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2006-07-29 14:22

Almost off!

But there is a minor detail: can EnglandandWales wrap up the Pakistani second innings in time for us to jubilate onderweg?

For some reason we suspect a campsite in the middle of Danish nowhere isn't going to be the best place to keep up with cricketnews.

We have just had to dribble some Cherman for the OU, and we're taking some history readnings with us, but that's the way it is: the University of Openness has been relegated down our priorities this time out, since we have Dutch to learn and Dutch biers to drink.

We're hoping to get a Bastei Chicago (prohibition-era retropulp! In Cherman!!) krimiblad on the way through Chermany, though, and that has to count as homeworks.

Incidentally, there are now no fewer than three (3) Dutch magazines devoted to popular wetenschap journals, covering a diverse range of Things You Always Wanted To Know About. The (populiste) Qwest and the (geekier) Kijk have been joined by the shiny new Triv, so we expect to come back from holiday with unprecedented expertise in dinosaurs, flying cars and modern forensic methods. And Dutch, for sure. (We also have some new Dutch Cherry Cottons, hoorah, which we now read pretty comfortably, hoorah hoorah. But since when was "handy" a Dutchisme?)

2006-07-22 14:33

The Great Outdoors!

Which is how we would translate "Vrijbuiten" if we had too. What it is, is a camping version of Ikea, except that the layout is apparently arranged by chimpanzees on hard drugs, so that it is next to impossible to find stuff.

Having already bought a tent and borrowed some chairs, we only needed a table, a groundsheet, a stove and gas, a kettle and some pans, a coffie-filter holder, a lamp and paraffin, a pump for the airbed, a mallet, a parasol-base, some camping herbs and an anti-mosquito candle.

Our total investment to date comes in at around EUR 250, without campsite fees or diesels, but campsites are around EUR 20 a night, so we, for one, still consider this a relatively inexpensive holiday framework.

Whether it is a sensible one remains to be seen, of course.

2006-07-17 17:37

Cherman goth touriste

We never wear sandals or shorts, having no particular desire to look like a Cherman touriste.

Except that now we do. What's more, they're all black, as is our T-shirt. We're not just any old Cherman touriste; we're a Cherman goth touriste.

2006-07-15 11:35

Going native: special Danmark edition!

We are going native, or at least having native-going thrust upon us! We have bought a tent, and we're going to drive off to camp in Abroad on holiday, like a real Dutchperson. (It isn't true that you have to take your own potatoes, incidentally - today's sophisticated and cosmopolitan Dutchperson is quite happy to eat the local potatoes.)

We drew the line at driving down to Frankrijk, though, since it is more than hot enough right here, and we are accordingly going to a quiet and rural spot in Danmark (directions: head east, and turn left after Bremen).

We're looking forward to it a great deal, for sure: having been an Engleesh up to now, we have never been on a camping holiday. Apparently, the trick is to do large quantities of nothing, until it is time to eat and/or drink. We just hope we can finally find out if the Informationbladet is as good as everyone says it is, which could be a challenge given that all our Danish dictionaries are currently in storage.

2006-07-09 19:57

Our Business, its causes

Since we were last here (sorry for the delay) we've been on a nice long bike ride, bought a house, played foopball again, opened a bank account (which took bloody forever), decided to go on holiday in a vair vair small camping in the middle of Danish nowhere (tents and drivings - we are so very Dutch!) and drunk some delicious bier.

Also (per Monday Review of Stuff) we've bought a Van Dale Pocketwoordenboek for Nederlands als tweede taal ("second langwidge"), which has so far looked like a successful adaptation of the might Micro Robert for French.

Oh, the house? Three (3) floors, 120 square metres, garden, bathrooom with actual bath - hoera!, about 20 minutes bike-ride from town, and very affordable considering.

We'll move in after the weddning, which we admit is a bit of a wait, but what can you do?

2006-07-02 16:01

Why we are so very tired

It was wadloping. The first hour out, in particular, was just trudging through ankle- (or sometimes calf-) deep mud. When we got waist-high water and hard sand it was a distinct improvement, but our ankles are hurting from overwork of our pulling-shoes-out-of-mud muscles.

We (and our driver) opted out of the ten km hike back to the village, and took the tractor-trailer back for EUR 2.50, and we'd do exactly that next time too.

The Wadden islands are certainly very pretty, but if we feel an urge to return this year we'll go by boat. But as if the wadloping, foopball and cycling weren't enough, we're also planning to try some gyms - our lifestyle is too sedentary (especially after exercise, though), and our youthful bounciness is a distant, if fond, memory.

In other news, allez les bleus veillards! We were in bedt for that, in honour of today's 05:15 appointment with mud, but still. (We missed the Eng-ger-lnd match too, but that was because we didn't care very much. Our theory is that stinky old Eng-ger-lnd are going nowhere until they get a competent coach, and they get a competent coach when the red-top trashbladets renounce their solemn vow to make the incumbent's life as wretched as possible, and that will be a cold day in hell.)

2006-06-28 19:35


Dr Who is very good, isn't it? (We're still watching the first new series, with subtitles.)

Subtitles are very good too: our ears aren't what they were, and our Dutch is already good enough to take up some slack.

While we're on the subject of things we like, soup for lunch is a winner too. We like to dunk our samwidges in it particularly, which Madame says is very Dutch.

And the municipality says we have a So(cial)Fi(scal) number, so we should be able to open an account of banking to put our many euros in, and not before time. (We assume they're going to start wanting to pay us at some point.)

Oooh ooh! And we're maybe going to Chermany on Saturday, just because we can. We have a slightly un-(stereotypically)-Dutch fondness for Chermany, and they are pencilled in as our team of choice for the foopball WK if France (in whose excellent bleus we admit to having had doubts) don't make it any further. Those silly Espanish sossages, though! Not that we saw it, of course: the 2100 games finish after our bedttime, so we don't generally bother.

And the quality of luncheonsossage! We love the luncheonsossage! (Which is after all just as well.)

2006-06-28 19:32

Better Bier Bargain

It is now EUR 3.49 for 24 300ml bockles, which works out at ~EUR 0.15 each, or about 10 of your silly Engleesh pence. It isn't good, exactly, but it's OK and it's very very cheap.

2006-06-27 18:28


We are currently rewriting a 400+-line Perl script written by someone or someones apparently allergic to modularity in forms up to and especially including subroutines.

We hereby dub this style Perltran, in honour of the many Fortran programmers who did so much to pioneer it. Our particular specimen is surprisingly lucid and fun to refactor, though, and it's all to do with stars and how can that be bad?

2006-06-26 20:36


When we drove out of town at sparrow-fart this morning, the night's thunderstorm had blown down all the Oranje bunting.

The Dutch word for the day is nederlag ("defeat").

2006-06-24 17:23


It is the mighty weekend! It is also the first time we've been able to walk at all comfortably after rashly agreeing to play foopball on Wednesday after work. We're hoping to be fit for next week, for sure. Foopball may be a silly game, but since we commute by car (vroom vroom) we don't get much exercise otherwise.

Next weekend we've agreed to a 0500 start for a wadloping excursion, what fun! (It is wading through mud to an island, at low tide.) And we finally tracked down the appropriate footwear (cheap canvas basketball boots with ankle-high lacing) in the shops today, and we have also picked up our many spectacles from teh municipal opticians, so we are scoring quite well on Doing Stuff, so long as that stuff is spending moneys.

We're also trying to buy a house, but it's proving slightly tricky. We can't decide between out-of-town fambly houses and smaller urban bovenhuisen, and we can't find much in either category we like and can afford. For a bovenhuis, which is necessarily gardenless, we want at least a balcony to sit on on the three (3) days a year it isn't grey and drizzly here. And we also want a proper bath. Showers are perfickly OK for getting clean, but baths are for thinking in, and our thinking has certainly suffered from being without one for the last couple of years.

Still, we still have some delicious cheap biers to cushion the blow of Zweden's hapless foopballers losing, we've got an Intergalactic and a Courrier International from the postoffice/newsagent down the road, and we've taken advantage of Madame's absence to consume a tasty slab of cow, with some more greasy comfort food to follow tonight: minced beef wrapped in bacons. Stampot and the vile kroketten aside, we don't really have much of a problem with meat-and-potatoes Dutch food, especially when it comes with some delicious bier.

We do regret, however, the slump in EnglandandWales's cricketing performance in our absence. Make a bit of an effort, chaps!

2006-06-19 11:08

If it isn't a birthday it's a wedding

We had a wedding and a birthday at the weekend. And today we're sat on our arse waiting for the delivery persons to deliver our wordly goods and chattels and especially our chattels. (We don't know what chattels are, and we're keen to find out.)

They are pathologically bad at communication, so it's looking like we have to take the whole day off work, chiz chiz.

2006-06-17 17:48

Biertje bargain bonanza!

24 shiny new bierbockles (~30 cl) for EUR 5.45 (+bockledeposit)! We could get to like this place, for sure.

In other news, there isn't really any other news. Except that we made our debut in Friesland for the wedding yesterday. It is very flat, is about all we learned.

2006-06-16 17:31


We broke with our habit and custom and watched the Zweden game last night. Zlatan is horribly out of form, isn't it? We personally want the Zweden to go through, preferably at Eng-ger-lnd's expense, but we're less than completely optimistic about that.

More to the point, we've enrolled ourself in the work foopball squad, so today (which we've taken off to look at houses and stuff and other stuff) we went shopping for kit - we haven't turned out since the days of our PhD, where we broke all records for ineptitude as a leftback in the Mechanical Engineering postgrad team. We're not much of a foopballer, and time is extending our girth and sapping our speed and stamina, so we'll have to see.

We're going to a wedding receptie tonight, though, so we have to watch the Oranje tussle with the Cote d'Ivoire in a bit so as to have a chance at conversations. We're pretending to hope that someone other than Robben gets involved in the attack, for sure. (The local bladet things van Nistelroy could still come good, bless 'em.)

We should mention in passing just how much we like having a shiny new newspaper in our mailbox every morning (except Sunday, of course) - it was there yesterday before 0630, when we straggled down to check, and it is even guaranteed to be there before 0700, and the whole system (like many things here, although by no means all) strikes us as very civilised indeed.

Still, it is now nearly time for the foopball, so we must paint ourself orange and wave some flagging.

2006-06-15 19:05

Gigabit bricolage!

The thing about radio telescopes is that they don't half churn out the data.

Processing the data is what my institute does, on behalf of astronomers everywhere. The thing about that, though but, is that you can't just buy that sort of data-processing software or hardware off the shelf, so it's all inhouse and in many places very cutting edge. But the thing about that is that large and important parts of the system involve heterogeneous collections of programs and scripts doing stuff and other stuff, and while it is certainly better than some of the random research code that knocks around, there is still considerable weirditude and the overall workflow involves a great deal of specialist knowledge and a fair bit of manual interventions.

And since I am by no means an astronomer by training or inclination, I am interested in two (2) particular things: the idea of software as a kind of heir to Weberian bureaucracy (especially since all the software I have been hired to write is essentially bureaucratic) and the anthropology of knowledge dissemination, much of which is informal (including much of the formal stuff: the home-growwn Python interface to classic AIPS (don't ask) is called ParselTongue and forms part of the ALBUS project).

The other thing about all this is that there really ought to be a standard environment for component-based programming across heterogeneous langwidges and architectures. CORBA fizzled out, .NET has no traction (although we may need to see about that - it's actually popular with many Linux weenies) and the Grid is a mass of baroque buzzwords and vaporware that refuses to congeal (so far as we can tell) into a something that could be used to do somethings.

The other other thing is that our first year maths-for-physicistes course (one of the few we actually liked) has come in more than somewhat handy for debugging some of the stuff we have to read. If we'd liked an electromagnetisme course we'd be fairly wizardly by now, but we didn't. (We found, while googling for a something, a page on advice on how to become an astrophysiciste. Bizarrely it neglected the excellent strategy of hating physics and falling in love with a Dutch zweetie and needing a chop.)

2006-06-14 19:27

Why we are so very intermittent

We're fine, for sure, but we get up at 0600, which was certainly not our habit or custom, commuting at some length, working (it's to do with stars, which are big shiny things with complicated mathematical properties. And it's also to do with C++, which is very different from what it was when we first acquired a dislike for it) and it is all a bit tiring, and after dinner it is time for the news and nearly time for bedt.

Anyway, some random Dutch facts:

  • mustard (and some other things) come in glass jars which turn into drinking glasses after use.
  • there's a three (3) week wait for glasses at a typical opticians. (In Blighty they're oftenest while-you-wait, these days.)
  • everyone at work takes samwidges and buys a 50 cent bowl of soup to go with them
  • there's an Official Coffee Break in the morning, which is actually rather jolly
  • all the software persons except me are (native) Dutchspeakers, but now they mostly talk ze Engleesh at breaks on the grounds that we are there.
  • Stars! Astrophysics! It is all very grand, for sure. It's slightly ironic that we've come to acquire a sort-of career in science, given that we stopped actually wanting to be a scientist when we were about 19.

We've already forgotten what miles and pounds sterling are for. Not for us, is largely what, for sure. (We miss pints - the Dutch don't mostly do metric pints (AKA half-litres), because that would be too Cherman.)

But we're very very very tired.

2006-06-14 19:42

Why we are so very intermittent (take 2)

(Sigh - we just lost a big post on this subject.)

Executive summary: we get up at 0600 to beat traffic, we drive, we contemplate stars and their many radio-waves, we have an Official Coffee Break in the morning, we take samwidges for lunch and buy soup to go with it, we work and work and drive again, and then it's time for dinner, TV news in Dutch and bedt.

We'll be back with more details, for sure, but not before sleepybyes.


2006-06-11 15:10

Vroom, hold the Vreesman

We have a car, as we may have mentioned before, and we are now pretty much competent to drive it, vroom vroom.

This is a good thing, since tomorrow we start working on stars in Bungaloo. Today there is very much orange foopball, and all this week there has been heel veel foopball in the bladets, but we really can't be bothered with that. It is a silly game, however round the ball may be.

We might be tempted to forgive the foopball its considerable foolishness for the sake of the very hot weathers it has brought with it, but it is hotter than we happen to like it, so we don't.

We're getting better at Dutch, too; we watch an occasional TV, for educational purposes only of course, and we are starting to get the hang of what they're on about, except when it's Belgian TV. It must be said, Dutchpersons have more TV than they can reasonably hope to watch: our bog-standard cable package has eight (10) Dutch channels, plus two (2) each of Belgian, Cherman, and Blightish, which latter are BBCs 1 ("one") and 2 ("two"). Belgian TV has Monty Python reruns, which we like, but it has persons speaking Belgian, which we haven't yet got much of an ear for. Local dialects are part of Phase Two (2) of our masterplan.

But for now, it is the last day of our unemployed holidays, and we have some urgent loafing to catch up with.

2006-06-09 10:40

Why I am so v ery delicious

Ask the mosquitoes, they're the experts. Unfortunately, we don't speak mosquito or Dutch, and mosquito Dutch is probably harder than both, so this is left as an exercise for the interested Varied Reader.

2006-06-07 13:11

If we're not in Kansas anymore, why is everything so flat?

We have arrived, and to prove it we're here!

Currently we're on holiday, by which we mean doing five (5) weeks of Open University backlog and writing another essay all in the space of three (3) days, while also treating our zweetie and her cherished little nest to the many delights of our Personal Entropy Field (with studification boosters turned up to full).

We are subscribed to AD (a step up from De Telegraaf) and in a spirit of principled sociological incomprehension, we are entirely baffled by the way that one's level of syntax and vocabulary apparently has a profound effect on the scope of one's expected interest in the news - the persons at AD have accurately gauged our reading level, but we are considerably less interested in foopball and "human interest" domestic news than they appear to have been expecting.

(We increasingly feel we should have trained as a sociologiste, since we have the considerable advantage of finding almost nothing in society intuitively obvious.

Of course, the OU's fee-structure for overseas students may very well yet reorient our study path towards cultuurweteschap with the local chaps, which is close enough for rock and roll.)

But now we have an essay to pretend to have been writing before our zweetie gets back from town, then we have a left-handed driving lesson, then some social coffees, so we must get on.

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