Monday, February 14, 2011

Odds and Ends....Some Miscellaneous Items

We woke up this morning to find a four-story crane parked next door.  Our neighbors are building a new home.  It's a large home by US standards which makes it a castle by Dutch standards.  They used a crane once before to take down the scaffolding.  That time we woke up to find the crane's boom right over our home.  Today the boom stayed over their property.  The home will have a full basement with a gym, billards room, etc.  Given that most of Holland is below sea level, I find it interesting that they build finished basements here.  

By the time I finished this posting, this crane was dismantled and gone. 

The Castle

The Dutch are very practical people  One example of this trait is on their mailboxes.  You place a sticker on your mailbox to indicate whether you want advertising circulars and the local newspaper (both are free).  The sticker says either Ja (pronounced Yah) and Ja, Nee (pronounced Neigh) and Nee, Ja and Nee or Nee and Ja to indicate your preference on each item.  As you can see from the photo, we are Nee and Nee people.  Our paper recycling bin never seems to fill up which is great.  It's like a spam filter for your mailbox!

Note the address...this is not our mailbox.  It's our neighbor's which is much better looking.

One thing the mailbox does not filter is envelopes with the dreaded "purple stripe".  These letters always mean that you owe money to the government, usually due to speeding tickets.  Holland has fully embraced cameras to catch speeders and despite being known as a tolerant society, their tolerance doesn't extend to giving some grace around the speed limit.  50 kmh means 50 kmh.  In over 30 years of driving in the US I had one speeding ticket.  I just received my third ticket in six months of living in Holland.  All of the overages put together probably add up to 15 kmh.  Unfortunately, they also add up to about 120 euro.  Luckily these types of tickets don't impact car insurance rates. 

Speeding Ticket #3

Given the lack of land, many of the Dutch homes are three stories.  With limited square footage in the home, the stairways between each floor tend to be very narrow, be very steep and always have a tight 180 degree curve.  It's no wonder that the Dutch word for stairs is "trap".  This stair design makes it difficult to move any substantial furniture to the second and third floors.    I came across this solution on my way into town one day --a hydraulic elevator for moving items in through the windows.  It reminds me of the elevator we used when I was a kid to put hay bales into the barn.   Hopefully, these movers are a little gentler than we were. 

The moving platform is at the top of the elevator.

On a final note, I have started my career as a subsitute teacher at the local American School.  When I signed up, I had to indicate which classes I'd be comfortable subbing.....math, science: no problem.....English, history: okay as long as there's a lesson plan......PE: okay as long as I don't have to participate no way.   So far things have gone fine.  I was able to teach Geometry and Economics well (at least according to me).  Luckily in Senior Calculus the assignment was to complete a problem set on their own in class.  And the teacher left an answer key.  I remember doing calculus so I knew the terminology, but teaching it would have been a different story. 

In our most recent Scrabble game, Lori made a fantastic play by laying "lounge" off of the "L" for a triple word score and three additional words going across.  For those of you wondering, we play by the Scrabble Dictionary (which Kate bought for me at a yard sale 15 years ago).   It allows Greek letters like mu. 

The Valentines Day couple.  I'm wearing my shirt and sweater that Lori gave me for Christmas.  She's wearing some vintage, i.e. old, but not antique, jewelry that I gave her for Valentines Day. 

We saw this house in Den Haag on the way to dinner.  Note the second story door.  The first step outside is a big one. 

Happy Birthday Goldie and Tai Tai

In our tradition of recognizing everyone's birthday (except of course the author's) we celebrated the 8th birthday of our two cats, Gold Star (or Goldie) and Tai Tai, in January.  For those of you not familiar with their heritage, Goldie and Tai Tai are sisters who were rescued from a parking garage in Hong Kong as kittens.  We got them when they were about 8 weeks old.  Since that time they have adopted our nomadic lifestyle -- they are living in their seventh home on their third continent.  Not bad, except when you realize that the thing they hate most of all is travel.  Getting them into their carriers is the most difficult part of any relocation.  We usually sneak up on them while they're sleeping and throw them into the carriers before they know what's going on.  It always makes me feel like I'm filming a National Geographic special. 

Tai Tai as a kitten in Hong Kong. 

Tai Tai now.  Since they are Chinese cats, they only weigh about 8 pounds. 
 Tai Tai translates literally to "wife" in Chinese, but in Hong Kong it was used to denote a "pampered wife" of a rich businessman.  Given Tai Tai's lifestyle, Kate named her well.  Grant named Gold Star when he was three years old so there is no rational explanation for her name.  The truth probably ranges somewhere between his favorite cartoon at the time and his battle cry while dueling with the neighbor boy.  For their birthday I finally set up a heated bed where they happily spend the majority of every day and night.  Even on birthdays, we don't give them any special food treats because that usually results in me cleaning up cat barf.  Happy Birthday girls!

Goldie doing battle against Public Enemy Number 1 (Graber).  The picture is blury  because these encounters are always action-packed with lots of howling and hissing.  After seven years of having the house to themselves, the girls were not happy when Graber arrived.  Their feelings haven't changed in the past year. 

Blissful rest in heated bed.