The 'T' in T-Day is for Thanksgiving, not Turkey

I'm recovering from Thanksgiving today. This is the second year in a row that I've made Thanksgiving here in Amsterdam. It requires taking vacation, since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but it's worth it.

Last year I tried to get as close as possible to the traditional Thanksgiving: yams, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and so on. Of course no turkey, because 4 of the 6 people there were vegetarian. (To my continued annoyance, Dave was insistent that I was somehow inventing the concept of a "traditional Thanksgiving", or that it was a thing from the distant past - I know what Thanksgiving is, you bloody Scot!)

This year Nathalie suggested that since I've already gone the traditional route, I can move on and do something nice instead. "Goed idee!", I thought to myself. The problem is that I was still kind of fixated mentally on the "meal with a thing in the center" model - where the turkey would naturally sit. Judy has been trying to get me to cook Indian for her for ages, and suggested I do Indian for Thanksgiving. It turned out to be a fantastic idea, and everything just sort of fell together after that. I still tried to get some of the usual ingredients in the dinner, hence the pumpkin, cranberry, corn, peas, and potatoes.

The menu I ended up going for was:

  • Mango Lassi (Sweet or Salty available on request)
    Nobody wanted any, so these had to wait until breakfast on Saturday morning.;)

  • Beer
    I wanted Indian beer, but it turns out to be really hard to get in Amsterdam. Eventually I found some at a beer store. I asked the guy if they had any Indian beer, and he said, "Kind of - we have Cobra but it comes from Poland now." Good enough for me!

  • Wine

  • Cola Light
    Judy is addicted to Cola Light.

  • Pistachio Ice Cream
    Nobody saved enough room for ice cream! Oh well, it will keep.

  • Gulab Jamuns (or something like it...)
    I didn't really feel like frying these up, so my plan was to use olie ballen with the sweet sauce. The problem was that an olie bal is about 10x as big as the balls in gulab jamuns! I ended up cutting the olie ballen up and forcing everyone to try them - to good effect, but Wietse was the only one who had seconds.

So, no turkey, there were no family arguments, nobody fell asleep on the sofa watching (American) football, and we didn't go around the table saying what we were grateful for, but otherwise I think it was a pretty authentic Thanksgiving!

I can hardly wait until next year...

Copy Control Sucks

I've decided to rip my CD's in lossless format. This means that the bits on the hard disk should be the same ones that are on the plastic discs.

I'm using the FLAC format. It looks like it's going to take about 120 gigabyte for all of the CDs.

One recent issue is that some of the newer discs have the following on their cases:

"This disk contains Copy Control technology. On some equipment, for example car CD players, playback problems may be encountered."

The Wikipedia has an entry on Copy Control. Basically it was an attempt to keep people from ripping the CDs to MP3. The only thing I can think of is... WTF?!?! Why else would I buy a CD other than to listen to it on my MP3 player?!?

Anyway, one of the CD drives I have was able to read these with a minimum of problems, so it's not tragic. But these sorts of shenanigans means I have no guilt when I download music illegally. HAAR!!!

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    annoyed annoyed
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Weekend Oddities

A few things from the weekend...

Judy and I were cycling back from some shopping on Saturday, when we came across a film set on one of the bridges. It turns out they are filming a new Anne Frank movie, and since her house is in the neighborhood they are doing some shots in the city. The really weird thing is that they had fake rain machines - hardly necessary in Amsterdam in November! ;)

Went to the Mika concert with Judy, Nathalie, and Wietse on Sunday night - fantastic! Best... concert... EVER!

After Mika we stopped in for a drink at Cafe de Prins since it was on the way home for all of us. There was a strange poet there, with tattoos on his face. He tried to sell us his book, but I wasn't that interested. Wietse spent a while talking to him; I think he may end up writing a story for the newspaper he works for.

Running into Acquaintances IV

Went to Soundgarden last night to check out the renovations there - it was closed Monday to Wednesday. We were all quite thirsty! Martin (the owner) likes Mirjam, and really likes Nathalie. So we got the whole story of the planned renovations.

Anyway, after a few hours a couple of old colleagues popped in. An unlikely pair - and they seemed quite shocked to see us there. (Which is odd, since I'm there all the time.) They just said "hello" and didn't join us. Nat, Mir, and I are quite suspicious.

Running into Acquaintances II and III

I was walking home from the grocery store last week, when someone came by on his bicycle and said, "are you Shane?". It was Roger - a guy I used to work with 5 or 6 years ago at the RIPE NCC. It turns out he lives in the Jordaan a right near where I do. We chatted a while about ex-colleagues and he was off.

A slightly weirder occurrence is last Saturday night when a few of us were cycling through the red light district and decided we needed food. (Yes that seems weird, but we were just on the way back from Museum N8.)We stopped in a snackbar and Nathalie turned out to know the guy working there. He also works at a snackbar near where Nathalie used to live. Everyone who works there is from Egypt, and apparently all very friendly and nice.
  • Current Music
    Plain White T's

OpenDocument format is teh suX11@!!!1

One complaint about Microsoft is that they use their proprietary formats to help maintain their dominance of the software industry. An example is the closed Microsoft Word document format.

The open source community has produced an alternative format, the OpenDocument format. It's an ISO standard, and anyone can use it freely.

Normally I use Writer to edit documents. But I decided to try KWord from KOffice, since it is much faster, and... why not? I like to use new stuff. :)

But KWord can't export to PDF (it can use KDE's "print to PDF" option, but my printing is kind of broken when I'm not at home). So I saved in OpenDocument format, and imported into Writer. No love - the formatting is totally broken! I tried to load into AbiWord, but it doesn't understand OpenDocument format at all.

In the end, I saved it as Microsoft Word document - which all 3 programs load and save more-or-less accurately.

5 Days of Hard Core Partying

I'm sitting here on the sofa trying to recover a bit from the last 5 nights. The idea was to go to 5 Days Off, and dance from 23:00 until 06:00 every night. It didn't quite go according to plan, but close.

The Scissor Sisters had a concert at the Westergasfabriek last Wednesday, and I went with some friends. Conversation:

"The singer has a great ass. I bet he's gay though."

"I think they're all gay, even the woman."

"Well, I guess that explains why there are so many gay people here."

Of course, it's Amsterdam. There's never any reason for there to be a lot of gay people at a show! In fact, I went to see Björk with Judy last night, and there were a lot more gay people there.

For some reason the crowd wasn't really excited at the Scissor Sisters show, but in the last half hour or so they finally got into it. I don't know why the crowd wasn't so into it, because they were pretty good.

I'm not a huge Björk fan, but she was entertaining, and the crowd was definitely into her. Maybe I'll end up as a fan after all... ;)

Also in the Westergasfabriek this weekend was the Live Earth. The entertainment was mediocre, but it was nice to lie in the sun and listen to music. Not so helpful for the Dutch, because in fact they already tend to use energy saving lightbulbs, and cycle or use public transport to commute, and recycle almost everything. Good for the Americans to hear though!

As for the rest, it really was hard-core dancing until the wee hours. I've discovered that even at the hippest parties a lot of DJs suck, but also that drum & bass can actually be pretty good.

Unfortunately all that partying has taken a toll. Fortunately I took the days as vacation, so I can watch TV while the cold I caught goes away. Rock on!

A Good Time Was Had by All

Well, a good time was had by almost all... those who didn't have fun know who they are! ;)

I had my 35th birthday party last Saturday. Paul took a lot of photos, which you can see at his site:

I'm still recovering a bit... the timestamps on those photos is quite correct, and the party went on a few hours after Paul left to go dancing.

Casualties included:
  • cabinet door handle
  • shoe rack
  • champagne glass
  • ceiling lamp
  • freezer compartment
Most of the damage is repaired, and major cleaning operations are mostly complete.

During the party, we had a hard time keeping the beer cold in the refrigerator, so someone (and you know who you are, Nathalie) had the idea to put them in the freezer to cool quicker. Everyone was concerned they would freeze, but we thought, "of course we'll be really, REALLY careful and remember!" Actually this was almost correct, and someone (maybe also Nathalie, but we're not so sure about that) took all of them out... except for one fiendish beer that hid behind a box of frozen peas and exploded.

So if you visit, any ice cream you have that tastes like beer is strictly accidental, and is not a Dutch delicacy. Yet.

There were also some candles lit. I noticed one that I had forgotten to put out... after I had slept, been out briefly, come home, and been cleaning for an hour or so. Whoops. I am indeed lucky.

Was good to see my friends. Next year maybe something less quiet...

Clumsy Reflexes

I'm pretty clumsy.

Mind you, I'm not extremely clumsy, but I tend to drop things, bump into things, set things down in the wrong place so they fall, and so on.

A lot of my friends are clumsy too. I think this might be because coordinated people are spending all their time playing sports or riding motorcycles or juggling knives or whatever it is that they do, so we uncoordinated people end up hanging out together.

One thing I have noticed is that clumsy people tend to have really good reflexes, of a sort.

The usual scenario is this: you bump into a table, a glass near the edge falls off, you swoop down and catch the glass right before it hits the ground and shatters.

My theory is that since we klutzes are constantly causing problems, we get really good at fixing them.
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