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2007-04-12 19:35


1. Prinsess!

It's a prinsess!

More specifically, it is Willem-Alexander and Maxima of the Netherlands shiny new baby dochtertje! More specifically still, it is apparently not a sufficient reason to get a day off work. Bah!

2. Engleesh!

It is future-proof!

Riding the crest of globalization and technology, English dominates the world as no language ever has, and some linguists are now saying it may never be dethroned as the king of languages.

We, on the other hand, are of the opinion that Most Fashionable Language status can change hands in a generation, although we don't expect that it will in the next one.

We've personally encountered Danes and Dutches who really genuinely speak negligible Engleesh, and this is to say nothing (which is plenty) of Spanishes, Italianses and the French. And that's just Yoorp!

3. The ECHR is not an EU body.

We repeat, the European Court of Human Rights is not an EU body. The European Convention on Human Rights is also not an EU convention, although all EU member states are in fact signatories.

Compare, why don't you, a Slashdotter's take

A Welsh university employee has successfully sued the UK government in the EU court of human rights over monitoring of her personal internet use from work.

with its source

A Welsh university employee has successfully sued the UK government in the European Court of Human Rights over surveillance that was conducted while the woman was an employee at Carmarthenshire College.

This sort of thing really annoys us, but there isn't actually anything useful we can do about it. Hence, we blog.

4. Travel!

Trips to Blighty, Boston, NYNY and Milan are coming up. Before that, we have an essay on "democratic deficits" to write for the University of Openness. (The course is better than the questions, so far, and thank goodness for that.)

It is reasonable to assume that bloggage will continue to be sporadic and light.

5. Landschap

It is exceptionally pretty in the morning mist, here. It is not, however, very reassuring when you are doing 120km/h with Dutch drivers slaloming around you.

6. The majesty of Eurotopics

Where else, we ask or enquire, could you possibly find an abstract of a Slovenian newspaper article starting

The president of the Slovenian Association of History Teachers, Andreja Valic Zupan, considers the idea of a common European history book.

A common EU history textbook is a fantastic idea, although it might be better to wait for a few more Balkan countries to join the Union to enhance the spectacle yet further.

2007-03-25 16:01

The Scheveningen Declaration

We have been to Scheveningen twice, most recently on the occasion of our honeymoon, and we have something to declare!

We declare that it would be really quite somewhat amusing if the EU signed its next big treaty at Scheveningen. Then, whenever the Chermans subsequently referred to it, the Dutch should pretend not to know what they're talking about.

Fifty more years of peace ensue!

PS: Happy Birthday, EU!

PPS: We're spending today, as we spent yesterday, writing an essay on intergovernmentalism in Yoorp. It is drier than a Belgian's towel, for sure - we have never suffered so much while squeezing out 1500 words.

PPPS: We recently discovered that the Maastricht treaty of Maastricht says that we're allowed to stand for the European Parliament right here in the Netherlands without any of that irritating mucking around with citizenship. Since the Nasty Right party here is currently pretending to be offended that some public servants have dual nationality, we're actually quite tempted to start the Partij Voor Buitenlanders ("We only have one nationality! How'd you like them appels?"). The programme: find a pretext to make Britain to hold a referendum on EU membership (and good riddance to the lot of them); invade and occupy Norway and Iceland; the usual.

2007-03-18 19:49

Ich bin keine Oldenburger!

Ah, good old Oldenburg! Good old Chermany!

The day began somewhat too early after a zaterdag excursion, and it was not especially improved by the appearance of the Bundespolizei at the border. They weren't after silly Engleeshes like ourself, but they did search plenty of bags (we didn't have one) and kept our bladder (full of take-away coffee from the station) waiting for a good ten (10) minutes before hauling off one of the passengers to for a less-entertaining trip than they had presumably been expecting.

Oldenburg, though, is very good. It is by no means a destination we would recommend to anyone who couldn't just take a bus there, but for those of us who can it is an excellent choice: it is a city, and it is in Chermany, and this is all we ask of it as well as being all it is in a position to deliver.

We ate Schnitzel, and we drank bier, and we shopped for Cherry Cottons and for Sptzle graters and discount gin (five euros something a bottle!) and sent postcards and drank more bier and entertained the natives with our slightly idiosyncratic grasp of the Cherman langwidge.

Then we got the bus home to the Nederlands and an early night. (The Dutch police did not disturb our many slumbers on the way.)

Chermany is a lot of fun, for sure. We like in particular Grand Cafs, where cakes and Schnitzels and coffees and biers (and their various consumers) mingle on equal footing. And we like Cherman krimibooklets and horrorbooklets and scifibooklets, and we quite like pretending to speak Cherman. We're less keen on the "nur beim Post" availability of postcard stamps, but nowhere's perfect.

We were also somewhat surprised by the lack of bikes - Ostfriesland is just as flat as Nederland, but without the super-enlightened town planning, and it turns out (not to our particular surprise) that this is an important factor in promoting bicycle use.

As an extra bonus, when we got up this afternoon there was Dutch cricket on the telly - they took something of a tonking from Seth Efrika, sadly, but did so in highlights with commentary gloriously provided by a Dutch former player (with Glamorgan, we assume, although they called it "Wales") and some even more gloriously bewildered chat with the non-specialist host of the sporting show, who did not seem to entirely grasp the enormity of the Dutch failure to select a specialist spinner. Silly Dutches!

2007-03-11 18:33

Dagje Duitsland

We're going to Chermany next Saturday for a day trip just because we can! It is most exciting!

In honour of this development, we have dug out our original Cherry Cotton Krimihfte (from Mnchkin last September), and we are discovering that despite the best efforts of the University of Openness, we still mostly can't read it.

In other news, we are slightly hungover today. We bet that wouldn't have happened if we had been drinking Cherman biers, though.

2007-03-08 20:29

Subtitle Smrgaaspost

1. Things that don't go together

Subtitles and spaghetti. We saw some of a documentary on Murakami while eating spaghetti on the sofa. It was not an aesthetic triumph. (We were between tables for one night only, honest. The shiny new expensive solid oak table is supporting the missus's laptop as we type.)

2. Rights of passage.

We went to see Das Leben der Anderen, the celebrated Cherman film about the GDR's infamous Stasi and their many snoopings.

However, our country of residence is the Nederlands, where they subtitle in Dutch. Subtitles have long been our true second langwidge, of course, and we are delighted report that this is also so when they are in the Dutch. This is more than something of a relief, since we are an arthouse cinema sort of person at heart. (We just like that stuff, we can't help it.)

3. Not subtitles, really

The other last two times we've been to the arthouse cinema (see?) we have been treated to lengthy introductions by local academic types. In, needless to add, also Dutch. We can cope with that, too. (We'd just as soon not, but them's apparently the breaks.)

4. In which we are the subtitles.

Some of the persons in our new level-three Dutch class are very good. (Not entirely coincidentally, all of these are Chermans. Dutch may not be at all like Cherman, good heavens no whatever can you be thinking, but apparently Cherman is at least a little bit like Dutch.)

Others are less precocious. Our new habit, when these latter are reading in class the reading they were set for homework but neglected to do, is to read elsewhere in the shiny new Dutchbook we have this year and to supply subtitles on request. (As in all langwidge classes, the teacher offers the problem words to the class, and the Chermans are usually reluctant to offer an Engleeshing.)

5. Thank you for not mumbling

Sadly, most of the TV we watch is American. (Dutch TV is far from distinguished by its excellence.) Even more sadly, American TV is abundantly contaminated by method-acting types, and we can't always figure out what they're mumbling about. On those occasions we now have Dutch subtitles to take up the slack, and very grateful we are too.

2007-03-01 19:38

Life's great mysteries department

What is Finnish for Buitendienst?

Susanne Btjer from Germany was wondering why a Finnish public-transit bus, which she saw in 2005, had the word "Kaffepaussi" displayed on its automated destination display. Do Finnish buses really take coffee breaks? Btjer learned in the end that the German word for coffee break had acquired an additional, slightly different, meaning in Finnish: "out of order."


2007-02-13 20:05

everything you wanted to kneeuw about sneeuw

The interesting thing is that Continental types (now including us) do not shrug off sneeuw as a trivial detail that will magically neglect to cause kaos.

What we do is work from home or leave work early to avoid it, and drive with some caution if none of that works. Hence - and only hence - the prevailing lack of chaos. If you weren't expecting it, kaos will ensue, as readers of this blog will be particularly well aware.

In other news, our father-in-law had a routine operation and an unfortunate set of anaesthetically-induced complications which have compromised his otherwise spicy brein. This being a deal of some bigness, we spent most of last week at the schoonhuis supporting the Countess supporting her mother visiting her husband.

Which is the latest excuse for our internet inactivities, but it is after all a good one.

2007-02-03 16:36

Why we are so very cultivated

Our local university is hosting a series of lectures on and especially films from Eastern Yoorp in a programme entitled "Borders of Europe".

We went to see the unimaginably slow, dialogue-free Hungarian chucklefest Hukkle last Wednesday, since it is only twenty minutes by bike into town, and it reminded us that we do indeed live in a city which is both a university city and a provincial capital and very nice too.

Then today we went for a five-minute bike ride to the next town from our leetle quiet suburb and discovered there an excellent eetcafe past a handful of fields with a handful of sheeps in each.

We are therefore and accordingly hosting our own salon series on Boundaries of Urbanity. It is very nice!

2007-01-25 18:11


At last!

Duizenden automobilisten zitten nog altijd vast als gevolg van de zware sneeuwval in Frankrijk, Duitsland en de Alpenlanden. Alleen al op de Franse A6 moesten 6000 mensen de nacht doorbrengen in de auto, in sporthallen, scholen en bij welwillende bewoners langs de route.

Thousands of drivers are still stucj after heavy sneeuwfalls in France, Chermany and the Alpinecountries. On the French A6 alone, 6000 persons spent the night in their cars, sportshalls, schools and with well-wishing inhabitants along the road.

(We've had sneeuw here in Groningen, too, but so far no chaos to report.)

2007-01-19 18:33

I fought the storm, and the storm won

We were supposed to be in Glasgow this weekend. We got to Schiphol, after some trein-issues, but our flight was cancelled, as were pretty much all the others.

By the time we'd had some belated lunch, all the treins were cancelled too. About the only thing that wasn't cancelled was the bier, so we drank some bier and found a comparatively warm and quiet corner of the airport to sleep in.

And happily this morning the treins were running again, so after twenty-five (25) hours on the road we had finally managed to get nowhere.

And having got there we're planning to stay for a bit.

2007-01-09 22:00

If only we'd known...

The Next Dutch Class Up is from 17:00 to 18:30. When you get up at 06:00, that's quite late.

Our new goal is to get promoted into a more civilised slot ASAP.

2007-01-07 19:37

Why we are so very studious

With one lot of course results finally in, we're now supplied with Stuff and ready to start our new course Governing Europe - certainly essential for any future Emperor of the once glorious continent.

As a bonus, we're allowed to use external material this year, and we're expected to keep up with breaking developments. As an unbonus, the Lexis-Nexis supplied via the University of Openness includes exactly zero (0) Zwedish newspapers, one (1) Danish one (Politiken, when we'd much rather have Informationbladet) and even neglects most of the quality Dutch press.

Is this the case at your various ends, Varied Reader? And if so, is there a less useless alternative? Our langwidges of choice may not qualify as European heavyweights, there's more to life than Cherman and French, isn't it?

Still, the course looks to be mostly good wholesome fun: first up (after the obligstory but slightly flabby chunk of "Contested Identities" verbiage) is the Common Agricultural Policy in some, although surely not all, its gory details.

On which note, does anyone know of a scholarly or high-journalistique comparison of the industrialisation of pig-farming in the Netherlands (an EEC founder member, of course) and Danmark (a later recruit)?

(Our current pig of choice is from Chermany via our wife's brother's girlfriend's father's neighbours, hoorah, and it is considerably more tasty than it is in compliance with EU food-export directives, but don't tell anyone we told you so, eh?)

2007-01-07 19:21

Hoppuke uproundning!

So Anders "Anders" Jacobsen had the best of his tournee-wide huvud-to-kopf with rival wunderkind Gregor Schwietensauer, while Schwietensauer salvaged the consolation of victory in the kopf-to-huvud today at Bischofshof.

Janne "The Manne" Ahonen made eighth overall, just pipping his old rival Adam Malysz -- but is this triumph og youth the Glorious Dawn of a new hoppning era, or just another flash in the pan? (Remember Soarin' Sigurd Pettersen? Won the Four Schansens one year and then disappeared without much of a trace.)

And can the Russians consolidate on Somethingov's fine showing today, and will the French really continue with a sport theyre so consistently rubbish at?

Tune in next this year to find out!

2007-01-05 16:34

Oh, the municipality!

One of our many chores in town today was to finally switch our Glorious British driving license for the grotty Abroadian equivalent. This has to be done within one (1) year, and we've been here about half of that, and we were in town anyway, so...

First, we needed a passportfoto. Luckily, there's a passportfotoshop just by the municipal offices (where they also issue passports). Unluckily, it was National Passportfotoday and there was a mighty queue.

(Dutch passportfoto's are not delegated to booths but are taken by Dutch passportfototakers, to be found in all fotoshops. We suspect, on principle, that they are licensed by the mighty bureaucracies of the state. We know for a fact that they charge plenty of monies, and we discovered to our alarm that they preferred to fotograph us without glasses, which is a state in which we are only to be found while bathing, sleeping, or, now, posing for Dutch passportfoto's.)

Then, to the municipal offices themselves! In our domestic idiom, "municipal" has become the adjective of choice to describe more-than-usually reluctant service, and this is no coincidence. Having obtained ticket A71, we waited as the As trickled through the flood of Bs and Ds and the occasional Ps and Rs.

Then, with A70 up on the board and our sinews stiffened with excitement and the anticipation of monumental insolence, they announced that the national drivinglicense system had crashed, and no drivinglicense services would be available until it was fixed, and further that this could take an unbounded and entirely unpredictable amount of time.

Life is short, but bits of life spent in the company of the municipality can never be quite short enough, so we left.

Next time, for sure!

2007-01-01 16:25

Other stuff

Oh, and we passed our OU courses in nineteenth-century European history (with distinction, no less) and Cherman (by a minor miracle, since we still don't really know any Cherman).

And we can now watch the skihoppning from the comfort of our own living-room, either live on Cherman RTL or unlive on Dutch Eurosport. Which makes it all the more irritating that today's Big Event in Garnish-Prawncocktail was abandoned midway due to regnkaos. Bah!

The nieuwjaarvuurwerken here in Outer Groningen were very mighty indeed, and much to be admired from our top floor. The alleged carnage at the local winkelcentrum was less delightful, we are reliably informed. Teenage boys, isn't it?

And we still have another week of holiday! God bless the Dutch civil service, and especially us!

2006-12-31 16:22

Oudjaardags review of year

We started the year unmarried and living in a grungy flat in Bristol, Engeland; we are ending it happily married and living in a spacious house in the suburbs of Groningen, Nederland.

And by far the least of our many blessings is that our wireless home network is finally up and running, but it does mean that regular blogging can now resume.

See you next year!

2006-12-31 15:55

Monday review of stuff

1. King Kong

As rendered by Peter "Trainset" Jackson and reviewed by special guest Marvin the Paranoid Android:

The first ten million years were the worst. The second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn't enjoy at all. After that it went into a bit of a decline.

By the end we'd salvaged the consolation prize of an interpretation in which his Kongness is in fact a metaphor for Trainset Jackson's own emotional inarticulacy, but really.

2. Mtaphysique des tubes Amlie Nothomb

An autobiographical novel covering the period from birth to the age of three. As usual with Nothomb, exceptionally excellent. (Faber have Engleeshed it, if you're interested. They've called it "The Character of rain", which is by no means a good choice but at least avoids mentioning metaphysics in the presence of Engleeshes.)

3. Odessa Star, Herman Koch

The first actual Dutch actual novel we've ever read, and none the worse for that. It's depressingly hard to find home-brew genre literature in Dutch, so we're grateful for what we can get.

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