Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Updating (and a fun matching game!)

It has been very easy for me to stop blogging.

Still, it is not something that I want to quit. As a matter of fact, I often get ideas for blog entries, but then I feel it would be strange to post them after such a gap.

So instead, what you get is a random entry every few months with an assortment of pictures to illustrate my goings-on.

I'm not feeling very writerly today, however. So let me just make a list of a few of the wonderful things I've been doing, and I'll put some pictures at the end, and this way you can have a fun game of "Match the Picture with its Caption".

So, without any more waiting...

Things Grace Has Done or Been Up To:
1. Looking for and applying for jobs and internships
2. Jury duty (one whole month)
3. Drinking lots of coffee.
4. Drinking lots of tea.
5. Biking around town.
6. Occasional trips downtown with mother or sister.
7. Attended a book release party at Tin House.
8. Seen "Gone With the Wind" at a theater in Hillsboro.
9. Gone on a few neighborhood walks.
10. Admired fall colors.
11. Had drinks at Driftwood in the Hotel deLuxe. (Hint: The hotel has a lobby)
12. Watched a Hitchcock movie and helped make & eat homemade doughnuts on Halloween (the doughnuts are tradition)
13. Read a few books (some fun, some trashy, some good)
14. Played with the kitty.
15. Watched TV ("Glee", "Psych", "The Office", "30 Rock", "Rescue Me", "Project Runway", and the new "Sherlock Holmes" series)
16. Ate out around town.
17. Caught up with visiting grandparents.
18. Voted (from home - thank you very much, Oregon vote-by-mail system)
19. Taken the MAX to the airport with my sister to pick up my Dad and visit Target on the way
20. Watched the World Series
21. Gone to Wordstock
22. Volunteered at Wordstock
23. Gone to the new Spirit of '77 Bar (to see the Rangers beat the Yankees)
24. Received my Master's diploma in the mail. In case you didn't know how to say "Book and Digital Media Studies" in Latin, that would be "studium librorum et instrumentorum communicationis numericorum".
25. Played with Microsoft Access.
26. And several other things.










Answers: a (6 and 10); b (9 and 10); c (8); d (6 and 10); e (TRICK QUESTION, just a funny Portland-y shot); f (12); g (13 and 3); h (5); i (11).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hello Again

It has been some time since I last posted. This is what I believe is referred to as a Blogging Fail.

It's not that I haven't been "on the go" - I have. Since that trip to Norway last January, I've made several little trips.

I went to England one weekend in March, to visit my dear friend Anne who was studying at Oxford.

And the next weekend, I went to visit my beloved sister in Caserta, outside of Naploli, with a day trip to Pompeii.

(Please excuse my horrible tennis shoes; it was the best I could do for the recently sprained ankle I was dealing with...)

A couple weeks later and I had to say my preliminary goodbye to the Netherlands, as I returned to my beautiful hometown, Portland, to write my master's thesis and sort of lead-in to my planned move back home.

I ate a lot...

(look! It's an elephant instead of a horse!)

...and said goodbye to Portland baseball.

(Seriously, how beautiful is that?! How could you let that GO?!)

A trip to the Oregon Coast

And a trip to California (Berkeley/Oakland/San Francisco/Sonoma County/Healdsburg) to visit family

Then we turned northward and headed up to southern Washington

After another couple of days in Portland, we drove up to Seattle to see our favorite Red Sox play the Mariners.

Then I had a couple of days left to give my thesis some finishing touches before returning to the Netherlands for 5 weeks in August and September. But that will have to come later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Internationally Patriotic?

Apologies to my thousands (not) of faithful (heh heh) readers for allowing this blog to be so dead lately.

I've had lots of good post ideas floating around in my head the past two months, but I always get them when I'm out walking or doing something, and then never get around to sitting down and typing it out and actually posting it.

One of these is a realization I had, during the Olympics. The realization that, growing up, I think I never rooted for American athletes or teams in almost any international sporting event. I don't think my brother and sister did either.

On the one hand, it's not that strange. My father is Czech and my whole family is very internationally- and foreign-minded (case in point: The three of us siblings are all living in foreign countries this year, learning and speaking three different languages. At Christmas, our family was spread across three continents.). I always just took it for granted.

It also makes sense because the US isn't very prominent in some international sporting events. Take the World Cup, for example. Who roots for the US? They usually get eliminated before anyone can start rooting for them in the first place. On the other hand, why would we root for the US even if they did make it, when we could root for Italy instead? That's what we did when I was a kid - one of my earliest sporting memories. I vaguely remember the 1994 World Cup, and watching the final on a VHS that our neighbor, who has cable, recorded for us, only to have the tape cut off before the end. Mom got the score somehow (did we have Internet yet?), and I still remember her sadly telling us that Italy had lost in penalty kicks.

Fast forward ten years, to the Euro 2004. Our family was in Europe that summer, driving a loop through multiple countries. Our favorites this time were France (as I had lived in Nice less than a year before and was still infatuated with all things France) and the Czech Republic (because, well... we are Czech.) We watched France beat England with Zidane's two goals in stoppage time in Normandy, the first half in a cafe filled with English tourists. We were the only people rooting for France and the goofy waiter literally fell to his knees when we told him this. We watched part of another game on the big screen in front of the Hotel de Ville with thousands of other people dressed in blue. (Big contrast to the 2008 Euro competition, when I rooted for the Netherlands on the main square of Middelburg and sang Dutch football songs at the five lone French fans in the city.)

When the Czech Republic lost in the semifinals, we were in a hotel somewhere - Slovenia? Austria? Or had we made it to the Czech Republic by then? - and some of us were pretty upset, particularly my brother and sister. (They thought I was a traitor as I had rooted pretty fiercely for France, before their elimination.)

Of course, in the Euro Cup, we don't even have the choice: The U.S. doesn't compete. But what about the World Baseball Classic? Haven't rooted for the US yet, because there are usually more Yankees than Red Sox on that team, and especially in 2006, the great Red Sox players were all playing for the Dominican Republic. Where I also happened to be living. Needless to say I rooted for the Dominican Republic that year. In 2009 I was torn between the DR and the Netherlands but as usual I went with the underdog in the end.

Then came the 2010 Winter Olympics. It is so interesting to see the American press coverage of the Olympics from afar! Medal counts are the most important thing, and the US wants to win the most medals. It's like aiming for quantity over quality. It's boring to root for the US in everything. "Oh... yeah... another medal..." They're kind of like the Yankees, in the Olympics.

Then, get a look at the commercials. They are so dramatic, full of this ridiculous rhetoric. "Uniting as one... celebrate the power, and precision.... the speed, and the grace..." In the voice of Morgan Freeman (or, for Canada, Donald Sutherland). Or the "to their moms, they'll always be kids" ad, which I still don't really get. How is that supposed to get me feeling excited (or even patriotic)?

But then take a look at a country like the Netherlands. Before this year, they had never won a medal off the ice, the whole point of the Olympics is speed-skating. Speed skating is so big that it's not called speed skating here, it is just called skating (schaatsen) - he OTHER kinds of skating have a descriptive word in front. Now, check out this commercial for soup that ran during the winter Olympics:

And then, check out this commercial for little orange lions that you got for "free" if you spent a certain amount of money at the Albert Heijn grocery store during the 2008 Euro Cup.

Now, which country would you rather root for? The overly-dramatic one, that tries to make these international tournaments extremely noble on the one and, while simultaneously reducing the competition to a medal tally on the other? Or a country like the Netherlands, who dresses up in orange and sings silly songs, drinks Heineken, and watches a really athletic sport, like speed skating, just because it is so amazing?

It's obvious which one I prefer...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Movie Musings

The other night, I watched "Rear Window" again. You could almost say it was for research, as I plan to use it in a story I'm trying to work out.

I often watch movies for inspiration. Not only do they give me ideas, they give me a creative feeling. Watching a really good movie is a surefire way to get me thinking. They make me want to do something, to make something that can make you feel the way the movie made me feel.

So I was watching "Rear Window" because I plan to create a character who is very inspired by this movie, but while I was watching, I got distracted by the movie.

You go along, always knowing in your head that Alfred Hitchcock is great. Anytime someone says, 'Oh, I saw "The Man Who Knew Too Much" last night, and it was so good!' you are never surprised.

Then you watch a Hitchcock movie and still, it surprises you!

The first thing that really strikes me about "Rear Window" is the hundreds of little stories embedded in the main one. L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries is watching the neighbors from his window, and soon thinks that one of them has murdered his wife. But while he's keeping an eye on this suspicious neighbor, he also sees many others: a sad woman deals with her loneliness, a young married couple slips out of newlywed bliss, a lonely composer puts on a show, a ballerina tries to figure out what she wants, and more.

The second thing that struck me is the music - or rather, lack of it, as there is almost no soundtrack. There is only one part with a bit of music. Other than that, all of the music comes from the narrative of the film itself - the Dean Martin song on the lonely woman's radio, the composer plunking away at his piano or his party singing "Mona Lisa". And this music fits in perfectly with other musical sounds - humming city sounds, rhythmic rain, dogs barking and casual conversation, doors opening and shutting, all drifting around a courtyard and making the soundtrack.

Conclusion: music, especially in movies, is often overused (but that's nothing new). Also, a lot of small narratives can, in some cases, make a whole (See also: "Love Actually").

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodies Goodies!

No trip to a foreign country - especially the first one to that country - could ever be complete without tasting some of the local edibles. Luckily, Norway has several things I've never seen before, let a lone tasted.

And no, I haven't tasted the brown goat cheese. Yet. (I also haven't decided against it. I feel like when I went to Scotland, and my mom said that I couldn't go to Scotland and not try haggis. Turns out, haggis was delicious...)

Last weekend, I stayed with my friend Maud's family. For dessert one night, we had ice cream cones - similar to a Drumstick or Cornetto cone. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the caramel at the center of the ice cream scoop was not your typical ice cream - it was salty!

It turns out, Norway is a great place for people who like sweet & salty combinations. I nearly jumped up and down in the supermarket when I saw Smash! snacks: salty, potato-chip-like snacks, covered in chocolate!

I remember in high school, Lay's (or a similar brand) came out with chocolate chips. I thought they were actually potato chips covered in chocolate, and thought this was a wonderful idea. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was nothing more than chocolate, shaped like potato chips, and sold in a box similar to those of pringles.

So these Smash! snacks have made up for that entire experience!

The only problem is the price. At 29 Norwegian kroner, the 100 gram pack that I bought today cost about the same as a cup of coffee does here. And what the say about the 4-dollar cups of coffee in Norway isn't true - at least, not anymore, because 29 kroner amounts to five dollars! (Reality check: that is only 3.56 in Euros... sigh...)

Obviously, this is a good thing. Well, actually, it's horrible that coffee is that expensive, because that is where most of my money has gone on this trip (as well as to those amazing, cardamom-laced raisin rolls). But it's a good thing for the Smash! snacks, because I refuse to believe that those have any nutritional value.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Norway in Brief

Here's a quick look at some of the things I've done so far in Norway:

-Skied across frozen Lake Sognsvaten
-Drank tea and coffee out of a wide array of Finn Family Moomintroll mugs (including the one that I also have at home in Portland!)
-Visited the Vigeland Sculpture Park and seen all the great sculptures
-Had some very good coffee
-Eaten some delicious rosinbolle - a lot like the Dutch rozijnbol but translated to Scandinavian with the genius addition of cardamom
-Also eaten some really good cookies (oatmeal raisin, as it was meant to be, and chocolate chip with nuts, which you never see in the Netherlands)
-Visited the National Gallery, where I saw the Munchs and found two new artists to enjoy
-and last but not least, caught up with two very dear friends!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Oops. Has it already been about half a month since I posted? I meant to post even more this year than last year! I did a pretty good job blogging in 2009, I think - at least one entry per month except August! Which is generally considered to be a month of vacation, so I am cutting myself some slack.

This year I was toying with the idea of resolving to post at least once a week. That died fast. But I suppose I could always start a little late!

So, now that I am here... Happy New Year, and all that jazz. I am back in Leiden, but have been here just one week, and tomorrow I am leaving again - to Norway! This is especially great because now my total countries visited number is the same as my brothers - we are in constant competition about this. (I wonder if I can sneak in a side trip across the border to Sweden? Just to get one country ahead of him?)

I'm also dreaming of, and vaguely planning, trips to Caserta (near Naples) to visit someone who I probably shouldn't be visiting but can't really resist the opportunity, and Oxford to see another friend.

I mean, hey. You only live once. And I will only live in Europe for a little longer. (Probably.)

But I thought I would update you all not on the general ramblings of my hectic mind (oops. too late) but, instead, on the other resolution I have been toying with.

That would be, to read all of the books I have here in Leiden before I leave.

Now, at this point, I have a return ticket to the US on March 30th. I'm still not sure if it will work for me to go; it depends on some school-related things (specifically my thesis). But if I want to read all of my books before then...

Well, let's see. I own 27 books that are in English that I have not read and that I do not intend to take back to the United States with me. (Oscar Wilde's Complete Short Fiction, which was a birthday gift from my friend Dilyana on our trip to Dublin, I would like to keep. Same goes to the lovely old copy of Little Men that I bought at a stall on the Seine last month.) I'm also not counting foreign language books because most of them I want to keep, as in bring back to the US - even with Powell's, it's hard to get good Dutch books in Portland! I know, I've looked! And I searched far and wide for Guy de Maupassant's Clair de Lune before finally buying it in Paris. Since I don't want to part with those I think I can exclude them from my best-read-by March 30 list.

So. 27 books. And today is January 14th, which means I have 84 days (right? anyone want to check my math?) to read them all. That comes to, more or less, one book every three days, with another four spare days that I can devote to... sightseeing in Norway or Italy, studying for my second semester courses, or the longer books on my shelf: Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (a meager 417 pages), Trollope's Phineas Finn (651 pages), and Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (906 pages). I might even give myself a full week for the Dostoyevsky - that's still over 100 pages per day. Oh, and I could probably save one of those books for the flight home.

Yes, I definitely have my work cut out for me.