zondag 28 juni 2009

Emma is 15

For all family waiting for news of Em'z Birthday in Canada, England and New Zealand, then you will have to wait for a day or so. My computer is crap, or it may be Vista, but it's taking me for a good tour round Buggered-Computer-Land. Also, I cannot draw at the moment as my drawing tablet (never trust anything from 'Trust') is also buggered. I have lots of photos and news of this event but I am about to throw this heap of shit out of the window. I will give it a night to think about my threats and hopefully it will reform. Merel and Thijs were 'off' but before I could type you the news, it was back on again. Twenty minute separation/reconcilliation. Catch you all tomorow.

Back again - computer struggling, but working. Emma's party was not much different from Merel's, just a few more people and all the Young People a little bit younger. Fortunately they both have birthdays in June, so the party-tent, tables, lights and barbecue can all be left in place. And there are plenty of left-overs. Partly filled bottles of cola can be combined to make full ones. Half eaten hamburgers can be trimmed to match other halfeaten hamburgers like jig-saw puzzles. Refrozen, the 2 bits stick together. Although the average age of the guests would be about 14, we found a list of names upon which Emma had assigned alcoholic beverages. The idea was that each child would arrive with at least one bottle of something strong. It soon became apparent that the young guests had difficulty bringing in their handbags, and that the handbags made a distinct klinking sound when placed on the floor. We had set a limit of one crate of beer, several bottles of cider and 6 of some dreadful rose that was only 7.5% which gave the Young People the bravado without the headache.

Early arrivals

Emma with new friend - A new beginning

We are not compatible - flamingo pink and cobalt blue? Shudder!

Can you see Merel's tongue pierthing?

What a fine pair!

Did I menthion my tongue pierthing?

Bernadet is allowed to cook sausages now and again

The double deep-fry unit was particularly in demand. As I was in charge of the cooking, I was most pleased to hear all the accolades about the quality of my french-fries, krokets, fricandels and loempias. And the hamburgers, some of which fell into two halves when unfrozen. The barbecue, borrowed from neighbour Jan is just great.
Sorry Miss, this seat's taken

Birthday girl and sister

Britt and friend

In case you missed my tongue-pierthing

If only they could talk! They're trying to say something, we'll never know.

Old People in the Adult Supervision post


Rebecca and Eva getting tanked

About my pierthing...

Armed only with the tin-opener with which I had escaped from the Russian submarine, I, the brave Sebastian, turned to face the giant squid. I felt sorry for the monster, they could be only one winner!.

Just good friends


These four just sat and ate

Nithe atmothphere


A disturbing trend in Holland!. This lad has had his initials tattoed on his underpants! His little brother will no doubt be going into the second hand car-business. Or kitchen knives on the Shopping Channel. Total sincerity, cross my heart.

Bye Bye!

Nobody (almost) got drunk or caused unseemly incidents. Then most of then went home. However, a dozen or so got no further than the next field where they lay down to contemplate the stars and had to be herded homewards. The remainder sang the party to bed. Eliza, 14, and her mother who came to collect her, sing beautifully. Click here for a sample. In the second part of this clip she is singing with a mobile playing the original in Mp3, to get the pitch and a reminder of the words.

Bye all!

Sef, please phone or Skype!

Michael Jackson

I do not know if Michael Jackson was a victim or a villain. I suspect that he was a simple person who could not deal with his talent and his fame, a child who never grew into a man, and whose relationship with children was simply one of children at play. Too foolish to judge the danger that misinterpretation of his perhaps innocent behaviour might invoke, ignorant of his power over young people and too isolated from reality by his wealth to care. Perhaps. When a pretty girl at the Nova College puts an arm around my shoulder while I am solving her computer problems, I am scared that another adult might see, form an opinion, and report. In these cases I explain diplomatically, but firmly to the student that this is not proper and that there must be a relationship between us that is friendly but not familiar, for both our sakes.
I do not know if Michael Jackson was a monstrous pervert. If he was, then, as Jesus says, 'It would be better for him had he never been born'. If he was not, then half the world owes him an apology.

I loved his earlier music. 'Thriller' is a masterpiece. As a person, I did not like him at all; there was always something, at best wierd, at worst creepy about him. This drawing by a Dutch cartoonist in the 'Volkskrant' ('Peoples Paper') may be totally unfair in its implied accusation, but is devastating in its effect. A picture is 'worth a thousand words'. This one encapsulates volumes in a simple sketch. Without judging Michael Jackson, I simply show the power of a good cartoon.

This one is dynamite.

woensdag 24 juni 2009

Just a note about Ad-Sense

In the 3 months since I put Google Ad-Sense on this blog, I have earned 1 euro and 42 cents from the advertistments. But the real prize is to see what comes up in the automatic selection of the right advert for the blog based on context. I shall never know where Ball Valves came from, and I could not steer it towards dog-food, but please look at the market Google thinks is appropriate fo me now. In the piece about Merel's birthday I mentioned a few times '' Old People' and the sentence 'During the week I spent much time tying to erect a party tent. Good erections are a blessing at 67.'

The Ad selection is now:

Need Mobility Equipment?
Buy Direct From The Manufacturer New Zealand Made Mobility Products
www.tubularequipment.co.nz/ rollators, crutches, walking sticks, wheelchairs
Licht Urineverlies?
Envive van Always. Haal gratis sample op de site!
Disability Ramps
Find Vendors of Portable Ramps In the Directory at Business.com http://www.business.com/
Ideal Disabled Soulmate
Find Your Ideal Disabled Soulmate. Join Free. SMS, Email, Live Chat... http://www.datedisabled.com/
Folding Walkers from $79
Four wheeled rollators from $189.99 Shop over 700 mobility supplies!

......and if you click on Family and get to the bit called 'Reflections' which was a note that said how fortunate I am to be in good health, with a wonderful family etc, while others face sickness and pain, Ad-Sense targets appropriately ...

Vrouwen zoeken op Lexa
Date met 1000en leuke singles! Zoek via leeftijd, geslacht & foto. http://www.lexa.nl/
Single Indian Girls
Beautiful Single Indian Girls waiting for you. Find your love now. http://www.lavaplace.com/

Good heavens! One day software will rule all our decision making! I hope it grows up!

Breaking News! 2.30 Thursday morning.

YES! It took awhile, but here is the proof - I have created a market and the Ad-Sharks are circling! In the piece entitled 'Tony the Boy Racer' I wrote -

The following is an experiment. Please ignore. I want Ad-Sense to get off Ball Valves and on to something else. How about Dog Food? Rattle on about dog food for a bit and see if the experiment works. My dog, which I haven't got, likes food, particularly dog food. O yes, very fond of dog food is my dog, dog food being his favorite food, what with him being a dog and all, so dog food would seem to be a wise choice for a dog needing food. Dog food? I only have to mention dog food and my dogs thinks dog food is just the food for a dog like me, and all my dog friends like dog food as well. Dog food is just the thing for us as well they, cry, bring on the dog food. Nothing like dog food for a hungry dog, oh my goodness me, all those chunky lumps of dog food in a nourishing dog food jelly. When it's time for dog food, all my doggy friends chant 'dog food, dog food, dog food' over and over again, 'dog food, dog food, dog food' they go, repeating themselves as if dog food and yet more dog food was the only thing on their minds. Apart from even more dog food.

And the result?

dog food Info
All there is to know on dog food Feed


P.S. Sara and Stef : Thanks for Father's Day messages on the Wall on Facebook. Telephone not working - has been dropped too many times. It is now replaced by a non-wireless relic from the Napoleonic Wars. I never see either of you online for Skype. Can you call us (Use Bernadet account - she has a nice webcam/mike setup. Mine is shitty.)

Love you - Dad.

maandag 22 juni 2009

A Diploma, a Birthday, and how to get poor.

Two great events in June. Merel is 17 and has her first diploma. At 15 a turbulent time for both Merel and her distraught parents began. At 17 the party animal has become a bright, mature young lady. Still with plenty of fire and spirit thank God, but close and warm to us again, as it should be. And with a great sense of humour.

This is the humorous reaction of one teenager when confronted by another teenager who also is her sister and who is armed with camera.

Merel does not work hard to pass exams. Homework was never of primary interest. But when needed, she would do enough to get through. At 15 I was top of the class in some subjects without doing any work. There were two sets of marks, one for exams and one for homework throughout the year. My report said that I was 29th out of 29 for term and homework, and first at exam time. I was asked to stand next to the teacher. I was so proud. I was asked to explain what these numbers meant. Like a fool, I said it meant that I was the best in the class. I recieved several hard whacks around the head from a huge hand. No, it did not mean that I was the best. It meant that I was the laziest sodding wretch that it has ever been my displeasure to teach. What does it mean? Say it loud or I'll have your trousers down and six of the best in front of the class (in the 1950's being beaten to a pulp with a bamboo pole was good for the building of character. It didn't do your arse much good though).

Merel had a camera for her birthday. I hope it's a better one than that which took this picture in the Wok Palace

Biology lesson at the Wok Palace.
Part 4. The entrails of the hedgehog.

This I fail to understand. 'Be all that you can be' is one thing. If someone has to work their balls off to get a diploma, while another gets it without much effort and has some fun, then I know which I would rather be. In other subjects I did work hard to make the grade because I had to. But only because it was the only way. Some people end up being good at the process of learning but cannot stop or they lose it, others get good at taking it in and hanging on to it.

Sisters in the kitchen. Rare moments of loving cooperation.

'Just the one salad, then?'

I digress. Merel did not get good marks at school because she did the minimum. On the other hand, she is responsible and well organised. Maths and logic were never a problem for Merel. At the age of 6 Merel was the only one who could work out the Ikea diagrams for the new bookshelf. Because we were worried about the final exam, Bernadet offered financial encouragement, pennies for points. I did warn Bernadet that money for points over the pass mark for each of the 8 subjects could be expensive. What if she started pulling books out and learning stuff? Well she didn't, and we were more concerned about failure. In Holland you are not allowed to leave school until you are either 18 or have a higher diploma. The exams that Merel was taking were to gain entrance to a higher college for a course that might let her out at 18. We started to get worried when we checked the Maths exam answers on the internet. Yep, got that one. And that. Yep, the next is good too. And so on. Not one wrong answer. Having just bought a car, our bank account cannot support too many correct answers. When the results were published, we were presented with two documents by our very proud daughter. An invitation to a Diploma Ceremony, and a bill for 450 euros for points earned. It was hard to explain to her that we were hoping and expecting that she would just scrape through, and could she wait for a few weeks? Seriously, it was worth every cent. Half of it pays off the loan to us for her second scooter (the first having been tinkered to destruction) a sum which we thought never to see again.

Well done Merel, and now she is also accepted into the college of her first choice, on a course of Animal Welfare and Management. It probably helped at the interview to be able to say that her pets were fish, hamsters, mice, rabbits, cats, rats and a horse. And she worked at weekends in the animal department of a huge plant and animal mega-market handling all kinds of beasts, including snakes and tarantulas.

To celebrate her birthday we had agreed to go out for a meal including boyfriend Thijs. I mean with boyfriend Thijs as a guest, not as a main course. Having arranged to borrow money from Merel for this feast, we all set off for the Wok Palace at the Tudor Hotel. For 20 euros, all you can eat in two and a half hours. For 30 eruros all you can eat and drink in that time. We unwisely went for the 20 euro deal, and drank ourselves into the poorhouse. I am usually suspicious of these places, having being spoiled by the wonderful Chinese buffets in Toronto (all you can take in for 10 dollars), and the nauseating Mr Woo's in London (everything you can keep down for a fiver). This one was very good. Soup, sushi and salad bars, many chinese dishes, superb salmon and fresh-water fish and a build-your-own wok counter which would then be fired up for you, whatever unlikely mix you chose. After two hours and 5 kilos, back home. A stormy night with a roaring tempest and much wind.

During the week I spent much time tying to erect a party tent. Good erections are a blessing at 67. All the bits were there, but there seemed to be too many poles and in odd numbers, strange for a symetrical tent. And some of the clicky bits didn't stay clicked together. Each time I managed to get the roof assembled, it all collapsed and rained aluminium poles on me when I tried to raise it up on its supports. Eventually I tied the whole structure together with string and it all went up. Ropes of light and a hi-fi and all is ready. The idea is that Young People would be in the tent, partially screened off from Old People so that they could do what Young People do at parties (mostly anatomical investigations of each other) without being seen by Old People. There would only be about 10 friends of Merel as there was another birthday party going on at the same time, and this party would, en masse, migrate and fuse at 10 p.m. The rest were family and other Old People.

Saturday the day of the party. I was sent out the day before to purchase food and drinks. Bernadet had left a list. Since the 10 or so young people would be on scooters, we would go easy on the alcohol. Two crates max. And Jan's magnificient barbecue machine would supply them all with cholesterol and unsaturated fat. The young people would not be staying after 10 oclock as they had a 'real' party to go to. I myself was appointed to run the barbecue. I hate barbecues after biting into a chicken that was burnt to toast on the outside, but cold and wet inside and started to bleed when I bit into it. And a barbecue some years ago in which a totally drunk neighbour was seen to be enjoying a leg of chicken. Raw.

Eva's dad is not impressed with my story of how I pushed a grand piano up the North Face of the Eiger while playing Schubert sonatas.

When I first saw the drinks list, it was quite short. After loading up the trolly with cola, 7-up, orange juice, Sisi, cassis, lemonade etc, I was then directed to the wines department for the six bottles of sweet white and the eight of rosé. The supermarket did not have any vodka, rum, gin jenever, absynthe, chivas, whiskey, bourbon, cointreau, cognac, malibu or champagne I went home with only half my list. I explained to my true love that I needed to find a liquor shop and she snatched the list from me. 'It looks like my writing, but I didn't write all that stuff after the soft drinks!'. Merel suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to be somewhere else, in great haste.

All went very well. I actually enjoyed the leadership over the barbecue apparatus. We did however get too much meat out of the freezer, so it looks like barbecue again on Sunday and Monday. The addition of the chip-fryer was also well recieved by the Young People. All in all, a great success, measured by the width of Merel's smile during the evening. And Merel's happiness was what it was all for.

The Young People were all well behaved and nobody got drunk. And very polite too. Politely asking if we would mind if they smoked a joint or two, and graciously accepting that we didnt mind if they didn't, upon which the Young People went for a walk to re-generate an appetite for the next round of the barbecue. And appeared a short time later, somewhat quieter than before, as if the walk had mellowed them somewhat. Those at the front end of the scooters seemed to have behaved quite responsibly, and helped those at the back onto their seats or draped them over them. And the Young People left to go to a proper party, while the Old People had a few more bevvies as the light faded. A nice time was had by all.

The party is off for a walk round the block, with ample refreshment.

Older people having a Good Time

.. and Young People wishing they knew the Old People's secret of how to have a Good Time.

Emma does a superman dive into her plate.
Yes sir, I can boogie, all night long.

Not me. Never touch the stuff myself. Why is everything so hazy?

After a few hours, barbecue remnants don't look so good. Nevertheless, some stalwarts still felt peckish enough to consume this offal.

Emma's party is next week, and everything is already in place. Only Emma has invited about 80 people and her entire Hyves swarm. Live broadcast on the Garden Cam of course.

Well done Merel. You are great.

The great Golf Debacle

Being not very good at golf, it is with some trepidation that one faces the prospect of a golf afternoon with old colleagues, some of whom can really play and probably with a low handicap number. When I am asked 'what is your handicap' I reply my handicap is that I can't play very well. I can hit the ball straight and true on the driving range for 150 metres, and once (only once) to the 200 mark. That was probably because the ground was cold and the ball kept bouncing and running on after landing at 150. Getting balls out of bunkers and chipping onto the green all works when you are just practicing. Get to the first tee and it all unravels and can end up in tears.

Pieter heads off to the first green, and treats us all to
a golf fashion-statement.

However, some of the said colleagues had never hit a ball before. Can you play golf? No, I've never played before so I can't play golf. Thats alright then. One less chance to be embarrassed. Or not. Some people can do things the first time. My father played the saxophone in the works band. There were too many saxophone players, so they asked him if he could play the violin. "I don't know. I've never tried. Maybe." A positive attitude. A few years ago, while I still worked at Otra, Maarten organised a golf afternoon. Maarten is a long thin person with very long clubs. He winds himself up like a clock spring and then there is a swishing, whirring sound, that soft contact that denotes the perfect strike, and the ball goes up at 45 degrees. And keeps on going. It does not fall, but just hangs in the air getting smaller and smaller. By the time it starts to fall, it is usually out of sight.

Nice follow through, good feet and hip position.
But where's the ball? Ed will be dissappointed when he looks down.

On that first Otra golf afternoon, I had just got the GVB and was full of myself, explaining to the noobies how to hold the club. Mark Adolfs was a keen student. I showed him how to put the ball over the 100 meters mark. Like this?" he said as the ball went straight and true, much further than mine on the driving range. "Was that O.K, or should it be more like this?". Another ball straight and true even further then the first. "Or perhaps thus". Another ball straight and true and about as far as I have ever hit one. "Dont worry Mark. You'll get the hang of it". In the actual round. Mark beat me by about 7 strokes. Mark was now playing only the second 9 holes in his life, but I had had a bit of practise and at least 10 rounds in the years between. Tennis players seem to be able to do anything. Mark and Ed are both good tennis players and like Mark, Ed seemed to have a natural feel for the game. But not for the rules. Putting with a five iron or setting your ball on a tee in the rough for the second shot 'because the grass is a bit long here'.

Somehow we ended up with a group of 3 and another of 5. Maarten's group, behind us at the start, managed to get past somehow and dump people onto ours. It was hard to get this herd moving across the prairies, even with the people behind us bellowing for us to get a move on. Sometimes the ball was putted from just off the green on one side to just off the green on the other side, and then back again to its original position. And then.... Advice was given about the difference between the action of the putter and the driver, and perhaps 10 or 15 is a reasonable score to give up on a hole. I myself started off quite well, with 4's and 5's, and then disaster. They had been mowing the greens and the grass dust had been dumped off the fairway on the edge of the trees. My ball fell into this stuff and sank. I could see it down the long, green tunnel. Play the ball as it lies is the rule. A mighty sweep with the pitching wedge and a green explosion. And nearly broke my hand when the club hit an invisible tree root just in front of the ball. I hacked my way out of this mess for an 8 on a par 3 and my day was ruined. On the next hole, a good approach but my pitch went straight ahead and over the green and far away instead of up in the air and down next to the hole. A bout of temper and a wild whack at the ball and we have another 8 on a par 3. The worst part of the day was on the last hole. My second shot landed 30 cms from the flag. It would be a certain par. The flag was still in the hole because everyone else was off the green or machetting their way out of the jungle. I could not wait to claim my prize and tapped the ball into the hole. Only it didn't go in. Hit the flag pole and rolled out again, it did.

Fashion Correspondent says 'Keep the glove, ditch the jacket'

Despite all the frustrations, a day of fun. Back to the bar and a few beers and a steak. Mark Adolfs beat me again. Again by 7 strokes. Are tennis players any good at snooker? Thanks all. We shall do it again.