Thursday, December 18, 2008

One more sleep!

This time tomorrow I hope to be somewhere over Greenland trying to decide whether or not to risk having a wee glass of red wine with my meal. No telling how much turbulence there will be, but when I did that back in October....well, how I didn't spill it all over me is one heck of a mystery.
Gabe got a little note on her crackberry this morning from Contimental basically letting her know we could go online and book our seats. I'll find out tonight how she made out.
Those bastards still owe me air miles from October, but I'll wait until I'm back in VOIP land before calling Houston....with my problem.
The reason that I was privy to this particular email this morning was that, up until 9:30 or so this morning, we were still at the municipal headquarters over in Goor (remember, rhymes with "boat") where we had to go and pick up a form for Gabe's Rijbewijs. (driver's license) So happens that the building was open at 8:00, but not much else happens until everyone starts work at 9:00. The coffee was free.

The last time we were there I didn't manage to take a picture, so went outside while Gabe was waiting for the clerk to figure out which form she was to take away. Not sure what took so long, since it's a standard form where you have to check off that you're transferring your license from a foreign country.

That was one of my little jobs for today.

Have to say, filling out forms is not one of my favourite things even when presented to me in English, let alone Dutch, but it's done. Now we have to include a photo and send it off. We'll see how that goes.
The other job was to try and remove some tar that I picked up on the car over in Germany a couple weeks back. We sorta went through a construction zone, and I know I wasn't in a place where I was supposed to be, but that's a whole other story.
Initially I was going to try some mineral spirits of some sort, but was told to "take it to the Audi dealer!".
Turns out the dealers for Audi are just as retarded as for anybody else, since the advise given did manage to take off most of it, but also meant that there are now some scratches....(not happy)
So I went back to my original plan, which worked like a charm, and all I did was to make sure I neutralised everything with some soapy water.
Sometimes the "experts" need a good kick in the pants.

Turns out the snow tires are Bridgestone Blizzaks, which is the exact same brand we had for the Volvo. Only difference is these are still low profile tires, which don't really make for the best snow tires, but it's mostly to keep ahead of the cops. Plus, for those who are skeptical about winter tires, they're made differently and have a softer compound that gives better grip in the cold.


As a side note, what I had done (on the advise of my mechanic, who doesn't work at a dealership) with the Volvo was to actually install 15" snows on 15" rims in place of the 16" summer tires.
First of all, 15 inch tires and rims are cheaper. However, in order to end up with the same size wheel, they need to be a 65 series instead of a 55 series. This makes for a higher sidewall and gives a little more flexability, making for a better winter tire.

Get that?

The curious thing is, the garage here keeps our summer tires, and I'll go back in March to have them put back on.
So I didn't have to cart my tires home, nor did I have to sign a thing....
....nothing. Just made sure of when I was to come back.
Crazy system, but I like it.
Sure beats the hell out of muggins here firing up the compressor and changing tires in the driveway. I don't necessarily mind too much, since then I get to have a look at the brakes and such, but most times when I get around to that sort of thing before winter, it's already cold outside, so I end up doing it in the garage, where you can barely swing a cat, let alone change tires.
Don't miss it that much.

Only one more slight milestone before we get to blow on outta here, and that is that Gabe wants me to pick her up from work and then go in to Hengelo where she thinks she needs to buy a couple more things....to cart home with us.

Oy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday in Luxembourg

....consisted of making sure we got down below to have a look around.
We did manage to find a place to have a bite to eat, but not before wandering around the lower part of the city.

There was something to see no matter which way you turned.





I certainly would be willing to try out the local watering holes, but since it was Sunday....they weren't open. At least not yet.

Comes a time when you realise that, there's all that driving to do, so we took a few pics on the Plateau Kirchberg, since our hotel was in the area where all the buildings are that have to do with the European community.
Hence all the flags of the common union.




The mandatory self portrait....hopefully the next time we're together we won't need to bundle up quite so much.



I just have to throw this last one in below, since we had been a little concerned by the fact that we don't yet have our snow tires.
This was the scene up in the Ardennes, and if you want to have an idea as to that location, just do a search on the "Battle of the Bulge".



Cool huh? Thankfully not snowing.



I'm happy to report though, that I got the call today from the garage and I'll be taking the car there in the morning.
Now, I don't have blue tooth on the bike, so I had to pull over and rummage around in my inside pocket for my cell phone, since I'm pretty sure that riding and talking at the same time was not a good idea.

Luxembourg is cool

I do realise that that title will eventually become redundant, since it would describe most of the cities in Europe however, hills, valleys and beautiful vistas do tend to make Luxembourg stand out.
What will follow is pretty much the same as anything you could find on the Internet I suppose, only from my particular perspective.
With a host of pictures.
Saturday is market day in just about any city or town on the continent, so that was no surprise, with the possible exception of a couple flavourful items here and there.
There were the Cossacks singing Russian songs. And they were quite good.



Looked as though they were not only open to cash donations, but were also flogging a CD. My only observation was that their choice of model might be something they could possibly reconsider.



Whoa...

....and, doesn't the guy with the accordion look like Putin??

The market itself was a little crowded, as they usually are. I have no evidence so you'll just have to believe me. Other areas were quite manageable, which was probably because half of the places were open on the Sunday as well.
The Christmas theme was everywhere of course.


I just realised that for those of you in the land of "ethnic diversity", you might not remember what that was. That's a manger scene. Just thought I'd point that out.



I actually felt a little sorry for these guys since, as anyone who has ever played a wind instrument can tell you, it's not easy playing in the cold. They don't call it warming up for nothing, and I vividly recall playing the baritone sax in a spirit band at many a cold football game.

Then of course, there are those little oddities that you come across....


I mean the store...not the models in front.

Plus, what would a blog entry be without this usual landmark?

Hey, some people take pictures of lighthouses, what can I say?


Although I did try and be a good sport and go in most of the stores, sometimes it just didn't happen.

I think this was the precise moment when they realised just how expensive everything was in Luxembourg.



Putting the "lux" in Luxembourg, so to speak.

Note some of the stores.....


My preference was to just wander around and look at this kind of stuff.....



Of course, the visit to Lux was only a hidden agenda, since the real purpose of the trip was to sit and yak with Jennifer.
I was horsing around with the camera while waiting for her to get to our room. I think maybe I need a little more practise with the aim. The walls are nice though, aren't they?
We had brought along some snacks, along with wine and beer, to which Jenn added a very nice bottle of Champagne.
It was a nice dry Champagne, and probably one of the few times I've had that particular drink and wanted to refill my glass.






Pretty much sums up my idea of a good day.

Memories of Luxembourg

Let me start off by saying that our most recent memory, and one that we'd like to forget, came about within the first hour of the car ride on the way back home. We got rid of that particular "memory" when we were able to make a stop at a rest area somewhere inside Germany.

Perhaps I should explain.

The purpose of the entire trip was to meet up with our friend Jennifer, who is currently living in St Prex, Switzerland.
Anyhoo, since we decided to check out of the hotel and head into the downtown area of Luxembourg on the Sunday, Jenn offered to drive, which afforded me the opportunity to see what a proper gps is supposed to look like....


(See? It has a map.)
...and of course, to gawk out the window, which can be tricky when you're always the one at the wheel.
When we were finally driving back to where we had parked the car, I did catch a whiff of something, but since I'm not the blood hound I used to be, I couldn't quite come up with the exact nature of the offending flagrance, so I sort of filed it away.

We said our good-byes and took off.

Jenn was heading to Bonn, and we were heading back home.

I think the moment of zen came about after a few minutes when our car started to get all toasty-like, and once again, I caught a whiff of something, and I honestly said to myself, "man, my breath smells like sh*t!".

So I had a mint, and then another, but it wasn't helping.
It was still there, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, and figured maybe it was coming from me somehow, so just as I was going through the motions of sniffing my clothes, I looked over at Gabe and she was doing the same thing.

Now, in hindsight I regret that I just might have used a somewhat sharp tone when I asked, "Did you step in dog cr*p?"

And yes, it seems she had been carrying along a honkin' big souvenir of Luxembourg on her shoe, which she had nestled nicely up by the heater.

Mmmmm.....warm dog poo!!!

So even though we didn't have the proper export license for that little item, we dropped it off in Germany.

Note to travellers to Luxembourg: Stick to the pathways, no matter how icy the conditions might be. Better yet, go in the summer time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Market

Just a minor observation that I thought I would share about the shopping patterns here.
You may recall that I had taken a pic on Sunday when Gabe and I rode up through Delden.
You could shoot a canon through the place.
Well, not today let me tell ya!
I had this nutty idea that I'd head back out to try and get some slightly more interesting cheese from one of the vendors. Turns out buying cheese is a big draw for the crowds.
Even though it was a balmy 2°C I did find that I was starting to cool off considerably as I stood in line to get my cheese.
At the precise moment when I became aware of the absurdity of standing in line for cheese, and was about to abandon ship, it was my turn.

Fine.

I only bought one friggin' piece, since I couldn't really decide what I wanted, and could feel the icy stare of all the women behind me edging ever closer to their little slice of cheese heaven.


Then again, maybe it was just the cold.

I chose instead to amuse myself by taking a couple pictures:








Now you would think it would be some foreign clown like me trying to get in there with a car, but no....these folks are all locals, and should know better. I rode the bike. I'm not that dim. (mind you, I'm sure their hands were considerably warmer than mine)
Maybe they come from "north Delden" if there is such a place, and it's just too far to ride.
Even when I went up to the Read Shop (in which there's also a Post Office) the streets were utter madness.
There was even one guy who came down Kortestraat the wrong way. Man! I missed my chance to give him "the look"!
Mind you, I did that very thing about a month ago, so I really couldn't be too judgemental I suppose.
On second thought. Screw it. I shoulda given him the look. Maybe even pointed to my head.

Earlier today I decided to pick up the lost cause of videos that are too long for Blogger and signed up for "blip tv", which is a little hard to describe for a luddite like me, except to say that it's like "flickr", but for videos.
There you go. Now you know just as much as I do.
Basically it's a place to keep stuff online, and then let people link to it.

Except I haven't quite figured out all the nuances just yet.

I added a video to December 9th, and it is quite lengthy.
To be brutally honest, I have no clue whether it's in the proper format, since "blip tv" only likes files with certain extentions. Time will tell if I can ever figure it all out, but I'll just keep plugging away.

Pretty sure I'll have to rely on the written word for the foreseeable future.

So sorry to make you move your eyes back and forth like that.


On edit...it's now time to go to the video. If you scroll to the down to the bottom of December 9th, and click on the bottom video, you'll have the privilege of watching five minutes of snow falling over at the corner. Try not to fall asleep.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog Fodder

Do you think they know? Or have any suspicion of my sarcastic nature? Is there some sort of a test?

Far be it from me to have a tee-shirt made up with a little slogan on it that reads, "by the way, if you do something really retarded, it's probably going to end up on the Internet".

My guess is it would have to be in Dutch.

Here's where I'm going with this.

Just happened to be back home after my morning trek, (and I'll be figuring out some wind chill values in a moment or two) and had just started digging into my homework, when the doorbell rang.
Turns out it was the Landlady, who had graciously stopped by with the missing parts to one particular curtain that still needs to go up.
I thanked her profusely and immediately got the stepladder and was about to install the things but hit a minor snag.



See if you can see how I might have an issue here...





Let me give you a bit of an action photo to better demonstrate.




And yes, unlike in previous examples where I only look miserable, this particular rendition is much more accurate.

You can see there just above me, one of the metal threaded posts onto which I was about to screw these brackets.

Simple really.

Maybe not today.

Didn't ship a hacksaw.

I mean, I could certainly put them up there for....safe keeping I suppose. But I certainly won't be putting up any curtain.


Just occurred to me that I might go over to the neighbour's and see if I can borrow a hacksaw. They've said on more than one occasion, "if there's anything you need"....

Moving on....

If I can believe the thermometer just outside the house here, it was showing 1°C when I left this morning on the bike.
So if I were only doing 20 k.p.h. and I think that's pretty conservative, then the wind chill works out to be -4°C.

The good part is though, we've started our 27 minutes of sunshine.

Whoohoo!


....../......


Here's a post script.
Went over to see Bernard next door and borrowed his hacksaw. (not sure which was older, me or the hacksaw...)
Fortunately the material for these things is copper, so cuts fairly easily.

and now we're done.





Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Snow in Delden, part two.

I decided to try uploading a smaller version, and even though it took a good twenty minutes, it finally appeared.
Not for those with dial-up.

video





A little snow

When I set out for the store this morning, I did notice that my eyes did seem to be watering a little faster than normal.
Turns out it started snowing just after I got back, which was getting close to noon time.
So I guess the temperature must have been pretty close to zero.

Now, I've been farting around with a short video that I took earlier today, and blogger doesn't seem to be able to complete the upload. I finally got fed up even after re shooting and cutting in down to about a minute. I might try later, but I'm not making any promises.

Meanwhile I figured some stills would have to do.

Besides, anyone with dial-up would be hard pressed to watch even a couple seconds of video, so I would have had to upload some pics anyway.


The point of the "moving picture" theme was to demonstrate just how orderly the traffic can be. This particular corner just up the street from the house doesn't have any kind of signage, yet everyone knows exactly what to do. As a matter of fact, I don't think we have even one yield sign, let alone a stop sign in all of Delden. Pretty sure we saw one down in Hacksbergen a couple months back. Should have taken a picture.

They're pretty rare.

I wonder when the colonies will ever catch up?







I know I've touched on the whole lack of signage thing before, and I apologize. I just cannot stress enough how everyone actually knows the rules of right of way. If you don't, you'll get "the look".

Trust me.

I've only gotten "the look" a couple times, and that was a few months back*. I'm proud to announce that I've graduated to the point where I can give "the look".

*Actually, one old guy went so far as to point to his head when giving me "the look", but cripes! I had been in the country for three friggin' days! Cut me some slack!



So you have to understand that I'm not really complaining about this little bit of snow, since I don't seem to have the same sense of dread that I used to get back home at the hint of the first snow fall. That's mostly because I'm fairly sure it will once again melt, as was the case with the last snowy event of a couple weeks back.
Not the case in most parts of Canada, where the first snow fall is usually the beginning of a long, intimate and tempestuous relationship with a snow shovel.
(and quite possibly a chiropractor)


Further to that, I'm somewhat counting our blessings, since the news from the Ottawa area is that last night's temperature was down around -20°C! Whether that was with or without wind chill is not clear. It's warmed up to a balmy -12°C there today I see, with the temperature at our place in Burlington pretty much the same as here; 2°C and light snow.

For anyone reading who is still using that archaic system called Fahrenheit, here's a brief primer.
Never mind all the complicated conversion nonsense, since this all you need to know:
Water freezes at 0°C, (my isn't that clever?) and most humans are reasonably comfortable in the low twenties, (+20°C) while your pee will quickly freeze in a snowbank at -20°C.


As a matter of fact, you'd best be keeping that thing in your pants at that temperature.

Plus, if you've never experienced "ice fog".....you can also count your blessings.


Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

They have them here too.

I seem to be regularly summing up the goings on of the weekends on the following Monday. A bit of a slippery slope.
I'll get to the explanation of the title in a minute.
Friday was a bit of a blur for some reason, except that I distinctly remember setting off on the bike around 10:00 a.m.and thinking the rain had stopped.

Nope.

Didn't get really soaked or anything, but the tops of my legs were definitely damp. Wore the nifty rain jacket type of thing that Rob and Kat got me for my birthday. Thanks kids!
It's an amazing thing to be riding in the rain and actually be comfortable. The only notable exception being that I do need a bigger bike. Just too cramped, and that's all I'll say.

Usually don't go back out on a Friday afternoon, since Delden does get a little nuts on market day, but I wanted to pick up some salmon.
Since we're closest to the Atlantic ocean, it's going to be Atlantic Salmon, which we greatly prefer over the pacific variety.
Did the trick with the garlic on the rasp mixed with olive oil, cooked on foil on the BBQ. Can't say enough.


Took Gabe to her hair appointment on Saturday morning and was back at the house evaporating some time on the computer when the door bell rang. Of course, it's a little loud, so I usually jump, and wonder if I'm going to have to pony up some cash.
Open the door, and there's a man and a woman (early 30s maybe) and the man starts nattering off in Dutch, and I point out that he'll either need to slow down or try his English, since my Dutch is "niet so goed".....
Well, he proceeds to pull out a copy of the Watchtower (and I don't mean "All along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan, 'cause that would have maybe been something worth talking about) and I immediately said, "Oh....right, we have you people back in Canada, now let me show you just what I do there", and wished them a nice day, and closed the door.
I swear if Seventh Day Adventist show up next, I'm getting a big miserable dog! No handguns allowed here either, so it would be pointless to try and scare anyone off with the sound of a round being put into the chamber.
I didn't think I needed to go into the whole, "now, have I ever come to your house uninvited?" routine, as I've been known to do in the past. I figured we'd just settle for the short version.

I'll leave it at that.

We headed in to Hengelo briefly to look for a couple places to shop, but my plan was to drop Gabe in Enschede and head over to Germany to look for a particular tool store. We meandered around Hengelo for what I thought was way too long, but did get a couple more Christmas presents out of the way.
I was going to Nordhorn which, even though it's in Germany, is not all that far away, and ended up tooling around for quite some time trying to find the place. (oh geez...that was another pun, wasn't it?)
See, stupid GPS couldn't come up with an actual address, so I thought I'd do the trick that I had done in Remsheid, and that was to put in the Post Code, but that was actually out in the countryside somewhere. Did manage to get there (after having to break down and buy a friggin' map for €4,95) only to find that they were closed. Kind of made sense from the sort of industrial setting they were in and it was no big deal really, since I don't mind these little reconnaissance missions.
So I managed to burn up the better part of the afternoon while Gabe shopped. Didn't mind at all since it was a nice day for a drive. I do find though that Enschede can be a little confusing, and although I didn't exactly take the most direct route, I did manage to get to the underground parking garage and come out within 20 meters of where she was standing. Never helps if it's overcast either, since I really do rely on the sun for my sense of direction.

Sunday turned out to be a very nice sunny day, and I think the temperature got up to a whopping 5° C, which was a heckova sight better than last week, so we went a quite a bit farther on the bikes, and were once again on the outskirts of Hengelo.
Discovered this park on the edge of town, and we look forward to going back when the weather is a bit warmer.
There was a sign posted over on the other side that I should have taken a picture of, since it had to do with some sort of water management scheme, and I could have posted it here and maybe one of my Dutch speaking friend's could have clued me in to what this body of water is all about.

Before we set off though, I thought I might add some air to Gabe's back tire, since I now had the old cruiser to compare to. I need to get a tire gauge, but it's just not something I think of.

Not sure what was on the ceiling that was so interesting....


And so this is supposed to be better.

It was such a nice day for the bike riding thing, that we actually went out a second time in the afternoon to dilly dally around Delden. There were actually a couple stores open, but otherwise it pretty much is a ghost town on Sundays.

In some areas there's nary a soul....




This mornings project was to book a car rental at the airport for when we get home.

Just shoot me.

Pretty sure I wasted most of the morning trying to figure out who has the best deal. We might have to do that one night after dinner, since I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger on that just yet.
As it was I did manage on Friday morning to book our rooms in Luxembourg for this Saturday and figure I'll just rest on those laurels for the time being. Besides, if all the cars are mysteriously gone by the time I get around to finding something, then we'll just take an airport limo home and have Enterprise pick me up the next day. I can always bamboozle them into giving me the corporate rate over the phone, which I can't quite do over the Internet.
Hey, maybe if someone back home has a spare set of wheels sitting around over the holidays, we can work something out?
Well, I had better go check and see if the Wonder Machine has finally finished the second load of laundry. Never a good idea to leave it unattended for too long a time.

Leads to disappointment.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This week.

Pretty sad when I can sum up the events of almost an entire week with one blog entry.
Tuesday I found the tire dude in the morning. Mind you it was on the second try, since at first I just figured I had the address wrong, so came back to the house and went to Google Maps. Sure enough, I had driven right by it, and would have missed it again had I not got out of the car and gone in and asked someone.
Not sure why ordering tires has to be so complicated, but since it's part of the lease, (i.e. we don't pay) I'll go through the hoops. Seems that tire dude didn't need just the size, but also the VIN number, so he could check with the manufacturer for a speed rating. He has to get tires that are one level below the ones presently on the car. So my guess is I'll be limited to something like 200 k.p.h?
Ok, I've barely had the car over 160, so I'm pretty sure I'd need to be wearing a diaper to go much faster than that in a snow storm.

But, like I said, I just go with the flow.

Oooh, that was a bit of a pun, wasn't it?

He took my phone number, and will call when the tires come in. Could be a couple weeks.
So since I had the car, I decided to head for IKEA, only to discover that, although they were open for breakfast, the store itself was not yet open. The restaurant was mobbed, by the way.
Fine, on to plan B. Picked up the old cruiser from home and took it for a new inner tube. This is the one I mentioned earlier.
Dropped it off, and was surprised when he told me that I could pick it up at five.
Several days later, the tires still have air in them. Wow.

Not many revelations for Wednesday, except that we discovered the fun and convenience of Skype, which I am now whole heartedly advocating to all our friends and relatives who might like to hear from us from time to time. I downloaded the program in the morning, we chatted for a half hour or so with our friend down in Switzerland (where apparently they get the same 27 minutes of daylight as us) and a bit later that evening yakked with one of our daughters back in Burlington for the better part of an hour. We could see her, but since I'm a bonehead and cannot for the life of me find the webcam I bought a couple months before coming over here, she couldn't see us. She's going to check through our stuff* at home to see where I might have left it.

Honestly.

*You need to watch the George Carlin video on "stuff".

Today was the day we decided to go to a little town called Goor (try to make it rhyme with the English word "boat"..) to go to the municipal building for Hof van Twente, so I could get myself registered for my residence permit.

Also, Gabe had to get some sort of Certificate of Good Behavior (I kid you not!) because she needs to be a Director for Eaton-Holec here in Yurp.

Anyhoo, as we were able to kill those two birds with one stone, we then came back to Delden for her Dr's appointment at 2:30.
Turns out her blood pressure is pretty much fine, it's the retarded blood pressure monitor that she's been using. So it was off to the Apotheke to get a prescription filled and buy a new monitor. Busy place, but really amazing service. Wouldn't mind bringing some of the Chimps they have working at what we think are drug stores in Canada over here to show them how it's done....and how filling a prescription should not take half a friggin' day.

That's about it.

Oh well, one other minor thing, and this is particularly directed to any of my siblings who might be reading, all of whom were born in Margaretville, Nova Scotia.
I knew ahead of time that when I had to register over in Goor, that they'd be asking me a bunch of whacky questions on the form about my parental units, where they were born, birthdates etc. I made up most of it, but I had it written on a post-it note, so that at least it looked like I had the right answers.
Now, we always had a less than glowing opinion about the town where we spent our youth (some of us less than others, thankfully) and used a somewhat perjorative term to discribe it.
So now it's "official", since the name of this village is on an official document here in the Netherlands.

It just happened, before I knew it, I had in fact written down,


(wait for it)



"Maggotville"

.....and never let on one bit.

Straight faced the whole time.

So it turns out Dad was born in good ole Maggotville after all.

Well...... Nico (Dutch lesson Dude) will be here shortly, so best get ready.
...and yes, I've done my homework.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Again.

And with the exception of the fact that some of the stores are closed on Mondays, that's just pretty much another day here in la-la land.
It means that, although I was able to get Gabe an appointment at the Doctor's office for Thursday afternoon, the hairdressers were closed. Somehow on this side of the pond, those types of errands fall to me.
I don't mind taking the car to the tire dude tomorrow, since I'm quite used to those sorts of tasks falling to me, as they always have and always will, forever and ever, amen.
He's only going to have a look at the tires, since he needs to order a set, and the hope will be that it shouldn't take too long for them to come in.
I was a little miffed with myself that I had no clue as to their size.

This is not the norm.

Typically I could rhyme off the size of tire on any vehicle sitting in the driveway, but somehow I missed that little snippit. Of course, the fact that there's exactly 27 minutes of daylight doesn't help.
The visual acuity is gettin' a little weak, don't ya know?

(to be fair, the sun has been out all afternoon...)

Oh, forgot to mention. There's the minor issue of snow tires that need to go on the car. Could probably get away without, but after going through some of the snotty bits a couple weeks ago over in Germany, I won't mind snow tires one bit.
Ah yes...... the "fatherland", where they don't bother burdening you with the decision as the whether or not you need snows in the winter...they just change the law, since you're now legally required to be driving with snows if the roads are showing wintry conditions.
(winterliche Fahrverhältnisse)
Chances are you can get away with not having them on, but if there's any kind of mishap whatsoever, the insurance company simply won't pay. Even if someone hits you from behind.
There's some interesting reading on the subject here.
AND...even if you manage to keep it between the guard rails, you can still get fined.


Ok so, it's maybe not that interesting, just go to the bottom of the link.

The scuttlebutt is that we'll be heading up to Denmark some time in January. There just might be some wintry conditions.

Boy am I ever looking forward to that.

Now I readily admit, over the last several years, I've become a firm believer in snow tires. Beauty is, since it's a legal requirement, and we have to travel there, Eaton will have to pony up the dough.
Hey! That works.
And lets face it, how many nitwits in the GTA go sliding off the road at the first hint of snow because they "don't need snow tires".
But none of the provinces in Canada* would ever pass such a draconian law, since that might infringe on our right to kill ourselves.

Survival of the fittest I say!!

* On Edit, I have to mention that one of our readers has pointed out to me that La Belle Province de Québec has indeed passed a similar law, with the emphasis only on the similar part, since the knobs at the National Assembly (just what nation they're referring to is another mystery) decided to make it mandatory for everyone to have snows from Nov. 15th until March 15th, whether there were "wintry conditions" or not. Proving that they are bigger nitwits than we've been giving them credit for.


But I digress.


This.....

....is the church in Arnhem, where we went shopping on Saturday.
Really though, Gabe went shopping and I spent about four hours out of my life in a state of semi-consciousness, schlepping from store to store, dodging the crowds and wondering how much longer it would take.
I do so love shopping!
Managed to get to Hengelo in time to stop at the Albert Heijn, even though it was getting close to five o'clock.
Had we not made it to some sort of grocery store, pickings would have been slim in the supper department let's say.

Sunday seemed to consist of riding our bikes just long enough to realise it was way too cold for that sort of nonsense, (2°C) and then taking a car ride to get warmed up. The heater in the car is that much better than the one in the house is all.
Had this idea that IKEA would be open.

It wasn't.

That will be on my list for tomorrow, right after tire dude.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A minor rant.

So I didn't post anything yesterday since I didn't really have bugger all to say.
We had our second evening of Dutch lessons. Nico came with actual workbooks, and I now have homework.

*sigh*


I know I said I didn't mind having homework, but there's still something about that word that sort of gives me the shivers.
Shouldn't be a big deal, and I'll most likely knock it off later today.

And no, that's not what's bugging me.

Here's the thing:

As is the case with most days, I rode in to town to pick up a few things, came back home, put everything away, threw a few things in the Wonder Machine and decided to tackle an issue with the old cruiser that had been left behind by the owners.

You may recall that we had to wait a little while (like two months) for our shipment from Canada to arrive, and that I had in the mean while been pedalling my arse around on the old single speed "gazelle" that was here in the garage.
It's a perfectly serviceable bike, except that the back tire needs to be pumped up just about every day.

Such fun.

(and...my compressor is safe and sound...back in Canada)

So I thought, "well, I can replace an inner tube, right?" and picked one up a few weeks back.

Well, no...this thing has more contraptions on it than a street walker in Times Square, and after taking a good long look at the situation I realised that, I might get the back wheel off, but I might never get it put back on!

Hey, I even started undoing stuff and chickened out.

I mean, there's a carrier, a chain guard...and some mystery contraption that looks like some sort of torsion bar.
I couldn't even begin to figure out how to get the chain guard off. It looks like it was wired on.

So I figured fine, I may as well bite the bullet and pedal it up to the bike shop on the other side of town, drop it off and walk home.
It's not like I need the bike any time soon, but the next time we have visitors, I'm sure it will come in handy.

So after an eye-watering ride uptown, I got to this bike shop at around 1:15 I guess it was, only to discover that all the doors were locked!

Huh?

I'm thinking, "what am I missing here?" It's Friday, not the Monday when they do in fact stay closed....did I miss an air raid?

While I do realise that in the case of a small outfit where the owner has to step out for a few minutes, or even for the whole lunch period, there might be a case for locking the joint up, but they have quite a number of people working there. There were two mechanics on the last time I went there. (Well, not sure if you can call someone who fixes a bicycle an actual "mechanic", but you know what I mean.)

There was no such thing as a sign on the door, only the one that said that, they were at that very moment, in fact...open.

Ever feel like you're in some other dimension?

I did see someone sitting in the office eating his sandwich, and I guess it must have been a really good one, 'cause he didn't look too interested in customers.
and no, I didn't knock on the door. I mean, how futile is that?
(this just came to mind....someone once said, "it's like wrestling with a pig, you're gonna both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it")

Fascinating really, since there doesn't seem to be any thing like an economic downturn when it comes to bicycle repair.

Maybe the "work council" has some sort of choke hold on lunch. Who knows?

The only conclusion that I can come to is, they have all the money they need and certainly don't need anything I might have to offer.

Seems perfectly reasonable to me, judging by the number of bikes sitting outside (at least a dozen) waiting to be picked up by customers.

I'm guessing these would be people who don't have a car, since it will be the car that I'll be using to take the bike to the shop in Hengelo.


Maybe not tomorrow.

Maybe not for a few weeks.

Doesn't matter.

Ain't goin' back there.


All I know is, as much of a nuisance as it will be to cart the bike in the trunk all the way to Hengelo, I won't mind, 'cause when I get there, I know they'll be open.
My impression of the bike shop in Hengelo is, they're actually working in this century and not the last one, when people used to close up shop for several hours in the day time and go home for lunch.

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's come to this

Not being one to present a problem without at least offering one or two solutions, I'd like to present my solutions to a minor irritation.

First of all my guess is, that the collective Dutch engineering consciousness has so single mindedly been tied up with the problems of water management over the last centuries, that some issues with house design have fallen by the wayside.
Let me emphasize that, they have indeed come to grips with the whole water management issue.
I mean, there are canals, dikes, tunnels.....roads on dikes, tunnels under canals.

Fabulous, really.

Not only that, but the upkeep is constant. I'm forever seeing machines busy clearing out waterways to make sure everything flows as it should.
Certainly not like when we were in Puerto Rico where, I'm pretty sure if you left your lawn sprinkler on too long, there would be have been a road closure due to a flood. Even if they had drainage, it would have been clogged with trash.

Oh, and you had to always back your car into a parking spot on Eaton property in case of a flash flood.
Really.

But I digress.

Here's the thing. (yes, the problem)

The kitchen in this place is the warmest room in the house.
That's clever now isn't it?

I realise that the kitchen we had in Puerto Rico (sorry to bring it up again) would get up into the high 80s by late afternoon but hey, I could cook outdoors on the BBQ just fine, and drying one's clothes anywhere your little heart desired was not a problem.




See, it would be oh so nice to have a little of that heat upstairs. Apparently heating the upstairs was a bit of an afterthought, since there's really only the one forced air vent in the bathroom, in the shower of all places, along with one puny little floor vent in the otherwise unheated room over the garage.

Since the dryer is in stiff competition with the washing machine for the "piece of crap of the year" award, the preference is to remove the clothes from the washing machine at the end of the day (since that's how long it takes to do a load most days) and hang it where ever I can in the house.


Starting way back when, I initially used whatever means I could to dry clothes throughout the house, including a set of four wicker chairs, two of which we use in the kitchen, along with the railing upstairs or the built in clothes line in the room over the garage.

That was when it was a bit warmer.

With the change in the seasons, and the dropping of the outside temperature (read: the temperature upstairs) it can take the better part of a week for stuff to dry anywhere except the kitchen.



So this is where we're at.....

By the time I got home from shopping this morning at 11:30, that fitted sheet was completely dry and had only been there for a couple hours.

Pretty close to a miracle.

I've heard tell of contraptions they have in the UK that one can lower from the ceiling. Kinda makes sense to me, but this ain't my house....Not sure I want to start drilling holes in the guy's ceiling.
So we'll just muddle along with this system, putting the "long term drying" up in the cold room...


This stuff has been there since Monday. It might be dry. Not sure.
I prefer not to check too often to avoid disappointment.

So....if the laundry does better in the kitchen, does that mean I can keep the bread fresh upstairs in the walk-in closet?

Or, as Gabe calls it, "the torture chamber"?


Hey, maybe we could go into the "fur storage" business!!
*snort*!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fun with technology.

This is more like an apology to readers, since I was unhappy with the dates on the entries that I was adding on Sunday, and managed to completely bollocks up the order. Until I fix this, you have to go to the previous week to get to Friday's side trip.
So try not to miss it, because it was a pretty good one.
The fear is that (as quite often is the case) the more I go in and mess around, the worse I make it.

Please be patient.

I'm sorry.



Here, I'll make it simple....

just click here

As it was I had to change the title of one of the entries to "Back to Cologne", since the html that I had used didn't seem to work in the links on the side of the page, so it ended up looking like "k&#246ln" instead of Köln. And since our brains aren't really equipped to instantly translate code into actual words, I had to revert to English.
See? I didn't just switch the name to English on a whim.

Got one step closer to figuring out my new cell phone, so there's a chance that I might actually be able to call Gabe's mobile at some point when I really need to. Could not for the life of me figure out how to switch it to English, and managed to lock myself out of the thing.
What's with the pin code cr*p?
Geez!!
Managed to evaporate some time on the phone trying to get through to an actual person and gave up on that, so I pedalled my arse up to the Bas Baake where I bought the thing and the guy at the counter had no problems.

I mean, of course.

Turns out the pin code was not the problem....

It's kind of like when you've been rooting around in the snow for a couple hours looking for an important little nut or bolt and your significant other comes out and within a couple seconds sez, "is this it?"

A relief, but slightly annoying just the same. And there's nobody to get annoyed at except yerself.

So I guess there was one menu that I didn't find or something, since the word I should have been looking for was "taal"...which they used instead of "spraak", both of which mean "speach".
I have a notion as to what the subtle difference is, but chances are I would have dialed in to "spraak" a whole lot quicker than "taal".

I asked him to switch everything over to English, which has helped considerably. I've at least now put in a couple important phone numbers.
Please understand, it's not like I have some aversion to using the phone in Dutch, but being so technologically challenged means I need all the help I can get.

That's all.

Since I was up at that end of town anyway, stopped into C1000 for the daily shop. Normally wouldn't venture that far in 2° weather, since the wind chill on the bike takes it down into the eye watering range.

It's refreshing, I'll give you that.

So there you have it. That in a nutshell is how I manage to fritter away my time.

Pitiful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hitch up the team.

Took the car on Sunday to get it washed and to refuel.
We went 735 km on one tank and it was 55.85 litres to fill up. Haven't done the math on that, but that's not too shabby.
Besides, there were a couple times when I realised I was doing 160 k.p.h. Can't be all that good for fuel economy, not that that would be a real consideration.

We did manage to get out for a brief bike ride, but the temperature was hovering around +2 and it just wasn't a good day for tooling around on two wheels.

The car wash program was pretty much a bust, since it started snowing in the afternoon, and snowed pretty much all night.


This is what we woke up to....
I just better not have to buy a snow shovel is all I'll say.
As it was there was well over two inches of snow on the car this morning. Glad I picked up a corn broom back in August. Just wanted one, didn't think I'd need it for snow removal.

Oh, and that "hitch up the team" thing......well, that's in reference to another blog....since I think we got the tail end of the snow they had in Nova Scotia (well, not really, but you get my point) but since I have neither a team of Percherons nor a set of sleds, we'll be sticking with vehicles with wheels.

Which brings me to this observation:

I used to look in awe at guys who would ride bikes in this kind of weather and think they were insane.

Turns out that's a fairly reasonable prognosis.

It's not so much the cold that's the problem, it's the snow flakes that fly into yer eyeballs that is really annoying....and quite uncomfortable.
Not only that, but I had a bit of a head wind coming home from the store this morning, and that's when I could feel the cold coming in right through the top of my ever balding head.

I have to go back out again to get to the bank for an Amex payment, but at least the sun is trying to poke through at this point.

Keep yer sticks on the ice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Back from Bonn.

Awfully sorry that I didn't do any entries from the hotel, but there was just no way I was going to pony up the extra dough for the Internet connection. I don't recall exactly what it was, but it was too much is all I'll say. One never quite knows what to expect, since the hotel in Brussels had free Internet....for however long as you wanted..
So I'll try and break this up into a couple posts so as to not be so long winded.

Left Delden Thursday morning at around 10:30 I think it was and got to the Moeller location in Bonn at around one or so. I know it took us longer than is should have since the stupid GPS (sorry, but this is going to be the new name for this thing) took us right through Essen to avoid some supposed traffic problem. Mind you, we might not have been that much further ahead, but I know it was a useless detour, since we passed the same motorhome once again when we got back on the Autobahn. It's a weakness of mine, but I tend to notice these things, and had even said to Gabe when we passed that particular "caravan" that it looked like he hadn't completely lowered his tv antenna...so I know it was the same one.

Whatever.

Found Moeller with no problem, since they do have a bit of a presence in Bonn, even though this particular picture has little to do with them, and nobody could tell me why they had a sign on that building.

I could see this place from our hotel room, which I checked into after dropping off Gabe. Again, stupid GPS couldn't find that address either, but I managed.
We were at the Hilton, which is right on Oxfordstrasse next to the Kennedy Bridge, which goes over the Rhine...
Here's another view..
As neat as it was to be able to look out to the Rhine, it was a bit of a mixed blessing, since the room did get rather stuffy at night and there was no way around it but to open the window, which also let in a certain amount of traffic noise.
I did take a picture from the bridge looking upstream....the tour boats are idle.

Very nice room I must say, and you could indeed open the windows....

So as to make sure that I wasn't too forgetful about some details, I did write out a few things in a word document which I'll paste here....



Notes for the next entry.

Nov. 20/08


It would seem that I must have some sort of friendly face, since I was approached on the street by some students looking for particular landmarks. Looked to be some sort of class project, since they all had clipboards...there were at least a half dozen in the group.
I explained that I was from Canada and that I'd only been in Bonn a few hours, so I had no idea where to direct them.

Had a sub at Subway. I guess it was similar. It was tasty enough at least, and everything was fresh. I don't really eat all that much at Subway back home, so it's hard to compare.

I was tempted by the smell of coffee from the local McDonalds, but was able to resist that temptation. Had to take a picture though, since there always seems to be one of those places. Handy if you have to go for a McSh*t or a McP*ss, as I had to on the way in. (ok...it was a Burger King, but the concept is the same....)
In a way it's kind of like domestic animals, they don't eat where they crap either.

Just got the first call on the new phone. Good thing the little buttons are colour coded, since I can't see a blessed thing without the glasses to help.

Seems I'll be going to dinner tonight after all. Wouldn't have mattered too much, that's why I had the snack earlier. At least I won't be ravenously hungry like I usually am by supper time.
Good thing I brought along some decent clothes. The jeans and "Cutler-Hammer Canada" shirt wouldn't have cut it I don't think. Same goes for the running shoes.

......../.......



(I have to add at this point that I've just wasted a load of time just now trying to figure out why Blogger doesn't like my Word document. Never did figure it out, and had to save it as plain text, and then recopy it....
Going online didn't help either...)




Here's the McDonalds.....(they're sort of like a virus)


I find the contrast somewhat noteworthy.
(the theme of the buildings I mean)

A farewell dinner was in the works for the outgoing Director of Operations, since he's taken over the Moeller deal after Eaton acquired them. We went to the Bonner Brauhaus which at first wasn't all that easy to find, but we did manage. The brew that they serve is their own of course, which they serve in those goofy little glasses. Seems we had over fifty of them...(egad!)
(Ya gotta click on the link!)

The problem is usually one of parking, and the initial plan was to walk, but it had started to rain, so I offered to get the car. Well, there was still some walking involved, and I just ended up parking the car half way back to the hotel in an underground lot. Mind you, it was only one Euro for the whole time I was there, but I always have that nagging feeling that I'm going to completely forget where I've parked.
Haven't done it yet. Probably because I'm really vigilant.

Ended up getting back at the Hilton pretty darned close to midnight, and the wake up call was going to be for six, so it was unfortunate that neither of us really slept all that well.