Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How much do Mac laptops weigh? And work is good :)

Word of the day: verkeer = traffic

Have you tried running as quick as you can in ballet flats (even comfy Clarks ones) while carrying a 15" MacBook Pro in your bag? Damn, Mac laptops are HEAVY.

Schrobbenmaster and I were rushing towards the metro station to catch it and connect to the train which would bring us back from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. We really had to be on time as he had an appointment at 7pm which he couldn't miss.

We beeped through the barriers and Schrobbenmaster ran up the escalator first. And boy, this escalator is like the London Underground escalators which go on forever. So there I was, frustratedly running/climbing up with this ton of bricks in my bag. I reach the platform, see the metro still there and Schrobbenmaster running towards it to stop it from closing its doors. And by the way, the platform is not that long, and the metro is even less long, and yet, it has to stop really far away from the escalators. Curses!

It was like, I reached the top of the escalator and think "Phew!" for a split second before realising that the darn metro is still at about 50 metres more of running.

And yet, after all that effort, with another man in his 40s running with us to the metro, it decides to close its doors and push off. Frustration!

Thank goodness with a bit of re-planning of routes, we managed to reach Rotterdam in time and still be able to pop into the Albert Heijn supermart to grab some dinner.

(There is a new Midsomer Murders episode on the server ready to watch! Woohoo!!)

Work, by the way, is going well at the moment. Not very busy, which is actually a little scary, since it means that everything will start pouring in during the last few days of the week, which therefore might mean longer days and exhaustion. Colleagues are friendly though, so that's really nice.

And lunches are always interesting, with lots of different food to try out. I usually have turkey ham and cheese with bread though, although today I had tapenade, which was yummy. I must say the "desserts" are weird though, as they eat chocolate and rainbow (fruity) sprinkles, that we sprinkle over ice cream, on bread with butter! Hmm... very strange, but oh well, sprinkles are always yummy, so who cares?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ignorant me and Mind The Gap

Word of the day: krant = newspaper

I noticed something... the more exciting my life is, the less I want to blog. I guess it's because I'm too busy doing really, really exciting things (haha). Also cuz it means there's more things to write about and that's a huge chore in my mind. So I guess I'll go slowly so it doesn't feel like such a pain in the ass.

Oh, know what... I also just realised something else which lots of you might like to knock me on the head for, but well, I just realised a few days ago that Rembrandt... is a first name. Yaah... I honestly always thought they called him Rembrandt in books as a last name, like da Vinci, or Michelangelo... ... hang on, is Michelangelo a last name?

... checking...

OKAY... so apparently Michelangelo IS a first name. Goodness, and I call myself an art student? Let me rephrase the sentence above then...

I honestly always thought they called him Rembrandt in books as a last name, like da Vinci, or Renoir. But his full name (for those who are as ignorant and who would like to be enlightened) is Rembrandt van Rijn.

*Michelangelo's full name is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. THAT'S why he's only known as Michelangelo, I guess.


Last Sunday, there was a youth event in Rotterdam called Your World 09. Schrobbenmaster was filming the inline skating competition so I tagged along to watch it.

Schrobbenmaster taking a photo of me waiting under the tent with a fish-eye lens.

From the top of the ramp, the starting point for the skaters.

In another event, there was some sort of PS2 dance contest. I really like this photo I took. One of every 100 photos I take do actually come out nicely.

Also a pretty big stage for performers. Didn't know any of them, but mostly hip hop was played.

Photo of the crowd. Was a sunny day but I was actually quite cold and shivering even. Strange.

Okay, off to make dinner. Will post stuff on the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Something about dogs

Word of the day: jouw = your

Just reading some articles on TIME magazine's website now, one of interest that had me clicking immediately was: The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind.

And one paragraph that got me smiling proudly for dog lovers (including me) everywhere, and a big "Haha!" to cat supporters (although I've nothing against cats, but it seems to be the ultimate rivalry) was:
Hare's later research revealed that while chimps and even wolves lack an innate ability to understand what pointing means, dogs come by the knowledge naturally. They're not limited to reading hands and fingers alone. Dogs understand what Hare means if he points with his foot or sets a piece of wood on top of a container with food inside. Even puppies understand, which means it can't be a skill they need to learn. "This is something that dogs just do," says Hare.
I don't know enough about cats to say if they understand pointing or not, but let's say that perhaps you point to an object to a cat, and they don't do anything. Let's not just assume that they are too proud to listen to you or too lazy to indulge you. Let's be open to thinking that maybe they just aren't as attuned to understanding us humans.

And maybe that's how cat lovers like it. Maybe they like having this mysterious creature around that they can't control and who does what they like.

But for me, I like dogs. I like how they include themselves in every part of my life and are such an active part of it. And how they just know how to make me feel better and put a smile on my face, even when they've no idea what I'm sobbing about.
The biggest challenge to the new experiments, Hare says, will be not the giant pack of dogs he'll be studying but their anxious owners. "When a puppy does badly, people get upset," says Hare. "You have to emphasize that this is not the SATs."
Perhaps that's the most telling sign of just how evolved dogs are. They have us very well trained.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dudok & Convoi Exceptional

Word of the day: groot = big

Last weekend, Schrobbenmaster and I wandered around town and had an unintentionally huge lunch at Dudok. The servers were so unfriendly and unhappy, so disappointing! That place is always so full and popular that I thought it would be a good experience. The food was good though, that's the only thing. I had the pain d'antan with tuna salad, and Schrobbenmaster had some croquette and tomato soup.

After lunch, we wandered around some more, and eventually ended up at Beursplein. I was pretty poofed by then, made worse by walking briskly right after a huge lunch, so we found a bench to rest on. A few minutes later, three street performers appeared with percussion instruments. One had a normal 'big band' sort of drum, another an African or South American sort of drum that hung from his neck, and the last, who seemed to be the main character, sat on a chair with a big bongo drum.

At first, I thought they were just typical street performers, gonna bang about a bit and entertain us for a while, but after listening for a couple minutes, I realised, "Hey, these guys are good!". I then thought that maybe they were music school students and just out looking for some fun and some extra money in tips, but a few minutes later I changed my mind again. The rhythm and beats were really exciting and complex, and the way they were so into the performance showed that they were actually experienced performers and truly loved what they did. And do it well they certainly did.

Apparently, they are Convoi Exceptional, a group of 4 percussionists and 1 saxophonist, and they have performed on streets around Europe, also New York and possibly more. They also perform at festivals and music halls and have been around for about 5 years. Go visit the website!

In the picture above, check out the right of the picture, where there is a boy watching them keenly in jeans and long-sleeved shirt. I guess he was really feelin' the beats cuz here's what he did during half the performance:

That's his sister next to him, trying to get him to stop upstaging her and stealing the limelight. She got told off by the parents for that. Hehe.

One lady even went up to the Convoi bag to give some coins, then went to the little boy and gave him a coin as well. He just paused, wheels turning in his brain, then walked to the Convoi bag and tossed that coin in. Cute!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Word of the day: uitgang = exit

Gosh, my neck and shoulders are so stiff :(

On Thursday, I visited Delft (20 mins outside Rotterdam) with Mrs VDK, whom I shall re-christen Moeder Irma <-- less formal, more affectionate.

Delft is a historical city, and known for its Royal Delft handmade porcelain and also the home of the royal cemetery. It's also famous for being the place where Willem of Orange chased the Spanish out of The Netherlands and I think he made it his home from then on (haven't read the historical printouts Moeder Irma gave me yet).

The interior of the Oude Kerk (Old Church). It's just filled with stained glass, but not very old, probably from around the 1920s onwards because of the bombing from the war. Still nice. And the tombstone things that are carved and placed into the floor were all still visible and made the floor quite treacherous to walk on if you didn't look where you were going.

The stained glass. It was a bright, sunny day so we had the full glory of it.

We then moved onto the town center where the antiques and curioso market is held every Thursday and Saturday in the summer. Delft is an old town and lots of old ceramic tiles from old houses were on sale, asides from old books, wooden posters and some other junk.

Just next to the market there are a few restaurants with lots of tables outside, so we decided to have lunch and sit outside while the sun was out. It was very windy and cold, but with the sun on our backs, it was more comfortable.

I had a really yummy foccacia meal with a kind of white-coloured ham, delicious sun-ripened tomatoes and tuna mayonnaise. Omg, it was really delicious I just wolfed it down.

Actually I just realised that from all my times eating out here, I've never been disappointed by the food. Which is actually very remarkable.

After lunch, we headed to the Nieuwe Kerk. Which wasn't so 'nieuwe' since it was built in the 1300s (I wonder how old the Oude Kerk is then... didn't check). In here there was a little exhibition on Willem of Orange and his life. His love life was kinda tragic, as his first three wives died from illness or madness, all leaving children behind, but his fourth and final wife, fortunately, was a very good mother to all of them.

There was also a family tree tracing his descendants down to the current royalty. And the current queen is not a direct descendant of the crown prince, but from his brother or sister (something like that). The line is still clean enough, but I think somewhere up the line, someone didn't have children, or didn't have a son, and so the crown passed on to the younger sibling's children.

After the Nieuwe Kerk, we took a really long walk down to Royal Delft. It's the only factory left that produces original Royal Delft porcelain, out of the seven that used to be in Delft. There's a showroom, a public area to watch two painters painting the pottery, more showrooms and then the actual factory where they blow and glaze the pottery.

It was pretty empty that day.

Those are the steps to making the products. The paint comes out as black, but after the second firing process in the oven, the cobalt oxide in the paint turns it blue, and is well-known as the Delft Blue. Everything is hand-painted, and simple designs are painted by apprentice painters, while specialty and celebration pieces are painted by master painters who have spent more than ten years doing this. Their most famous work is the reproduction of Night Watch by Rembrandt on 470 ceramic tiles in Delft Blue. Two master painters took, I think two years (can't be bothered to pick up the leaflet right now) to finish it, one starting on the left and one on the right side of the work.

All around Delft you can see souvenirs of Royal Delft for very cheap prices, but once you go into the official shop in the factory, you can see the real value of the items. One Christmas bauble, average-sized, cost €48!

Walking back to the station I saw this nice building, reminiscent of Venice where doorways are right at the canal front. And this old guy just happened to be speeding past, so I grabbed this photo op.

Definitely worth a visit!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Alexandrium, Royal Yelly, Durex-To-Go, grandma's noodles

Last weekend, Schrobbenmaster and I took a trip to Alexandrium to look at wardrobes. Wow, some of them were remarkably expensive, like one shelf about 220cm high and 50cm wide cost about €800!

It was a good trip out though, and I finally managed to visit a large supermarket (considered normal size for KL). It was the Albert Heijn XL.

I think it was the day after that Schrobbenmaster and I went to run errands, such as buying a huge bag of jasmine rice, plus some sushi rice for Japanese cuisine, restocking our Indomie and Mama instant noodles and purchasing train and tram cards for the both of us.

So we decided to treat ourselves to a late lunch at Bagels n Beans!

We sat indoors at first because all the tables outdoors were taken. Boo. I did see something amusing, though. In Dutch, the letter 'j' is pronounced like an English 'y'. But it's funny to see English words actually spelt the way they pronounce it.

My phone couldn't capture the writing, but it says: "Royal Yelly". I'm gonna start calling Yelleh Belleh that when I get home.

The waitress also asked if I was English. I guess the prim, Cambridge-y outfit I was wearing that day encouraged that opinion. I don't mind looking scholarly sometimes, and now it's even better that I can toughen it up with my leather jacket. Niiiiiice! (Sorry, no photo of my outfit)

On our way home, we stopped by the newsagent's to pick up a birthday card. I waited outside with the bikes and saw this.

You wouldn't find that in KL! Would you? Possibly only in restrooms. I think.

I wonder how often they restock this Durex-To-Go vending machine. It looks pretty worn out and yucky. I wonder what kind of people use it. Would definitely save a trip inside the shop and waiting in line while holding a box of 'Close Fit'. Hehe. Then again, don't the Dutch pride themselves on "being themselves" and letting people be who they wanna be without judging?

I wonder if there are any other reasons besides speed and convenience for this delapidated Durex-To-Go, or is it just plain ol' boring "cuz it's easy"?

Or am I over-thinking this?

I tried another recipe last week. Well, I altered it quite a bit, but with some cooking experience behind me, I felt fairly confident that it would still be edible with all the changes I made. My attempt at recreating my grandmother's noodles:

Wasn't anything like her noodles, but it was decent enough. Had to re-fry it to put more taste into the clumpy noodles though. Wonder how they got so clumpy. Must attempt it once more.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Designers are vulnerable too!

I was talking to Slavedriver on MSN today and he's currently using this icon:

No doubt in support of this brand.

But before I found out it was the logo of a brand, I asked him, "Is that an obscene picture or is it a toilet bowl?"

No disrespect to the brand, but I really do think it looks like a graphic version of the top view of a toilet bowl.

Slavedriver of course said that it doesn't look like a toilet bowl and it is, in fact, a very cool logo. Goes to show that even when you're a designer, you can't help being biased by products you love and everything associated with it.

Endnote: It's the 'H' from Hollis Gear.

Falling off my bike

Word of the day: met = with

Me on the bike was an accident waiting to happen, and I'd had so many close calls - cyclists swerving out in front of me, trams tinkling their bells at me, dim fathers pushing baby prams on the cyclist lanes - well, I finally fell off the bike, and all on my own doing.

Went out last night on the bike (really nice cycling around Rotterdam by night actually, seeing all the lights by the river), and made a turn too sharply, hit the pavement and my bike came crashing down. Luckily I managed to find the ground with my feet and I didn't fall, but the bike did miraculously hit my leg... on the other side that it fell (??). As in, my bike fell to the left, but hit my right leg instead. Don't really know how that happened, but there was a cyclist behind me, only a few feet away, and thank goodness he didn't hit me. He was pretty concerned with my fall, but I was okay, so he just smiled and left.

Oh well.

Yesterday was also the first time I walked to the city centre on my own. I'm not very good with directions as when I'm with someone else who knows the way, I tend to zone out and focus more on what the person is talking about, or looking at the shops I'm passing without taking any mental notes of direction.

It's the same how when I hear people speaking foreign languages (especially French), I tend to just listen to how the whole thing sounds like rather than try to pick out the words and interpret their meaning. I like how the language sounds, so I just listen to it like the melody of a song. But I digress.

I went to de Bijenkorf to look for a table lamp for Schrobbenmaster. The existing lamp had actually burnt a piece of skin off his knuckle the night before, and it wasn't really in good condition as the glass piece kept dropping out.

I was served by a man in his 50s in the lighting section, and while he offered to help me, he wasn't really very friendly. Just answered my questions about the availability of the particular bulb, and when I asked if he could test the lamp if it was in working order, he seemed to drag his feet towards the testing area. Maybe that's how he always is, but I just felt like I was asking a lot of him by the way he was doing things. Still, he was practically nice compared to the cashier I had.

It was another mevrouw at the cashier who was serving two people in front of me. Both had their purchases gift-wrapped, and she asked if mine was a present, so I said yes. She promptly took my box and pulled out a piece of wrapping paper. She didn't even bother to make sure the paper was straight before taping it with heavy hands to the box. A box is the easiest thing in the world to wrap. And she still messed it up. Didn't even bother flattening out the paper, leaving lots of airy spaces at the corners, and everything just ended up skewed and airy. So annoying. She also had the sort of eyes that look down on the world and she never smiled even once.

When Schrobbenmaster came home and I told him about her, he said, "Maybe she was having a bad day.". Firstly, the day had hardly started for them, as I went at 1pm, and secondly, but most importantly, people who let bad days affect their attitude should not be allowed to join the customer service industry!

Pfft. And I thought de Bijenkorf was one of the upstanding representatives of good customer service.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Moving the bedroom and study

Word of the day: knuffel = hug

Oh gosh, I saw Paris Hilton's New BFF show today on MTV. Just caught the last bit with elimination. One girl just couldn't stop crying even though Paris never made any remark or indicated that that girl would go out. She just kept screwing up her face and crying at every word that came out of Paris' mouth. How ridiculous. She ended up being one of the last two, anyway.

This weekend has been very domestic indeed. We moved the bedroom from the little narrow room to the master. Took apart old closets that would've fallen apart if moved, and kept the closets that could still move a few feet without crashing to the floor :P. Made a whole lot of ruckus at 11pm and I was kinda afraid that the neighbours from below would come scolding us, but they didn't.

Schrobbenmaster tearing apart a small chest of drawers that had one roller wheel lodged halfway inside it, making the chest lopsided and not very pretty to look at. I think he secretly enjoyed being macho amongst all the chaos, destroying furniture and hammering away at the wood. He had to clear it all up to store in bags later though, so I think that kinda domesticated Mr Macho back to his old self.

Found a small packet of weird gunky glue amongst the old renter's rubbish that she left behind. So we used it to glue the front of some drawers back to their sides. As in, so that when we pull open a drawer, we're not left holding the handle and a plank of wood while the rest of the drawer stays in the cabinet.

Today, we moved the computers from the living room into the old bedroom, ie. the new study. As a result, the living room is now pretty cold without all our computers and screens warming it up. It was a big task tidying and rolling up cables. Gawd, that's the worst thing about computers, isn't it? I wonder how those dudes at Campzone make all that effort every year.

Oh yes, there was one more closet for Mr Macho to tear apart, but first, he has to let go of the Inner Child.

It's been about three hours now that I've been sitting in the new study and it's feelin' niiiiice!

Friday, September 04, 2009

A windy day and Mama's noodles (yum)

Word of the day: hoofdpijn = headache

Today has been the windiest day yet in Rotterdam. Since I've been here, I mean. Heh.

The wind has been at it all day, blowing the trees about outside the big living room window and causing the doors to rattle even though only two top windows are half open. It looked like it was threatening rain so I quickly ran out to the supermarket down the street to grab the ingredients for tonight's fried noodles.

I'm hoping that it'll come out tasting somewhat like Mama's noodles that she makes for me for lunch. Or used to, when she came over to stay in my house or when we went up to Penang. These days she lets the maid do what she's paid to do, but it's not as tasty as her own noodles!!

Um... back to the topic, shall we? I bought such heavy stuff I was afraid my shopping bag would break, but thankfully it didn't. An hour later though, I realised that I'd forgotten to buy paprika. Shites. So I ran back out and braved the wind yet again. Rotterdam streets are so full of sand and dust that I keep having to squint and blink as if I'm trekking across the Sahara.

Scene back to the house from the supermarket.

Not trying to be artsy here (honest!). Was just trying to show how windy it is, but didn't wanna hold the phone right in front of my face like some poser, so there you go. Nice blue sky to boot.

And... yes, that's my foot taking me home. Snapping photos was at least something to do while walking alone.

It finally started pouring for about 5 minutes after I got back. I just stayed home all day surfing, playing The Sims 3 and watching a few episodes of Hellsing. Interesting story, but not as gripping as Blood+. Heh.

Tomorrow, off to watch a movie! Should it be Inglourious Basterds or The Taking of Pelham 123?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hoorn, Amsterdam and Fokke & Sukke!

Word of the day: poep = poop/shit

It's Schrobbenmaster's first day at work today! It's a tremendous two hour journey one way, so it's a good thing he works at a creative agency where they're more relaxed about schedules and actual presence in the office.

I'm thinking of changing Schrobbenmaster's nickname. It's such a chore to keep typing it, it's so long!

Last Saturday, we took the train up to Hoorn to visit his parents. Hoorn was one of the VOC's (Dutch East India Company) main cities, and they probably prospered much because of it. When we arrived, we took a walk round the shops and to the lake (which was the sea before they closed it up). Loads of sailboats all over the place.

We stopped here to take some photos. We stood in a square... not sure if it's the main square, but apparently to the left is the Big East, and to the right is the Big West. So I'm assuming we were standing in the middle. Which is normally the main square... right? Plus, they usually have the cheese market here. Cheese market season over though, so no pics of that.

This is where they used to weigh the cheese, just next to the square.

And opposite the Waag is the Westfries museum. The three-step roof holds the shields of the VOC's main cities. Hoorn is represented by the horn. Incidentally, their animal saviour is the unicorn. Not a very reliable hero in any case of real threat though.

Mr VDK chatting with a stall owner who makes and sells (or just sells) wood or shells or something like that. I was more interested in the stall next to it...

Actual clog maker! He was also selling actual antique wooden clogs on the ground, just plain wood - survived the World War, but almost didn't survive the woodworms he'd saved it from.

Boats in the harbour. Harbour is 'haven' in Dutch, by the way. Wonder if it has any history with the English word 'haven'.

More boats. And a famous building behind... I think it's one of those watchtowers or lighthouses. Can't remember what the VDKs were saying to me now.

Schrobbenmaster and father looking out at the boats. Actually Mrs VDK is there too, her blonde head just poking out a bit from in front of her husband. She just decided suddenly to move before the shot was taken.

The next day, on Sunday, Schrobbenmaster went sailing with his dad and two brothers in Friesland, while Mrs VDK and I took the train down to Amsterdam to do some shopping and watch Cirque Stiletto in Carré. The show was good, and walking around was nice. It was the weekend of the Uitmarkt, when they preview the coming season of arts and theatre performances, by having stalls and live performances all over the city.

There were stalls full of books, there courtesy of the publishers, and several authors autographing. I spotted a sign that said that Jean-Marc van Tol, artist of renowned Dutch comic, Fokke & Sukke was autographing. So I stopped Mrs VDK and we queued up to purchase a 2010 calendar and get an autograph for Schrobbenmaster, who reads the website every day without fail.

The queue was taking so long that we missed our train back and decided to stay in Amsterdam for dinner then head home instead of having dinner at home. When we reached the front, we found out that it took so long because Jean-Marc was drawing a comic for everyone instead of just signing! How awesome is that? He asked about us and to give him our story. So we told him that we were supposed to have this day for ourselves, to shop and watch a show, but ended up spending most of the day exchanging Schrobbenmaster's jacket at a skate shop and then in the queue for Fokke & Sukke for him as well! Jean-Marc immediately started sketching on the calendar, and it was really awesome to see his work come out so easily and effortlessly.

This is the result!

Those two in front are Fokke and Sukke. One says: "We have learnt a lot about each other today." And the other continues: "... in the line for Fokke & Sukke!"

I think Schrobbenmaster was pretty pleased with the gift when he got home from sailing!

ps. We had dinner in McD's, and the floor was so disgusting, my shoes literally nearly left my feet because they were stuck to the floor!