July 27, 2006

Catch-up time!

Remember the lack of pictures from my few weeks in Kazakhstan and Moscow? Well, you're in luck. It looks like there'll be some pictures uploaded in about 2 months or so. Taken by me, with a brand new digital camera.

Now, does anyone have suggestions for the kind of camera I should go for? (uhm, budget style, that is)
And suggestions on how I should travel from Kazakhstan into China? I seem to suffer from instant-travel-daydreaming though, so can't say yet if this'll happen!

Maybe things weren't so bad

Remember my post about the failing launches?
Of course, it all could have been much worse - like this for example....


I think people feel slightly better now that MetOp is only facing a delay - and hasn't turned into ten thousand pieces.

July 24, 2006

To continue on from many other blogs...

A) Four jobs I've had in my life
- management assistant
- interpreter
- waitress/receptionist/kitchenhand (i.e. anything you might need in a hotel)
- administrative assistant

B) Four movies I would watch over and over
- Mononoke hime
- Afterlife
- more of Valerio Zurlini & Akira Kurosawa
- *whispers* Grease (hey, it's an ultimate feelgood movie!)

C) Four places I have lived
- Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
- Haenosaki, Nagasaki, Japan
- Leiden, Netherlands
- Tokyo, Japan

D) Four TV shows I love to watch
- 24
- RTL Travel
- Secret Life of Us
- not really entertainment but: Buitenhof

E) Four places I have been on vacation
- Seoul, South Korea
- Isle of Skye, Scotland
- Moscow
- Izumo, Japan

F) Four websites I visit daily
- BBC News
- Volkskrant
- my bloglines account and a lot of blogs
- the office's intra/internet

G) Four of my favourite foods
- okonomiyaki
- rucola and tomato salad
- my dad's cooking
- seasonal foods: asparagus, mussels, summerfruits(yumm!)

H) Four places I would rather be right now
- Copenhagen
- on the Trans Mongolian Express
- on a sailing boat in the Mediteranean
- behind a brandnew iBook *sigh*

I) Four people I think will respond
- Haha! If any, they'll do it in the same way as I responded to Jo/Jules/Jules/Cookie/Chimera etc.

July 23, 2006

Sunday mornings

... one way how not to start a Sunday morning is by waking up too early, and then browsing through a big stack of career magazines.

I think I need to get out something fun to make up for the depression that sets in when seeing article after article euphorically claiming how wonderfully the job market is recovering and how there's a lack of all kinds of people (read: IT/finance/technical people).

The good things though:
- coffee
- sun
- newspapers
- breakfast (well, grapes)


July 20, 2006

Three times lucky? Not this week...

My space adventures seem to be unlucky.

After the failure of the CryoSat mission October last year, I was recently at another launch event for a new satellite: MetOp. Unfortunately (or, in retrospect, fortunately?) I wasn't at the launch site itself but was invited at a European site to attend the event.

Fun, except for the fact that about 1,5 hours before the launch the countdown was aborted... Luckily this isn't as serious as losing the satellite, as happened with CryoSat, and everyone was still fairly optimistic that it would be successful 24 hours later. That confidence proved to be unfounded, when again a few hours in advance the launch was called off.
Take three = lucky? Uhm, nope. After being very very close, the countdown clock stopped at 2min19s before take-off....


MetOp is now looking at a delay until well after the summer. So frustrating, after being so close.
The good thing is of course that the satellite is still on the ground, and is ready for launch. We just have to be slightly more patient.


On a sidenote, Frankfurt is a very nice city! Very different than expected with a very modern, sky-scraper part and an older part of town, lovely riverside etc. Perfect for hanging out for an afternoon, sipping coffee, soaking up the sun and reading my book. Hmmm. These worktrips aren't bad at all!


And on a very very different sidenote, due to all of the above, I have already made huge adjustments to my China route in all my daydreaming. Anyone know anything about crossing the border between KZ and China?

July 13, 2006

Of parents and their inconsistencies

The latest saga in the non-logic of my parents:

My parents have had two small Japanese soy sauce jars as part of their very small collection of family antiques for as long as I can remember. They never meant anything to me until I was in my second year of Japanese at university and we were forced to translate a text on the production and export of soy sauce from Japan to Europe in the 18/19th century. When I got back to the Netherlands after that year, it clicked: the jars at my parents' are exactly identical to the descriptions which I had had to translate so frustratingly a year earlier.

Since then I've always said that I want those two jars – at an unspecified time in the future at which my parents will actually allow me to take them. In my mind that wouldn't be for a few more decades. Fine. Eventually I'm sure they would end up in my house.

So a few months ago some acquaintances visited my parents' house, saw the jars, and were all excited because they have two as well – "and oh, machiruda would like some? No problem, we'll take them for her next time we're here!". Great, that went faster than expected.

The problem?
My mum at that moment decided that actually it wasn't a problem if I took her two jars as well because she wasn't really doing anything with them anyway. *SIGH*
So now I have four almost identical 'antique' soy sauce jars. And in the tiny home that is my apartment I still haven't found a proper place to showcase them.

P.S. apologies for the bad picture, but I figured I should at least show what this story is about. The jars are really nothing special, but just fun to have because of the history part of it. And hey, now I own some antiques!

Anyone else with confusing parents like these?

July 12, 2006

Moscow - better late than never

Oops, I realized I hadn't written a long-promised report on my weekend in Moscow last month. So here goes.

I think I mentioned before that the city feels megalomanic (is that English?). When I tell people how overwhelming the city felt, how HUGE it is, the standard reaction is: “But you lived in Tokyo – how can anything be bigger than that?”. Well, Moscow is one of the places that does. It is big in a very different way though. It's a city built for giants. Especially in the city center (where I spent most of my time) you can feel the power and money – and you can fully imagine the roads full of tanks and military parades as we've all seen on old pictures of the Soviet Union.

The overwhelmingness of it all took me a bit by surprise. The first night I spent in the city I spent walking around the Red Square and the river and it gave me a very good impression, despite all the hecticness.

However, coming back after three weeks for the weekend was quite different. Despite (or because of?) having a very good guidebook I felt I couldn't really make up my mind and I ended up wandering around the city a lot. Also good and interesting – and it made me end up at interesting places – but in a sense it also felt a bit like a weekend of lost opportunities.

The highlights of the trip:
* a guided tour around the Kremlin – me and a colleague were shown around privately for three hours by a non-stop talking guide. The Kremlin is huge! Despite my expectations of it being a lot of buildings for government, it is almost a walled-in town. The main attractions are the palaces (which we didn't enter unfortunately) and the cathedrals. It's very park-like because of all the green. Did I say it is huge? Some knowledge of tsarist history is quite necessary though! I can't remember how many different stories we heard about Peter the Great, the great-grandmother of Catherine the Great, the long lost cousin of someone else, etc. etc.

* the Metro – it wasn't so much the stories about all the marvelous stations and such. Yes, they are big and wondrous with marble halls and so on. It was more the shock when I realized that everything was written in Cyrillic! No English, not anywhere. I'm quite used to travelling by subway but it gets a bit more adventurous when you realize that you do really need to stare at the (small) signs to work out what line you need to take to get to what station. And if that wasn't enough: they need to re-do the colouring. Distinguishing the orange line from the red line from the brown line was quite a challenge at times.

The metro is fun though. Riding back into the center on Saturday night was especially fun! After having spent the evening at a horrendous tourist trap dance show (caused by the lack of proper classical ballet performances that evening in the city) I was treated to another performance underground when some passengers spontaneously started playing music and dancing in the traincar. I love that, just watching people do their own thing.

What I should do differently next time:
* go to the New Tretyakov Gallery instead of the old one. The old Gallery has indeed an interesting building and all of the Russian classic artists up until about the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, most art that I find interesting is after that time! After my Russian colleague had convincingly persuaded me to go to the old one (“No, it's not seperated in time, that's not true, it's all together in the old Gallery, the New one is for temporary exhibitions.” – hey, I can't exactly argue with a local if the guidebook says otherwise, right?) I did have a good afternoon. But I still desperately want to go to the New Gallery!

* skip the Arbat. The guidebook said it was one of the most pleasant areas of Moscow to walk around in. Uhm, yes. If you like aggressive souvenir sellers, souvenir shops and tourist haunts. I don't know where the Russian shops are in this area but the Arbat is not the place to be.

All in all, it's a fascinating place. So much power, history, money. Although Moscow is not immediately on the top of my list of places to go back to I think there is still much much more to see. For now, next up in Russia is St. Petersburg. Preferably in winter!

July 10, 2006

Monday morning

I so don't feel like working today so instead I'm keeping myself busy with lots of other stuff:

- trying to find out if Frankfurt is fun enough to spend an afternoon there early next week;
- getting excited about the following weekend (most of which to be spent in Amsterdam):
  • 2 Many Dj's/Soulwax Niteversions and more on Friday!
  • LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad (and more) on Saturday!
  • recovering from a massive hangover at Werfpop!
- flirting with fun colleague;
- worrying about relationship-stuff (resolved);
- researching a good location for a hiking-weekend next month with my mum;
- etc.

Gah, I hate Mondays in the office.

July 09, 2006

Hmm, travel....

I don't have much news to tell, but needed to share my latest book purchase:

- a China guidebook!

Woohoo! Looks like I'm definitely going!

Not a definite travel plan so far - hopefully a friend and I can make a plan to travel together for part of the way. Tentative itinerary is to fly into Beijing and fly out of Shanghai (although I'm considering to change this to Hongkong instead) and travel from one city to the next in about three weeks time (in September/October-ish).

I know there are some China-travellers and such reading, if you have any suggestions for what we definitely should see in those weeks, please leave a comment!

P.S. Our current planned travel period would have us be in China during the October holiday week. How bad is it really to travel in the country in this period? Avoid at all costs, or is it doable without planning ahead too much?

July 05, 2006


Keira Knightley and her outfit are apparently circulating the internet everywhere....
This does look kind of scary...

Oooh, a football post!

France just made it to the finals of the World Cup. Can't say I care much in particular but it does make me think back to the final of the World Cup in 1998 in Paris:

France vs. Brazil
me in Paris
visiting a Brazilian friend
watching the game in a Brazilian bar

Brazil lost ...


A great night though. Leaving the bar, and trying to get home across the Place de la Bastille was amazing, soooo many people outside partying. I can fully imagine that Paris (and the whole of France, for that matter) is going absolutely crazy again. And is in full anticipation of this weekend's game!

Growing up

Obviously everyone has their moments of realizing that you're getting older. By looking at friends who are having babies or buying houses, or by starting to pay off your student loans.

Recently I came across two more things that made me wonder where time has gone - in a good way too, because pretty much everyone around me is doing really well. Although in an adult way ;-)

In any case, these two things. When I was at university, I would always turn first to the back page of the weekly university paper to read the column and laugh at the comic.
And - in my mind - almost at the same time both those columnists (two universities, two university papers so two columnists!) are making it 'big'. I've always really enjoyed their writing, but to me it seemed a relatively small thing and very much part of the university period. It is quite funny to see how they are also moving away from that period - and moving on to better things!

For one, Christiaan Weijts has just published his first novel: Art. 285b. And it's getting unbelievable reviews almost everywhere, such as here at the Volkskrant for example. This is definitely going on my book buying list!

The second columnist is now writing for what I consider to be the best Dutch newspaper and it's recent spin-off paper. A recent column for NRC.next caught my attention as Aaf describes the dance event that I went to on the weekend. Judging by this though it seems as if her columns have become even more airy, as she is describing it quite stereotypically.

It was an interesting read as she touches on a discussion that I and my friend had on Saturday as well. We went to Sensation White ; a night where about 30.000 people are dancing inside the Amsterdam Arena (the Amsterdam football stadium), all dressed in - you guessed it - white. And almost all of them had paid lots of money to be there.

And that's exactly what amazed us, and what amazed Aaf: paying a lot of money to be forced to wear only one particular colour (we had to go shopping as white is pretty much non-existent in my wardrobe) and to be lining up for ages everywhere. The press conference of the event put it down to 'the ultimate experience'. Right, ultimate, with 30.000 instant friends. Also, 'feeling safe'. Hmm, maybe. I suppose people feel safe when they feel as if they belong to a group?

In any case that was also sort of the conclusion of our discussion - people like to belong. To a group, to a subculture and they don't mind paying for it, even if it does take away a bit of freedom (in dress, in movement, etc.).

Anyway, I had a good night. Pretty cool to see the whole stadium full of white people, music was okay-ish although had hoped for better. But, I hope to be making up for very good music in two weeks during a much smaller and much more comfortable event: 5DaysOff. Can't wait!