February 26, 2006

Hmm... travel

I should really start making more serious plans for travel this year: I have it in my head to go to China. After looking through these pictures I want to go even more.

Right, let's try to figure out how to make it happen for real.

Random encounters

Ever had those conversations where you realize mid-way that the person you are talking to is very different from what you had assumed at first? (well, who hasn't?)

Tonight's scenario: randomly talking [(in this case) = discussing jobhunting problems] to someone at a bar, then realize that this person is the founder/owner of a recruitment agency where you have had several applications rejected. Gah. And he was kinda cute - well, funny and interesting at least. Maybe I should have handled the night differently? (seeing as I am home now...)

Oh well, time for bed!
(Really, what am I doing posting at this hour?)

February 24, 2006

Food tagged!

Well, I could've seen this one coming, Y has tagged me to list five food things, challenges. Right.

1) Learn to bake cakes and dessert-like stuff. Although that also means that I need to have more people over for dinner and so on because I won't be able to eat it all myself.

2) Grow my own herbs. I have a little patio thing with my apartment but it doesn't get any direct sunlight so I'm not sure if I can do it there. Friends of mine always use fresh herbs and it's so nice. Even if it's not for the taste, the idea of growing stuff yourself (but being in the city) sort of sounds good :)

3) Use my not-so-standard kitchen stuff more often: steam basket, grill pan, etc. I should be able to make loads of yummy food with it, I just need to make an effort to find some good recipes for it.

4) Take better care of randomly printed and cut-out recipes.

5) Use more seasonal foods. That probably means that I need to get my dad to teach me how to cook some of the less common vegetables. It's somewhat unclear to me how I can be the daughter of a chef, but not know some basic kitchen stuff.

Hmm, who to tag next? Who else but Cookie? This is definitely her kind of tag. Plus: Bonny, Kanakana (once she's back from the US of course) and Pompelmoes. Yoroshiku ne ;)

[Update @ 25/2]
I actually thought of another challenge that I should have included:
6) Cook more Japanese!
I made the best gyoza and okonomiyaki a few weeks ago, so will have to do that more often. But tonight I think I might dive into my Wagamama cookbook (okay, not completely authentic Japanese) for a good ramen-recipe. Yummm.

February 23, 2006

I'd rather live in: Amsterdam (part 1)

Hmm, I think I'm better off just moving to Amsterdam altogether (if only I could!). Haven't been there for a while but currently in the next week I have the following:

- dinner with J., who I haven't seen since Barcelona. But dinner might possibly change into going to the theater for the play Madame de Sade which is opening this weekend.

- a night out with Cheruchan to the jazz venue Bimhuis. Neither of us knows anything about jazz, but that's exactly why we want to check it out.

- Japanese literature and modern theater discussed at the city theater. This should be especially interesting if we do end up going to the play tomorrow night.

- and a full day for wandering around the city on Wednesday! Suggestions please :)
I have a university appointment in the middle of the day but am thinking of the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition and coffee with fellow-bloggers at the very least.

And yeah, I'll stop my complaints about having no money. It's not very credible when I go on like this, huh... Which actually means I should go and see the Reduced Shakespeare Company next week too, I think ;)


Feeling homesick - or nostalgic or however you want to call it - for Japan doesn't happen a lot but if it does, it gets triggered by small things.

Music, or a random comment on tv, or something like a pre-publication from the latest Haruki Murakami book. Which is what I was reading last night in a favourite magazine: Vrij Nederland. [The fact that the magazine has a pre-publication of a new book every week is part of why I like it]

The narrator was describing a place like Shibuya or Shinjuku with all its chaos and noise - karaoke signs, game arcades, Japanese kids on the streets etc etc. Ah, I'd LOVE to be back there again. Wandering the backstreets in Tokyo - better yet, Osaka - watching people, going out for great food on the 50th floor of some building in Shinjuku, etc etc.

Murakami is one of my favourite authors, with his book Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the end of the world on top of the list.

His latest book, After Dark, has been out in Japan for a while and the translation will be published next month (and the pre-publication was of this edition). I have a thing about wanting to read books in their original language, if at all possible. Theoretically speaking, it should be possible and I'm so tempted to get the book off Amazon even if I shouldn't be spending money (which I am as it is, so that's really not an argument). But, I still have half a shelf of J-books waiting to be read... :s
Not to mention the fact that I'm trying to stay away from my Japanese books because I'm struggling with French. Why did I ever think languages were fun?

[Can a Japanese reader at least let me know whether the book has been published in pocket-edition yet? Amazon only shows the hardback version. Ta!]

Unrelatedly, I have to laugh at some of my engineering colleagues. My work is very very simple, but I just had someone on the phone asking how to use the fax machine... You wonder how they get around to doing their own work at times.

February 17, 2006

Well, I guess I knew it was too good to be true...

Anyone know of interesting job vacancies where I will at least get a bit further in the selection procedure...?



Don't you hate those days when the office-network is (partly) down, and denying you access to the most important sites that you use for keeping off utter boredom?
Luckily, as you can see, I can still chat away on here.


But what am I complaining about, the weekend is almost here! Yay!

Last night we went to the Leids Cabaret Festival, the semi-finals. After my ranting on here about our supposed failure to get tickets the theater ended up sending us too many tickets so it even got stressful trying to find a last person to use them all up!

It was fun though. Five contestants for three places in the finals on Saturday. Two guys were really good (or so I thought) although surprisingly one of them didn't get one of the three final places. The jury didn't think he was original enough. Well, the audience was laughing more with him then with some of the others but apparently that isn't quite enough. Two of the other final contestants were well deserved though.

But back to the weekend.
It'll be quiet as I'm spending it in Groningen. Relax a bit, get out of the city, catch up with the parents, etc etc. My mum and I are planning to go to the Buitenplaats museum, which we've wanted to do for, oh, about 2 years now. Supposedly the best part of it is the (sculpture) garden though and I now noticed that that is still closed. Hmm, looks like we'll need to find another way to entertain ourselves. Which reminds me, I need new shoes. :)

On Sunday, I want to go and see We Are Scientists. Apparently this is some new hip and happening band and as I haven't seen a live gig for aaaages this sounds like fun. Unfortunately neither the date or the location (Utrecht) is very convenient, so we'll have to see about that too.


Hmm, I just got sent an email telling me that I'm apparently back-up for yet another colleague. This is starting to become slightly ridiculous.

February 15, 2006

Bring it on

Starting tomorrow, I'm temporarily taking over a project from a colleague who's going skiing for 1,5 weeks.

From Monday onwards, I'm temporarily taking over a project from a second colleague who's going skiing for 1,5 weeks.

Plus my boss is taking off 1,5 days next week and I've become her standard back-up. (her boss considers me indispensable after I helped him by c/p-ing an attachment from one email to the other email a few days ago. Ha!)

Finally. I can't wait. It looks like I might actually be doing a bit more than usual.

Of course, I still expect to be able to pop onto the internet every once in a while. [And this is not meant as an indication of how wonderful I am - which I am, of course - but rather of how absolutely mindnumbingly little work I usually have to do]

February 12, 2006

Exercices de style

In my attempt to become at least slightly conversational in French I spent the evening properly preparing for my next French tutorial on Monday. Sometimes I really wonder why I put myself through this... I also don't understand why I find it so hard after mastering a language like Japanese! If only I could speak this too...

In any case, tonight was a struggle. After cancelling last week's tutorial I had promised to send in my assignment not-at-the-last-minute (i.e. tonight, at the latest) to my tutor which meant I needed to finish it now. What we're doing is pretty tough though, if I may say so myself: we're (or at least, I am) re-writing our (my) own versions of Exercises de style. In a way it's a fun exercise, but much more demanding than just filling out grammar exercises in a book!

The original book by Raymond Queneau is a pretty fascinating linguistic experiment. One story, of two paragraphs, is re-written in 99 variations. It really is very interesting to see how he juggles the language to make it a fascinating read every time. I'm using the Dutch translation alongside it, but this would have been a major challenge for any translator!

So, I'm trying to do the same to my little story. Pffff... As I said, it's a struggle. But hey, it's me who wants to learn French so I really shouldn't be complaining, right?

Unrelatedly, I've also been looking for good new films. There seem to be quite a few out at the moment. Any recommendations? Will try to see at least one of the following I hope:
Me and you and everyone we know
Paradise Now
Walk the line
They all seem good though.

[update - 27/2]
See, I really don't go to the cinema all that often. Two weeks after posting that I had oh so many movies that I wanted to see, I finally saw the first of those listed (Munich) last night. Good, I think. Although it wasn't as great as I was expecting. Still a fun night out though, as I also got to catch up with a close friend.
Ah well, still a long list of movies to go ...

February 09, 2006


I've been driving myself crazy this week. I'm completely knackered, while I haven't physically done anything at all (I mean, who can call 1,5 hours of Japanese calligraphy a physical activity?)

I am so happy that at least the working part of it is over, but unfortunately it still leaves one scary thing: the dental surgeon.

It's totally irrational. I don't really understand why I'm so scared about it, but well, I am. I have no terrifying memories of my visits to the hospital to have teeth pulled out when I was much younger (11-ish, I think) so why is this bothering me so much??

Okay - breath in, breath out.
I'll be fine. Just tell me to get a grip...


For the Dutchies interested, the tv-programme NOVA has two nights almost exclusively dedicated to the cartoon-affair. Tonight (at 22:30) with reports on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the US position. And a full Friday night with discussions between politicians, journalists, cartoonists etc on the issues at stake. Could be interesting.

Should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance?

Warning: prepare for a long and rambling post…. I doubt the below makes sense.

I`ve been meaning to write this post for some time but can`t seem to find a way to properly write down what I want to say. Mostly because I just don`t know what I want to say.

This cartoon/integration/Muslim vs. Europe-and-the-rest/freedom of speech/freedom of religion-thing is really getting to me. The more I read about it and the more I think about it, I am realizing that this is one of the biggest issues facing our society at this moment. In the Netherlands, but also in the rest of the world.

Should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? That question is a big part of it, isn`t it?
To what extent do you have to make allowances for religion? When does it go too far and does it interfere with society? Is this unavoidable? Is this the irony of globalization: that globalization is making the world such an open place that it, instead of the rest of the world being Westernized (with all its faults), has shifted to the West being Islamized?

I was reading a long piece in a Dutch opinion mag on the bus to work today where they listed all the ways in which Islam was ‘invading’ the Netherlands and society. Surprisingly, or maybe not-so-surprisingly, it went on for pages and pages. One of the points made was also that there is less and less opportunity for Dutch and immigrants (for lack of better words I’ll use these two ‘categories’) to come in contact with each other. There are halal butchers, Islamic hospitals, Islamic schools etc etc etc. One can really stay in his own world. And of course this doesn’t only go for muslim immigrants, but for ‘native Dutch’ as well. I mean, when do I ever do my grocery shopping at one of the tiny Moroccan shops?

The things that struck me in the article were for instance that some Dutch schools now have gym classes seperately for boys and girls again; that female muslim students in medical school refuse to practice with a male fellow-student; that muslim men are refusing to shake hands with women; etc etc.
These are the kind of things that shift the character of a society. And I am really struggling with the question to what extent this shift should be allowed to happen. I truly believe that the Netherlands is an open enough society for all religions to have their place but obviously it is impossible, unworkable to fulfill all the needs in society of all these religions.

Back to the cartoons. I really do believe that freedom of speech is ultimate in this case. Yes, respect is needed but you cannot force respect out of people by establishing codes of conduct for the media or for the general public. The BBC reported today that President Chirac had said that “any subject matter that could hurt other people's convictions should be avoided.” Well, mabye. But ‘hurting someone’s feelings’: that is an incredibly broad concept. And it would mean that you can’t publish anything which is even the tiniest bit controversial anymore because it will always hurt someone.Not to mention that regulating the media to prescribe what they are allowed or not allowed to say comes much much too close to a police state/dictatorship/Big Brother scenario. (I already think the Netherlands is moving there closer as it is.)

The EU cannot give in to the sense of fear that seems so pervasive at the moment. If you do not fight for the extremes, what else is worth fighting for? (I’m quoting this from somewhere, but can’t find the source...). The EU should have backed Denmark much stronger than it has.

Freedom of speech is, to me, the fundamental aspect of Europe and the Netherlands, of democracy. Yes, people will get hurt. But there are ways to defend yourself against this too. As there are ways to protest the publication of the cartoons! This should definitely not be violence though. Especially not if one of the images that the protesters want to avoid is the image of Islam being a religion of violence. Burning embassies and rioting and doing all the things which are going on in the Middle East at the moment is almost equal to proving the point the cartoonist was trying to make! (Speaking of the outburst of violence, the BBC just reported that the US has accused Iran and Syria of inciting the violence)

On the other hand, aren’t we merely trying to make our morality (of freedom of speech, seperation of church and state, democracy, gender equality etc) win? And isn’t that what ‘the others’ (whether this be other religions, or people with other political ideas, or even other groups) are trying to do as well? We all think we are right and the others are wrong. No matter how much you would debate and argue there is not a chance of changing your opponent’s mind. An unwinnable battle?

When I put it like that, how will it ever be possible to – even if not agreeing on everything – but at least live together peacefully? To respect each other’s ideology and religion but to be able to have basic values in common in order to have a common society?

I might fix this post in the morning. For now, I needed to get it written out.

The question in the title stuck in my head after reading it in a post at Classical Values...

February 08, 2006

Wow, it just keeps getting weirder....

This is bizar.

The oh-so-offensive cartoons were re-printed in an Egyptian (!) newspaper as early as last October, according to this blogger, Sandmonkey (with scans of the original paper). And nothing happened at that time? Then why is it such a big issue this time around?


Turning Un-Japanese

The title links to a somewhat interesting article on how Japan is supposedly turning un-Japanese. Oh wait, make that on how TOKYO is becoming un-Japanese.

The article is correct in saying that Japan is not as homogenous as it is usually made out. It talks a lot about how foreigners are becoming part of society, how much more of city life is now in English etc etc. But, what the author describes is really much more a Tokyo thing in my experience than a national thing. Nevertheless, it isn't bad to dispel some of the myths surrounding the country. It just always irks me when people talk as if Japan = Tokyo.

Uhm, no. Not quite.
And that's not surprising really. In my experience capitals are usually not representative of their country. Same goes for Amsterdam. While I love the city, it is not all what the Netherlands is about... Tokyo is like that. It's an amazing city, but please don't think that that is all that Japan has to offer. There is so much more, and most of it is much more interesting and fascinating once you get outside of that big mikan called Tokyo.

In other Japan-news, now that another Princess is pregnant - and now that there is some hope again on a male heir to the throne - Koizumi is postponing the proposed bill in order to amend legislation to allow female succession.

February 05, 2006

Weekend! Just one thing I forgot...

Well, it's still the weekend but today is not promising to bring much excitement beside preparing my job interview for tomorrow (fingers crossed) and write some more applications.

Got some shopping done though, which was much needed:

* after two years of living without a proper cd-player I finally got a new stereo yesterday. Ah, bliss! I still don't quite understand how I lived without for so long.
* to celebrate I got cd's from Arctic Monkeys and Royksopp. So far, I love them both (after barely one listen but well).
* a desperately needed hairdresser-visit - my hair is red again, and curlier. :)
* new cookbooks: one on soups (as I've got it in my head to make a huge pan of soup on Thursday night as I'm going to get my wisdomtooth cut out on Friday.... scared!) and one on Indian cooking. I don't know why but I've wanted one on Indian food for ages, in the same way that I've been wondering about good Indian restaurants here for some time.
And a bunch of newspapers and magazines to get me through Sunday (in those few minutes that I'm not doing useful stuff... right). Also saw the film The Hours. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. And also made me resolve to find some more Virginia Woolf to read.

After coming back from shopping though, and reading more and more about the escalating cartoon issue, I should've really bought Danish food. While making coffee just now I remembered that I actually have a Danish cookbook (just about all recipes are with cheese and/or butter) so I might just have to finally make something from that this week.

Okay, I'm off to start my Sunday (there's still some fun planned in there, coffee with Cookie probably). Wish me luck for tomorrow!

The coffee this afternoon resulted in more new music: Relax!. Very cool music, thanks Cookie!

February 02, 2006

More on the cartoons

[can you tell I'm bored at work?]

I've been discussing the issue of the Danish cartoons, the outrage that this has caused in the muslim world and, more in general, integration and multiculturalism with my colleague a lot today. It got quite intense at times, I should really not get into anything political at work...

I can not believe it's causing so much controversy.

Classical Values links to an article by a muslim commentator Safiyyah Ally which finally shows that apparently (fortunately!) this extreme reaction is not how all muslims feel.

He gives some good arguments why he doesn't agree with the over-the-top reaction.
Those up in arms don't seem to understand that the newspaper is not government owned or produced. It is an independent newspaper, and as such the guarantee of freedom of expression allows it to do what it did. It may be in bad taste and it may be insensitive, but the newspaper has a point: freedom of expression allows individuals to express themselves in ways that may upset or offend others. Yes, that freedom is to be balanced with freedom of religion, but even so, adherents of any faith cannot expect that they will never be offended. That is the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy. Some may claim this is a good time to bring out those old blasphemy laws, but I disagree. In fact, I would argue there are no justifiable grounds for blasphemy laws in liberal democracies.

In any case, why these Arab countries would see fit to demand that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen apologize is beyond me. If one wanted to protest the publication of those cartoons, one could always cancel one's subscription to the newspaper. But to boycott products from the country? Burn Danish flags? Remove ambassadors to express one's displeasure? Those sorts of responses are just nonsensical. The government is not to be blamed for the idiocy of a private newspaper.

I couldn't agree more.

Ascending the Japanese throne

Through Steve Silver I found a BBC report on a rally by Japanese politicians against allowing women on the imperial throne.

I *love* this comment by former trade minister Hiranuma:

"If Aiko becomes the reigning empress, and gets involved with a blue-eyed foreigner while studying abroad and marries him, their child may be the emperor," he told the rally at a Tokyo hall.


There are plenty of other ways to prevent this, if it really is so undesirable. I'm no expert on Japanese imperial succession but in the Netherlands the Royal family members who want to marry have to ask approval from the parliament, if they want to retain their rightful claim to the throne.

This sometimes leads to controversy - especially in the last few years - but it would prevent any unwanted people from claiming the throne.

February 01, 2006

How to make sense of the world...?

In absence of actual work to do I spend my days in the office reading news & blogs, posting away on boards, oh and finding job ads and writing applications. Who would have thought earning money would be this stressful!

The highlights of today’s news selection:

* Cultivating Loneliness – Robert D. Kaplan - an article by Kaplan on the differences between journalism and travel writing (through Coming Anarchy)

* The continuing controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons which were published in a national paper last September and depicted the prophet Mohammed:
Cartoon outrage bemuses Denmark
France enters Muslim cartoon row (unfortunately I haven’t been able to load the French site though...)

* The State of the Union – and mostly the fact that all reporting that I’ve seen on it focus so much on Bush's resolution to break the American ‘addiction’ to oil... (on imported oil, that is)
Bush urges end to “oil addiction”

And oh yeah, Iran. Apparently even Russia and China have said they recommend to refer the issue to the UNSC? Surprising... I wonder what will happen at the IAEA meet tomorrow.

I can't believe so much is going wrong at the same time (okay, maybe GWB's comments are positive but still). Weird world it is...

But to keep my mind away from serious stuff I’m also slowly expanding my network on Hyves (VERY slowly, that is)...
Hmm, will have to post something about that sometime too. Jules has written about blogs and communities, and the popularity of this interactive network (or whatever you should call them) in particular has really surprised me...

okay, after reading through a few more blogs, here are some other posts about the 'addicted to oil'-catchphrase:
SOTU Followup by Kevin Drum
and of course lots at The Oil Drum