Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An aside for any West Wing afficionados

This video from Slate about parallels between the plotline of (I think) the final season of The West Wing and the current presidential race provokes some thought about how life imitates art imitating life when you have experienced executive branch politicos jumping into tv writing. There are worse ways to spend 3 minutes of your time. (Ehm, than watching the video, I mean. Although if you can dash off a compelling hour-long drama in three minutes, by all means, please send it along.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

In case you wondered what an eight-year-old ponders...

We've just gotten back from another grueling schoolday commute and I set the kids down in front of their bowls of yogurt and granola and set off for the computer to check on Super Tuesday results. After about five minutes of dead silence but for the slurping of snack, the following:

Aislin: (yelling from the kitchen) Mom?

Me: Yes?

Aislin: Have you ever thought about just how often you use adverbs?

Me: (short pause) Er, no, I guess I haven't.

Aislin: Well I just have.

I pause, waiting for the follow-up. There is none. She is satisfied. Exeunt.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Living the fairytale life

So we broke our weekend hibernation long enough today to explore our environs a bit. We emerged from our cave, rubbed our eyes for a while in the forgotten spectacle of real sunlight, then pedaled off into the incessant winds. We had a map that seemed to evince that a few real castles might be within shouting distance, a possibility that actually appealed to both kids, so we knew we had to jump on it.

You have to understand that we don't undertake recreational bike rides lightly these days. One among us has to commute to work daily on his bike, spending a full hour in whatever capricious and brutal weather gets thrown at him; on Saturday morning at 3 a.m., for example, he had the distinct pleasure of riding through the first real snowstorm of the season with 50 mph wind gusts over a breathtakingly narrow bike path with a barge-bearing canal on one side and goose-bearing canal on the other. A Dutch Scylla and Charybdis, if you will. He arrived home covered in an inch of snow -- pardon me, 2.54 centimeters -- and semi-hysterical with laughter at how utterly unthinkable being outside in such conditions would have been to our softer selves even a few months ago.

So we were marveling at the lovely bike path to the Casteel de Haar and what a comparatively short ride it was, etc. Then we took a ninety-degree turn and were nearly bowled over by the wind broadsiding us, which brings to mind another Dutch proverb: If you can't feel the wind, it's at your back. (Okay, so Jeff made that one up today. More accurate than the other Dutch proverbs, e.g. the following: "Wie boter op zijn hoofd heeft, moet uit de zon blijven." Translation: "He who has butter on his head should stay out of the sun." Deep words, indeed.) So we blew into the castle and took a quick look around, but we decided to wait until we have some visitors before paying the actual admission fees. We're cheap. Aislin was psyched to see the stables and the cool door-within-a-door (free), and Dylan was enthralled with the drawbridge (also free), so we did just fine.

Then we started back. That'd be directly into the 25 mph winds. The whole way. With 40-pound Dylan on the back of my bike. Slumped over asleep such that I'd have to shift his body back into his seat every few seconds to keep him from asphyxiating on his seatbelt. Suffice it to say that it took us twice as long to get home as to get there, but I'll be durned if we didn't get the kids to bed early tonight so I'd call that breaking even.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy holiday

I am shocked -- shocked! -- that the Netherlands does not recognize the annual efforts of Punxsutawney Phil in ensuring that the globe remains on its axis. The sacrilege. Evidently, at least in the States they can expect another six weeks of winter.

Here, we figure we can expect another six weeks of rain. To be followed by another six weeks of rain. Perhaps followed by some especially sunshiny weeks of rain in May and June. We're all a-quiver with antici....

To be filed under "intriguing ambivalences" (or perhaps a side effect of failure to observe critical holidays -- I'm stretching for a segue here), there's news this week that the first "coffeeshop" in Amsterdam has gone smoke-free before the new smoking ban (applicable to all types of public smoking) goes into effect on July 1 of this year. I first read about this in the Dutch language newspapers and had to search all over before finding the above link to make sure that I'd actually understood what I was reading since my Dutch is not exactly what you'd call fluent. Lo, it's true, and further support for our observation that we're living in the Netherlands just in time to witness the (re?)conservatization of the Dutch.

Of course, they are still planning on showing that old classic, Deep Throat, on public television next week "for its cultural and historical value." And no, it's not a documentary on Woodward and Bernstein. Wonder if they'll have subtitles or if they'll trust it to, er, speak for itself.