Archive for April, 2007

Queensday: The Dutch St. Patricks

Dutch Word of the Day
koninginnedag: Queensday
Vandag is koninginnedag.
Today is Queensday.

Queensday is the most hectic day in the world. It’s impossible to get around anywhere in the city. It’s such a problem. Everyone was wearing orange, (even the dogs) drinking on boats and wandering the streets. We saw some woman getting pulled back into a boat after falling into the Prinsengracht. Today wasn’t cold, but that couldn’t have been good. I hope her cell wasn’t in her pocket.

All of the boats played that repetitive, bad techno that one usually associates with gay pride floats, except everyone here was into it. It was a little scary because when music that’s entirely beat driven and there are sound systems playing all over the city, if feels like it’s all one big song that never ends. There were a few exceptions. The “Cha Cha Slide” boat was my personal favorite.

People set up stoop sales in front of their homes and were trying to sell all there stuff, including pancakes and beer. Apparently, Vondelpark was entirely reserved for children selling their stuff, dancing around and playing instruments. I’d have loved to have seen that, but it just too crowded to even think of going there.

I felt bad for the tourists who rented MacBikes, because bikes were nearly useless today. There was no tram service, either. I’m a bit worried, cause I’m heading to London tomorrow, but I should be fine.


Ik zal teruggen

I’ll be back by Sunday/Monday with a (very special) Queensday issue. Later!

-The Management

Baby’s First Dutch Pun!

Dutch Word of the Day
bijzonder: unique, strange, particular
Nederlands woorden zijn bijzonder amusant.
Dutch words are particularly amusing.

There’s a huge store on Dam Square called the Bijenkorf (the Beehive). It’s basically the Dutch Bloomingdales. High quality, expensive stuff that’s more fun to look at than pay for. In one of their catalogues, it says “Elke Dag BIJzonder”, which loosely means, “Everyday is unique”, they capitalized the BIJ which the name of the store and the word both have.

This is the first sales pun I’ve noticed. It’s not the most clever, but it’s fun to pick up on things.

Amsterdam: Vice City

Dutch Word of the Day
mooi: beautiful
Het is een mooi dag!
It is a beautiful day!

Yes, I am aware that yesterday was 4/20. And yes, I am also aware that I’m currently living Amsterdam. But yesterday really doesn’t mean a lot to me. I’ve never really been a drug doing/non-asthmatic person who would be willing to spend all of that money on the stuff from a coffeeshop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they jacked up the prices just for that day (think chocolates on Valentine’s, flowers on Easter).

After discussing this with my friend Alex (who shall be guest starring very soon, so I’m excited about that) I realized that the drug situation in Amsterdam becomes a lot like the alcohol situation in America. If you come from a country where there’s a ban on alcohol and you decide you’ll take a semester abroad in New York, all of your friends will make booze jokes and assume that’s all you’re going there for. In reality, New York is more than it’s liquor stores, but if you’re from a country without any, it’s assumed that’s all you can think about.

I guess this is a long and polite way of asking people not to make annoying stoner jokes when I come back. (Unless you yourself are a stoner. Then I will grant you immunity.) No, you’re not the first one to come up with it. Yes, I did get the same joke on the way out. It can die now. Thank you.

So it goes.

Yesterday I just went to class, had lunch with my aunt, then slept forever. Not terribly exciting, but it’s all good. I need to get back to the gym. The bike’s been pretty good for exercise, though. It’s currently napping in the bike shelter beneath the building, cause I don’t want it to get stolen.

I think they should make a Dutch version of Grand Theft Auto and have it on a bike. You could just ride around, beating people up and stealing their bikes with a swinging soundtrack in the background. Granted, you can’t really beat up hookers. They’re behind the windows and can push panic buttons if threatened. With the exception of the Hell’s Angels, there’s not a lot of organized crime around here, but I’m sure Rockstar Games will think of something.

Pimp Mijn Fiets

Dutch Word of the Day
voorspelbaar: predictable
Vanddag’s titel was voorspelbaar.
Today’s title was predictable.

Since the euro rose against the dollar again (it’s now 1: 1.35) I’m afraid I don’t see a lot of bike pimping in the future. I’ll have to cancel the instillation of the jacuzzi on the backwheel, the spinning rims, and the soundsystem that was supposed to be built into the handlebars. The new paint job and velour upholestry is in jeopardy as well. At least I’ll keep the GPS system that sounds like Kit from KnightRider.

I used the remainder of my bad internet reparations money on these little bike lights for night riding and a back of the bike bag, both from HEMA, the Dutch equivalent of Target/Woolworth’s.

Note that I didn’t buy a helmet. No one here buys them, let alone sells them. The only helmets I’ve seen were on little American kids on rented bikes. They probably brought them from home. Unless you’re competing in the Tour de France, you just don’t wear one.

I’m rather afraid of the euro rising to 1.40 before I leave. It’s was only 1.29 when I got here and it’s been getting worse. This is not good.

Virginia Tech.

Holocaust Survivor Saved Students’ Lives
Filed at 2:06 p.m. ET
JERUSALEM (AP) — The e-mails from grateful students arrived soon after Liviu Librescu was shot to death, telling how the Holocaust survivor barricaded the doorway of his Virginia Tech classroom and saved their lives at the cost of his own.

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who survived the Nazi killings and later escaped from Communist Romania, was one of several foreign victims of Monday’s shootings, which coincided with Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day.

”My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Librescu’s son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. ”Students started opening windows and jumping out.”

Joe Librescu, who studied at Virginia Tech from 1989 to 1994, said his mother received e-mails from students shortly after learning of her husband’s death.

The gunman, identified as Cho Seung-Hui — a 23-year-old English major and native of South Korea — killed 32 people, then committed suicide.

Also among the victims was G.V. Loganathan, a 51-year-old engineering professor from India, his brother G.V. Palanivel said from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Peruvian student Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, was also killed while in his French class, said his mother, Betty Cueva.
Loganathan, who was born in the southern Indian city of Chennai, had been a professor at Virginia Tech since 1982.

”For us it was like an electric shock. We’ve totally collapsed today,” his brother said. ”Our parents are elderly and have broken down completely.”

When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, the young Librescu was interned in a labor camp, and then sent along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed by the collaborationist regime during the war.

Librescu, who was 76 when he died, later found work at a government aerospace company. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the Communist regime, his son said, and he was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.
In 1977, according to his son, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family an emigration permit, and they left for Israel in 1978.
Librescu left Israel for Virginia in 1985 for a sabbatical year, but eventually made the move permanent, said Joe Librescu: ”His work was his life in a sense.”

The academic community in Romania also was mourning Librescu’s death.
”It is a great loss,” said Ecaterina Andronescu, rector of the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, where Librescu graduated with a degree in mechanics and aviation construction in 1953. ”We have immense consideration for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life.”
At the university, people placed flowers on a table holding his picture and a lit candle. ”We remember him as a great specialist in aeronautics. He left behind hundreds of prestigious papers,” said professor Nicolae Serban Tomescu.

Librescu, who specialized in composite structures and aeroelasticity, published extensively and received numerous awards for his work. He received a doctorate from the Bucharest-based Academy of Sciences in 1969, and an honorary degree from the Bucharest Polytechnic University in 2000.

He also received several NASA grants and taught courses at the University ”La Sapienza” in Rome and at the Tel Aviv University in Israel.


Dutch Word of the Day
pindakaas: peanut butter, but literally translated is “peanut cheese”. ew.
Het is pindakaas gelei tijd!!!
It’s peanut butter jelly time!!!

No, not really. But it was high time that I finally got the bike. So here’s the realization in three stages:

1. Nice weather: I mentioned going to the parks yesterday, but I didn’t mention that it took me forever and day to get there. In the time it takes me to walk up Prinsengracht, past Leidse and Museumpleins, then turn into Vondelpark, a bike would’ve gotten me there and back. Besides, there aren’t any ice storms to brave at the moment.

2. Little kids on bikes: They’re just appearing from out of nowhere. They’re usually accompanied by a vigiliant adult. It’s bad enough that the dogs know more Dutch that I do, but little kids having a more effective mode of transportation is more than I can bear.

3. Evil Dutch Professor: He’s not really evil, just kind of loveably snarky. So we’re having a guest speaker talking about city planning. He asks how many of us have bikes. Everyone but me raises their hands. Then he goes, “Well, who doesn’t have a bike? Anybody? Nobody’s without a bike?” Silence. Then Evil Dutch Professor goes, in a rather smug tone: “Lenore? Did you get a bike yet? Muahahaha.” You know it’s bad when real adults make fun of you. Gr.

Despite my horrible experience with the CIEE bike earlier and the fact that all the bikes are too long to fit my legs, I found a very nice one for a decent price (and size) at Waterlooplein. I can recognize it easily because it’s usually the shortest bike in the rack. And I’ve got three locks on it: the big chain on the front wheel and frame, the built-in back wheel lock, and an extra back wheel lock I attached just for kicks. My dorm has a bike shelter in the basement so the chances of it being swiped by junkies in the night is slim.

In a way, it’s better that I get in later on in the game. It takes about a month to learn to walk in Amsterdam, let alone ride a bike. This is going to be a lot of fun.

Vondelpark & Westerpark

Dutch Word of the Day
groen: green
Ik ben de groen hart van Amsterdam geweest.
I have been to the green heart of Amsterdam.

I went to both Vondelpark and Westerpark today, but unfortunately didn’t bring my camera to either. More pictures next time, though. Both parks were lovely. Since the weather’s nice (but going to drop down to 65 in a few days) everybody and his mother was in Vondelpark. There are a lot of ponds and fountains. I didn’t get to explore the whole thing. I just picked a nice shady bench and read.

Then I went to Westerpark which is a lot closer to me that I thought. You just walk to the end of the Prinsengracht, make a left and keep walking. Good thing I found it the instant it got nice out. It’s really pretty. There were a lot more families and less tourists in this park than in Vondelpark. Sooo many little kids. This one girl kept trying to feed the birds, but it wasn’t quite working out. Rather than just throwing the bread to them, she’d march after them with a very business like gait while speaking Dutch and flinging slices at them and they’d quickly scurry away. I don’t know if she was expecting them to turn around and thank her or what, but it was very cute.

Of the two, Westerpark is currently my favorite.


Dutch Word of the Day
zomer: summer
Het is zomer tijd!
It is summer time.

It was 78 degrees today. It’s really beautiful weather. We’re going to have a ten degree drop later this week, but when I look at New York and New England, I really don’t mind. Sometimes I just walk between around the Jordaan between the Herengracht, Keizergracht and Singel and just embrace the crooked canal house homogeneity. It’s even prettier when you’re not freezing.

The Westermarkt is finally out of it’s scaffolding. It’s so pretty. It’s hard to find a good angle to get a good shot. (click it and you’ll get a larger image) I think I would have to be either in a boat or a nearby building to capture it perfectly. I took this shot from the Keizergracht. The paint is really beautiful. I’m glad I got the flag mid-flap.

I still have to go inside.

Harry Connick Jr.

Question A: Who the hell would watch this aside from the production assistant’s mother?

Question B: Did Harry Connick Jr. ever have a real career?

Question C: Who the devil was Harry Connick Sr.?

Saccahrine Amsterdam

Dutch Word of the Day
zuiker: sugar

Te veel zuiker is slecht voor je.
Too much sugar is bad for you.

But foreign candy’s so very good. And Holland has really, really good candy. I’m currently on the kinder bueno/ cracktella patch, but I still like a good Bounty bar now and then. It’s basically a Mounds bar called by a different name. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if it was the same company. Balisto’s really good and has some muesli in it, so you can
trick yourself into thinking it’s doing you some good.
The beverages here are a bit different as well. The Fanta’s amazing. It tastes like thick orange syrup at home, but here it’s yellow, thinner and just really good. The only sports drink I like at home is Propel water. Gatorade always tasted like plastic to me, so I guess I won’t be trying Aquarius anytime soon. I have no idea what Fernandes’ green punch and cherry bouquet are like, but I’ll get around to it.

The downer is that that most of the vending machines in the school buildings have converted to using Chipknip cards, which is this European Union credit card. You fill it up at ATMs with Euros, and use it everywhere. I think the only way you can get a real Chipknip card is if you have an EU bank account, which isn’t practical for me. I can get a prepaid one but it’s a pain to recharge. Why anyone would want to use a credit card to get a can of soda is beyond me, but that’s just the way it is around here. I can only print at one university building because all the other require this card. I wonder if they get a cut of the profits or something…

The More You Know: Dictionaries

Dutch Word of the Day
woordenboek: dictionary
Ik heb nou een beter woordedboek.
I have a better dictionary now.

Since there aren’t that many Dutch speakers in the world, it is very difficult to find a quality Dutch to English/English to Dutch dictionary. The one I got for class, the Standaard Klein Woordenboek, isn’t that good because it’s for Dutch speakers learning English. It’s small and has limited explanations. For example, if you look up the word for “to know” in Dutch, it tells you “weten, kennen.” These are used in very different contexts, similar to the Spanish saber and conocer. But there is no explanation because there is only one word in English that the Dutch reader would need: “know“.

The New Routledge Dictionary, on the other hand, is a much better bet. It’s made by an English company so all of the noun/ adjective/ verb markings are in English. They also give longer explanations of contexts in which the words should be used.

Routledge is more expensive than the Standaard (37 euro to the Standaard’s 7) but you can go to The Slegte, the used bookstore and get a good deal. I also had these gift certificates as part of the refund for my lousy internet service, so I used that too. Between the gift certificate and my own money, I only paid 7 euro for the Routledge. Totally worth it.

On that note:

This is the video for “Wat wil je doen?” (What do you want to do?) by Party Squad and a million other people. I think it was on the soundtrack for some movie, so all these weird scenes are spliced in. Enjoy!

I hear all this music and it breaks my heart

Dutch Word of the Day
Nederrap: Dutch rap
Dit Nederrap is een vers moeilijkheid!
This Dutch rap is a hot mess!

But before I get into that, Happy Easter! Yes, this is a Scientology Church some blocks from me. Yes it is everywhere. My parents and I went to the Madurodam, the Keukenhof and Delft. The first is a miniature replica of Amsterdam, the second is a huge flower garden with massive amounts of tulips, and the last is the place where they make all the lovely blue porcelain that comes from here. I recommend visiting all.

I picked up a “Party Squad” CD today. I asked the guy for some Dutch rap and he gave me this. The good thing is that it’s a compilation from a bunch of Dutch rappers. But it’s a hot. MESS. The beats are really good (most of the time), but they’ll have these hard Germanic sounding parts, and some very English phrases like “This is for my boiz!” or “Fuck dat!” in these thick Dutch accents. The most cringe worthy one is “Het is AAN!”, which is literally “It is ON!”

This one dude on the track “Dat is die shit” sounds like R. Kelly singing in Dutch. WEIRD.

So far my favorites are “Non stop” and “What wil je doen?” but I can’t listen to this with a straight face. Especially with the shoutouts to Amsterdam and Den Haag.

Back on Monday

Hey all. The parents are in town, so I’ve been busy. But I’ll be back on Monday. Have a Good Easter!

April 2007
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