
43) One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44) A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving (fantastic book)

45) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
46) Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
47) Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
48 ) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
49) Lord of the Flies by William Golding (big impact for a 16 year old)
50) Atonement by Ian McEwan
51) Life of Pi by Yann Martel
52) Dune by Frank Herbert

53) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
54) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
55) A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
56) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57) A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
58 ) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
59) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (great book)
60) Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

62) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
63) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
64) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
65) Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
66) On The Road by Jack Kerouac (I keep meaning to get to it)
67) Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
68 ) Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (Again, joking, right?)
69) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
70) Moby Dick by Herman Melville
71) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
72) Dracula by Bram Stoker (started – didn’t finish)
73) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
74) Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson (HJ keeps recommending it, but what is even better is “Mother Tongue” 
75) Ulysses by James Joyce
76) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
78 ) Germinal by Emile Zola
79) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
80) Possession by AS Byatt
81) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
82) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
83) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

84) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
85) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
86) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
87) Charlotte’s Web by EB White
88 ) The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
89) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90) The Faraway Tree Collection by Enid Blyton
91) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
92) The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93) The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
94) Watership Down by Richard Adams
95) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
96) A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
97) The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 ) Hamlet by William Shakespeare
99) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
100) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I have no idea who exactly came up with the list but it must have been a committee of some kind.  As others have pointed out, what about Mark Twain?  What about anything by Neal Stephenson (my current author idol)?  Anyway, it’s still an interesting list and makes you think about what you’ve read, what you read in school and what you’d pick up again today to read.  I read The Lord of the Flies at 16 in school and read it again just a few years ago.  It is just as haunting as ever.

I would like to recommend from this list, in particular:
A Prayer for Owen Meaney
The Time Traveler’s Wife
His Dark Materials
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

These are new-er books, excellently written.
Please don’t waste your time with The Da Vinci Code. What lousy writing!  Now, YOUR turn!

Casting Around

I’ve been expanding my podcast listening lately. I was kind of hooked on Brenda Dayne for a while but really needed a change. Here’s what I’ve been listening to. Maybe you will find them interesting too.

Knitting podcasts.
I’ve listened to a few of David Reedy’s Sticks and String podcasts and well, they just aren’t for me. David is a very nice Aussie, a teacher, and a knitter. From what I can tell he lives with cats in a place with a big garden with a big lawn that often needs mowing. He talks about the local knitting scene and about what he’s up to both knitting-wise and life-wise. He’s nice. He’s friendly. The music he plays is usually soft guitar music of some kind. But he just doesn’t get me excited about anything and Australia happenings are just not enough for me to relate to. Give him a try though. You might like his style a lot!

I actually started listening to knitting podcasts with Cast-On with Brenda Dayne. Nearly a year ago I thought I’d start by listening to a recent one and then work up from the earliest to the latest. I was really hooked on Brenda for a while. Her earliest podcasts were so interesting and she was really upbeat and enthusiastic with always something to say that I was happy to hear. Then, like real life, her podcasts started to go up and down. Sometimes she complained a lot. Sometimes she just didn’t seem interested in her own podcast. Sometimes she went through hard times in her life. It was really strange to listen to a podcast from 2 years ago where she ranted about introducing sponsors to her podcast but they had to be the “right” sponsors who believed in things she believed in and were eco-friendly, etc etc, then the next day listen to a current podcast where she had Saturn car ads stuck into the podcast. I was so turned off. I wondered “just who is Brenda Dayne?”.

When the latest podcast came out just a few days ago I decided to give her another try. I’m sure glad I did! Maybe she just needed to take a break and rest a while (she just had her gallbladder out) and get her mojo back. This latest podcast was the happy Brenda I used to know from previous editions. It was interesting, it had thoughtful bits, and useful bits as well. I especially liked the review and interview of the author of the book Shear Spirit. Also, her web site is vastly improved, a result of work done also during her surgery recovery. I have to say, Brenda, welcome back, in more ways than one! I will continue to tune in.

While taking a Brenda break, I started listening to Lime and Violet. If you want just plain fun, silliness, loud laughter, talk about the last drinking party as well as yarn porn and knitting projects, these girls are for you. They make me laugh out loud, which can be kind of startling while you are on the train at 7:45am. Here again, if you listen from the early versions, you will notice that Lime actually does exist. The more recent versions are really Violet and Karen most of the time. I learned, by posting a question on Ravelry asking “Does Lime really exist?”, that Lime is in grad school and taking a break from the podcast. She does make a guest appearance now and then. Karen is a very capable stand in and we get to hear about her love life as a bonus. If you can take the sometimes too silly carryings on, and don’t mind many sexual innuendos, give the girls a try. I like them a lot.

Other podcasts.
I like to think that I’m kind of a science nerd. I’m a science nerd wannabe. I wish I understood physics. I like to think I’m good at math. I always watched the science shows on tv when I was growing up and took Advanced Biology in highschool. I like to listen to NPR’s Science Friday. It’s definitely “science lite”, but still it’s fun and educational. Yesterday I listened to the Ig Noble prizes presentation given out at Harvard by a room full of science nerds. It was great. The previous edition I listened to was all about the science of beer brewing, also very interesting.
Given those two editions you’d think this podcast is only for university students, but it’s not. There’s a lot of variety and interesting stuff here. Give it a try.

There’s also NPR’s All Things Considered. This is the same as the radio program, which if you are in the US you probably know about. It’s general interest “articles” from a thoughtful point of view.  Here’s a link to all NPR’s podcasts, for your listening pleasure.

I’m also listening to One More Thing, which, despite the English title, is a Dutch Apple related podcast. Reading that last sentence I have to clarify that I’m not talking about famous Dutch Apple tarts, but rather Apple computer products discussed in Dutch with a Dutch point of view. You might know that I’m a serious Apple fangirl, and I’m always trying to improve my Dutch, so this is the perfect combination.

At home DB and I watch vodcasts together. Namely, we watch DiggNation and Bright. The guys from DiggNation should get together with the girls from Lime and Violet. They are the yin and yang of the same thing: different subjects, same beer. Bright is in Dutch, focusing on tech and design news. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, Bright might be interesting. Just follow the video.

And that’s it for now. I don’t have any time for more listening/watching! What are you listening to or watching via the pod/vodcasting world?

How Not to Knit on the Weekend

It really is winter.  We went into town early today (I got my hair cut and we bought small things for Sinterklaas tomorrow) and this afternoon I slept.  I haven’t slept in the afternoon in a long time.  I really needed it I guess and it’s dark so early that it felt like hibernating.  

I can’t knit but I can still read.  I read parts of Barbara Walker’s “Knitting from the Top”

I

I really hate sewing up garments once the knitting is finished so I do try to knit in the round every chance I get.  I also have picked up sleeves at the top and knit them as a narrowing tube to the cuff, but this book takes it even further and explains how to do a fitted sleeve in this manner using short rows.  Cool!

I also spent some time reading “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson.  I’ve also read “Crytonomicon” and “The Baroque Cycle” (a trilogy) by Stephenson.  If you read these books and don’t learn anything from them, you are a well read genius.  Stephenson himself must be a well read genius to be able to create such works.  

All of these books revolve around science, but the characters are so well formed that the science never gets in the way of a good story.  What a writing talent to be able to do that!  I’m about 3/4 through Anathem and can hardly put it down.  It’s not an easy book to begin.  It takes place on a planet like Earth, but with a very different history/future.  The population is divided into those who live in “maths” and devote their lives to studying theorics, and those who live outside (extramuros) and live ordinary lives much like you and I.  The protagonist is named Erasmus and lives as a fraa in a math.  You will spend the first 100 pages just getting to grips with the terminology and world that is constructed by Stephenson.  The first 100 pages are not easy reading, but stick with it because it’s well worthwhile!  As I read now I’m so used to the terms and way of speaking that I don’t think twice about it.  I can read about Erasmus wanting to plane someone for not using the rake in discourse, and I know exactly what that means.  I’ll have to search the net (or the “Ret” in Anathem) to see if someone has built a web site using the Anathem dictionary.  

I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t say much more than that Erasmus ends up on an adventure that is completely unexpected.  The more you read of this story, the more you learn about Arbe (the world like Earth) and the people in it, and the more you must stretch your brain to keep up with the greatest thinkers on Arbe.  Oh, and fight some bad guys too.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I give this book, at this moment, the highest 5* rating.  I love it.

If you want to challenge your brain, either with just a riveting story or with mind stretching science, or learning something about how the Netherlands became the powerhouse in finance that it was in the Golden Age, read Stephenson’s books.  The man is a genius writer, and I never would say that lightly.

Soft Icons and Bright Ideas

Here are some nice accents for your living room.  If you just can’t get enough of your Mac screen, you can cuddle up with these well known icons.

DB found these on Bright, a Dutch design magazine.  From the article on Bright, there’s a link to the guy’s site who is making and selling these.  Apparently he got the idea a couple of years ago and thus a business was born.  I like those kinds of stories where people just go for it and try to do something unique and make a living at the same time.

It’s too bad for all you English speakers that Bright is only in Dutch.  It’s a really cool, interesting, nice to look at magazine that is a combination of design, art and tech.  I should take more time to read the articles.  I should take more time reading Dutch PERIOD.

I’ve received 3 Dutch novels as gifts over the last year or two.  I haven’t opened them.  Reading Dutch is WORK and when I want to read for pleasure I don’t want to work at it.  I don’t know when reading in Dutch will stop being work and start being at least do-able without having to find a dictionary or a Dutchman every 2 minutes.  I suppose you will all tell me that I will have to work at it before it gets easier.  I know.  I think that the next time I go on a 2 week vacation on a beach I’ll take a Dutch book with me and give it a try.  DB will probably get sick and tired of me asking “what does this mean?” but he’s quicker than a dictionary!

Calling All Bookworms

DB is into anything info-techy.  So are his blog/twitter/ning buddies.  Via via via he led me to LibraryThing.  Oh man, this is an amazing site.  If you know Ravelry, then imagine Ravelry for books and book lovers.  If you don’t know Ravelry, then think of your books, linked to others with the same books, or types of books, linked to book suggestions and book reviews and info on authors, books, subjects, etc. etc. etc.  LibraryThing calls themselves the “world’s biggest book club”.  That’s pretty darn cool.

You can sign up and get in right away.  Start adding books immediately to your library.  You can add up to 200 books for free but after that you are charged a reasonable fee.  I’m going for the $25 for life.

And it appears to be a very cool community too.  Their latest blog post talks about a “flash mob” event at a small library north of Boston where they will converge, log all the books in the library into LibraryThing, eat pizza and go home.  Wow.  Too cool.  Read about it here. (OK, I’ve already written “cool” too many times in the one blog post.)

One warning:  it’s looking like the site is becoming a victim of its own success.  Sometimes it is down and messages say it’s overloaded.  It’s worth the wait though.

Amsterdam history in fiction

I’m in the middle of reading “Quicksilver” by Neal Stephenson. When I bought it, and its two sequels, I had never heard of the books or the author, but they are big thick books with small print – perfect! Now I can hardly put it down.

This book starts in the New World colonies, goes back in time to 17th century London, Paris, Amsterdam and various baronies in present day Germany. The characters range from Sir Isaac Newton, to Hooke, Leibniz, William of Orange, Louis XIV even. Plus a few fictional main characters who, if you aren’t so up on your 17th century history like me, you don’t know for sure they are fictional til you check it out.

This book is so well written that it makes history a fascinating read. Espcially when you live in one of the major cities. And who would have thought that William of Orange was so fond of blow jobs.

This last summer I also read “A Short History of Nearly Everything” which also has some of the same characters. If you are a science fan, and are also interested in European history, these books are fun reads and highly recommended.