Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Mark...and more

When you log into Google's blogspot to create a new post, it tells you when you posted your last entry. Aug 19!  Reading that is kind of like stepping on the scale every morning.  You already know you won't like the answer but you do it anyway.  Sorry about the extended silence.  Here are a few pieces of news.

Obviously not enough candles.  Note the dog strategically positioned between me and the cake.  

First of all, Mark celebrated his 52nd birthday last month.  No real milestone at 52, but since I had already mentioned my weight and lack of postings I thought I would continue with the hard truths.  Actually, I spent my birthday in Manchester, UK on a business trip.  So we celebrated that weekend by having some friends over for dinner and, of course, one of Lori's delicious cakes.  I chose the Tuxedo Cake from Rebecca Rather's Pastry Queen cookbook.  It probably gets selected for over 50% of our birthday celebrations and for good reason.  It's great.  The only problem is that it's one of Grant's favorites so he and I battle it out for leftovers.

Now on to other news.  In addition to celebrating my birthday, The Netherlands held elections last month.  As you may have heard earlier this year their government collapsed.  Living in America I always wondered what that term meant.  It sounded so harsh, like the country had fallen into some horrible turmoil.

Not to fear, it wasn't anything like that.  The Netherlands has about 10 or 15 political parties including a religious party, an against-everything party, a green party and an animal rights party.  To form a government some combination of parties must get together, agree on a common platform and form a majority in the legislature to select a prime minister and form a government.  It used to only take two political parties to reach a majority but lately it has required three.  So last spring the three parties that had agreed to agree with each other decided that they couldn't agree on the Euro-crisis strategy and so the government collapsed.

So for four months we had no government.  Actually, everyone was still in office, including the Prime Minister, but they didn't really do anything because there was no majority.  This dysfunctional state is not all that different than the US if you think about it, the Dutch simply admit it publicly.  Belgium had not government for 18 months and no one there seemed bothered at all by that fact.

It doesn't look like the Animal Rights Party does much advertising.  Seems like a picture of a puppy or kitten could really help their cause.  

That was a rather long introduction into how their national elections provide another example of Dutch practicality.  About three weeks before the election, temporary signboards begin appearing around the town.  Not a lot, maybe 5 or 6 in our village.  The candidates use the boards to post their advertisements.   No ugly signs in people's yards.  No continuous trail of signs along business fronts.  No flyers posted on telephone poles.  It's all very tidy.  And everyone seems quite civil when they post their sign on the board...they don't cover up the picture of an opponent and no one seems to draw mustaches on anyone else.  Two days after the election all the boards are gone and the town is beautiful again.  What a great idea.  

Last weekend Grant and I travelled to Belgium for my company's family day celebration at an amusement park, Bobbejaanland.   His normal roller coaster companion (Lori) was conveniently on a business trip to the US so I was his partner on the rides.  We warmed up on some kiddie coasters and log flume rides (it was raining so we were already wet).  Then we got to the park's two signature coasters, Dizzy and Typhoon.

Dizzy was a fairly tame track except that in addition to traveling around the track your car would also spin.  Not a lot of spinning but enough to make some of the curves very interesting.  It actually turned out much better than I expected -- I even went on it twice.

Grant in front of the Typhoon
Typhoon had a little higher thrill factor to it.  You begin by going straight up (as in 90 degrees, vertical, rain hitting you in the face) at a very slow speed.  Then you come over the top and go straight down at a very high rate of speed.  In fact you go more than vertical; it's similar to coming over the top of a capital "R".  Of course after that you go through loop the loops, cinnamon twists and all kinds of gut wrenching turns.  I also went on this ride twice, but the second time might have been a mistake.

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