Friday, March 31, 2006

Meh

Ten days. Then I know who is, and is not, coming to the Party. I swear anyone emailing me after shall be beaten with a pillow.

I am still trying to come to terms with the idea of a possible 100 people attending.

Meanwhile I have the sodding medical this afternoon.

One of my friends has been telling me about her wedding traumas. This is not helping.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Negotiation


UPDATE: link added!

One of the things I learnt in Hungary is this: don't (just) take no for an answer.

I used to be quite timid in obtaining things, accepting whatever people said to me. I still am, to some extent; but a lot of the time these days I get really angry. Oh, polite, friendly, but angry. When people say no to something reasonable, or when they try to foist things on me, I question, pressure, browbeat and persist.

It doesn't always work, but it is a good thing to bring my innate stubborness to bear on it. Because as the Hungarians know, it is always easiest for them to say no. That is, until I make their life difficult enough to merit a yes. Today, it would seem, is one of my Xena days*.

Click, off, gone.

Sometimes I think I should attempt to make this blog less personal. Then I think about it, and I realise that I like it that way. Moreover my friends use it as a sort of sortcut summary of my life recently. I wonder what the impression is that that gives them.

Lately, I have lost something. More specifically, I have lost my enthusiasm for the (academic) study of literature, something of which I always thought it was a central passion of mine. My mistake - reading is a central passion. Not even necessarily literature, if primarily that. I like good popularised physics, and science in general*. I like goood political writing. I am good at ad libbing interpretations. But that's where it stops. I once had the makings a reasonably capable scholar, but since then that career has lost much of its appeal. The corporate life lessons: there are others skills I have which I never suspected. Also: a decent salary is a wonderful thing. And finally, sadly - I got tired of it. I got tired of the brainwashing, of the aspirations I didn't share and of the values that I didn't have.

The obvious thing to do? To find a job in "my" corporate field, but in an organisation I can support. There are two problems with that:
a) it's still that same field which I am not sure I like
b) jobs in the sectors I like pay really really badly

What else? I could work in something else I'd like - publishing, non-profit, I don't know. Yet I have neither the experience nor perhaps the passion to do this. Or I could go back to training as a teacher, although would I really want to teach?

So I find myself at a junction in my life, and for the first time I don't know what I want.**

Anyway guys, sorry for the diary post, but now that I finally have moment to think this is on my mind.

*yes that does pre-date the Scientific Fiancé. In fact my literary studies (and my highschool physics teacher) are what sparked it off. Don't ask.
**careerwise. Private life-wise I know very well. Thankfully.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How I should be feeling

from babyanimalz.com:

Not the Bible at all

For the readers' benefit, I will summarise which books are a better read than the Bible, as defined by Zenin Ekron.

Many thanks for the input.

- Gone With the Wind by Maragaret Mitchell
- Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Second Variety by Philip K. Dick
- 1984 by George Orwell

And of course, the best book of all, or at least the best Russian book of all, ie Mikhail Buglakov's wonderful, amazing, funny, smart, touching, crazy, visionary and lovely Master and Margarita.

Maybe I should just turn this blog into a book club. So, shall I distribute assignments? Should I finally attempt Gravity's Rainbow? And the rest of you can read Bulgakov. Seriously. It is one of those lifechanging books, like Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry), only less depressing. Evan, you may be able to face Lowry, if you haven't yet.

Bother, now I want to read instead of working and doing paperwork.

Btw, I am currently reading A Fool's Alphabet by Sebastian Faulkner. I am not linking it because it is not worth it. I should stop readind it but am too stubborn.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Medical

Those of you who know me, know that I have been through a lot this year, medically speaking. Although somehow they never quite figured out what was wrong.

Anyway, so this Friday I have to go on the first of two medicals for my US. Medicals make me anxious, and this one doubly so. I really do not want to see any doctors ever again.

Bleh.

It was a good book it was

"Without doubt the book that has changes to world completely is the Holy Bible. It is by far the most well read book in the world; it crosses many different cultures in mnay different countries and has been translated into more languages than the entire list above! Many people find the bible daunting to read, due to its size and what people perceive as its irrelevance to today¿s society. The Bible though is a very interesting book, with something for everyone. No other book has death, romance, immorality, miracles, war, peace and so forth all under the same cover! 500 million people who read or listen to it as their instruction for their lives on it can't be wrong!"
Zenin Ekron, Newbury, Uk

This is a comment on an article about Melvyn Bragg's attempt to collect the 12 books that changed the world. A pretty silly undertaking if you ask me. Anyway, this comment is the best thing about the article. What makes me especially happy about it is this - it describes the Bible as "the most well read book in the world".

Now, let me remind you all of the definition of well read:
"well-informed or deeply versed through reading"

Now I don't think that was exactly what Zenin Ekron* meant. I think he meant to restate that well known bit ofChristiann commerce - that the Bible is the most often read book in the world. However, being a linguistic pedant, I will take Zenin's statement at face value for a moment.

So is it? Is the Bible "well-informed" ? Not really. A book based on accounts passed on across generations, mauled by well-intentioned** editors and translators over rather too many centuries - it wouldn't do very well as a Tom Clancy book.

Zenin also says:
"The Bible though is a very interesting book, with something for everyone. No other book has death, romance, immorality, miracles, war, peace and so forth all under the same cover!"
Somehow, that was not why I thought people read the bible. And yes, I can think of quite a number of books that have all of the under one cover. Catch-22 for example. Again, I am not sure that that is what this nice Christian had in mind.

I guess that what I am trying to say is this: if you are going to write about something that matters to you, maybe sit down and think for a while. Use a spellchecker perhaps. In fact, you may want to think about just why you believe it to be important.

Mind you, that would deprive me of some of my fondest pedantic pleasures.

*what a fabulous name
**er, sort of

Monday, March 27, 2006

Oh the joy

This week I will be mostly eating...US visa forms*

Soooo I am filling in biographic data forms (part I only) and answering work questions at the same time. Surely this will go wrong soon.

They are asking me to give a list of all my visits to the US. This is a little silly as
a) I can't hope to trace all of my trips, though I will have to try
b) They must have precise records of this

Yet one should never apply logic to any government institution. As Hungarian institutions taught me, logic does not exist in bureaucracy, and yes, they really do need all that information from me again with, of course, slight yet nasty variations in what they require.

I am also emailing with the not-so-bright people of the local administration of my birthplace. On the plus side you can order birth certificates online, which I think is really cool for my small provincial home town.

*Sorry guys, reference to The Fast Show, the best sketch show of all human history

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I am animal!!!!!!

Check out the Muppet personality test in the sidebar.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Faithful

Today I am not in the mood to write about anything that matters to the world.

So tough luck.

This whole marriage business. The Fiancé and I talk a lot. About relationships, about ours, about parametres, about the future, about what we want from life, from us. From marriage. It's great, and one of the things I love about him.

One of the things we talked about was, inevitably, faithfulness. We both have pretty straightforward views of what is and isn't ok. It's weird - I'm not jealous by nature. But I am wary. I don't really believe in true love, in the sense that I don't believe that you are ever set for life, with anyone. I believe that the determination is at least as important as the love.

When I think of spending the rest of my life with him, it makes me feel vertiginous. Not because I don't think that would be great. If I didn't I wouldn't be marrying him. Only it seems so strange to believe that I can trust that. Maybe I'm just afraid to get complacent about this wonderful thing. And it is, really and truly.

"Not too late to change you mind" he says, on the phone, jokingly. But seriously, I am not tempted at all. I'd rather go picnicking* with the Boy than go dancing with Alex James.

*with a cocktail shaker in the basket, in of those hopelessly practical English hampers

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Good morning

I hope yours is better than mine. If you wonder why, check out Total Drek.

Yeah, and I have a bad cold. Fun and games, as we say. So you know what, if it's not too busy workwise I will spend the first few hours of this morning* lying in front of BBC breakfast tv with my laptop and a cup of tea, trying not to feel too miserable. I will postpone personal administrative duties until tomorrow, and spend that time on drinking tea as well, and all the rest of it on sleeping.

Take care and take your vitamin C.

*well, from my point of view the hours when other people than myself and insomniacs are awake.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sometimes

Not the Erasure song. Though I love that song.

Earlier I was pointing out on the world to my nephew where am going on holiday. His immediate response was:
"So where else are you going?"
A tad daunted, I pointed to my future home.
"That is Africa"
I kindly corrected that somewhat peculiar notion -
"No dear, that is Africa. this is North America and this is the U.S."
No longer interested, he wandered off.

And I thought yes. Gosh. I am going there.

Multi

Today is one of those multi-tasking days. Multi-tasking is good - on the whole I would say I am not happy unless I am doing at least two things at the same time. However, I think I am counting six things right now. Maybe that is a bit much, even for for my skills.

I am:
- responding to email (professional)
- responding to email (private)
- updating database (professional)
- updating spreadsheet (private)
- performing data checks (professional)
- writing this post (personal)

If you count peripheral tasks I am also:
- Chatting to colleague to collect info from her
- Distributing email every hour or so
- Doing laundry
- Listening to J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations
- Drinking tea

Moreover I am pondering whether I should call Vilvoorde and Genk city administration for some issues I have for the visa. Hm. One thing I have to say for all of this work, personal and visa admin nonsense is it does make time go fast.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is a day without a cup of tea?

With or without a biscuit. Maybe a hobnob, oooh, I do like a hobnob. The Bahlsen rip-off, incidentally, is called Hobbits. There is something curiously gratifying about eating hobbits with one's tea*. Mostly, I have to say, I have mine (tea, that is, not hobbits) without any biscuits and of course without milk. The reason why I don't have a delicious hobnob with every cup of Organic Anti-Stress, Mandala Golden Aura, green tea, Darjeeling or whatever else comes within my reach, is that I drink anything up to 20 cups a day. If I had biscuits with every one of those I would never eat anything else. The reason why I don't drink milk with any kind of tea is because it is sacrilege. With herbal teas or green tea it is just disgusting and with black tea, well, it reduces a perfectly wonderful cuppa to a dishwater-like mess.

Yes I know lots of people like it that way.

George Orwell has eleven rules for making tea. Personally I think he was taking out his natural conservatism on tea (and homosexuality), while keeping his equally inborn critical nature for his politics. Good man - although that still doesn't mean I follow his guidelines in anything but political criticism.

Which reminds me that one of the truly disappointing things about England is that a lot of people, and a lot of places that serve it, can't make a decent cup of tea to save their lives, not to mention their despicable habit of giving you milky tea by default. Maybe it was just Portsmouth, but I don't think so. Mind you, there are many notable exceptions. Susan, if you read this, there is this lunch place in Oxford that's called The Rose** which not only serves astonishingly good food, but also has wonderful, wonderful (cream, afternoon, high) tea. You have to try it.

Anyway, enough talking. Time for another cup of tea.

*Btw, in my search for fun links I came across this. Ew. And I was already creeped out by him.
**51 High Street in central Oxford

Monday, March 20, 2006

The boringest

The Hungarian embassy, snugly situated in one of Brussels' nicer suburbs, makes you feel curiously detached. You enter through one of those airlock things - one of those double door things where you have to wait till they open the second door, like in a bank. Only it is not actually a bank, it is a Hungarian embassy, there really is nothing worth stealing. Inside, they have perfected the subtle art of waiting to the point of not being able to let you leave without savouring it.

Some things make me feel like dancing around naked singing I hate Hungary I haaaaaate Hungary - which would be a tad ungenerous.

Friday, March 17, 2006

An old flame

My first great love in life was, without a doubt, Scotland.

I remember one moment - we were near Oban, a town more known for whiskey than for landscape, but lovely notheles. We were on a campsite in the surrounding hills. It was freezing cold of course, as Scotland usually is in summer. I decided to go for a walk, told my family, and headed out onto one of the hills. I have no idea how time I spent up there;I just remember sitting there on the grass, seeing only more hills. After a while it started to rain, a fine drizzle. I sat there still, watching the clouds descend on the hilltops. A Wordsworthian moment before I ever got to know and hate the poet.

I only returned when I heard my dad calling me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Not today

And perhaps not tomorrow either.

Today has been far too busy, if you count two hour interviews and cocktail drinking. Tomorrow I may end up at the Hungarian embassy which could take any amount of time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

National holiday

Today is a Hungarian national holiday, which means that, unlike most of the Belgians, I have the day off. One person who does have the day off is my six-year-old nephew. Yes, the kid who woke me up at seven and who, in fact, burst into my room at 7.15 am this morning declaring that he had overslept.

The boy's parents took this to be an ominous conjunction of free time and so here I am babysitting.

Did I mention that I am not a kid person? I never quite know what to do with small children, and it's good that this one is fairly self-entertaining and good at harassing people into entertaining him. All the same I am a less than perfect babysitter. We went to the library earlier, and of course what happens is he picks his books and cds in five minutes, while I get distracted by the Eng Lit and Science section for almost an hour.

Strangely enough, the boy seems to enjoy the mini-outing all the same. Even more bizarrely, I do too. Hey, I picked up organic muesli and Coetzee's Digrace. And a free cd, though I guess that one was for him. It is much harder to get free cds without a cute child.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Waking up and getting up

This morning I was woken up at 7 am by a small blond six-year-old with too much energy. I work at home (ie my sister's) at the moment so there really is no reason at all for me to wake up at 7. Moreover, said six-year-old nephew also woke me up at 7.30 on Saturday.

I told my father, the honourable grandfather, occasional babysitter, about this. He said "well isn't that the best way to wake up?" I almost* agree and come to think of it, yes, there are worse ways of waking up. Like when the police walks into your bedroom on an idle Thursday evening when you've decided to get an early night**. Or when the fire alarm goes off in your builiding at 3 a.m.

Of course this is one of those things I will miss once I move to live with the Fiancé. Weird.

BTW, last night I dreamt that I had stomach cancer and world war three had just started. Probably a good thing the kid woke me up.

*The best way to wake up is by having you lover bring you breakfast in bed on a sunny morning. Sorry kid.
**This happened to me when I was in the UK. I was sleeping with earplugs in so hadn't heard the alarm downstairs (landlord's house) go off. The police came up to investigate and, as one of my flatmates had left the door unlocked, walked right in.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Disappointing

One of the things that I like about myself (yes, there are many and yes, that makes my life a lot easier) is that I am not obsessed with my weight. That may not sound like much of an accomplishment but any woman or hopelessly conflicted women's magazine can tell you that it is.

I am 1.60m (5 foot 3) and I weigh about 58 kg (127 lbs). The actual figures are irrelevant, my point is that
a) my weight is not a taboo
b) it is perfectly and provably normal and healthy *

Few of my friends are (proportionally), er, weightier, than I am, and none of them are obese. Nonetheless I get my fair share of people complaining that they are fat. I think this is very silly. Fortunately none of them are particular faddists, so at least I don't have to convince anyone of the merits of exercise and eating less over pills and patches.

However.

Lately I have had those Bridget Jones moments of standing on the scales every morning, and letting my mornings be spoilt by that. This is not the first time, but it is never any good, triggering bouts of moody self-contemplation**. This while I know all of the above, eat reasonably well, and exercise regularly, if not very strenuously.

Maybe it is my impending engagement party. Maybe it is these precise scales of my sister's. But it sucks. Bleh.

*Americans see here
**I have to say that the Boyfriend is good at dealing with me in my Fat Moods. He is compulsively honest, so if I have put on weight he will tell me (when put on the spot), so I can rely on him. Regardless of what the conclusion is, he can usually convince me that I look great, or at least that he thinks that I do - a great quality in a lover.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blowing in the wind

I have just been outside in the typical Belgian early spring weather. I mean, of course, rain, or rather, drizzle.

People in Belgium bitch a lot about the weather, which is understandable - it's wet and grey quite a lot of the time. The truth is, though, that I am northern girl, and I genuinely like a good blustery day, with showers, a bit of wind and constantly shifting clouds. It is not too cold now either, and after a morning behind the laptop there is nothing like a bit of a walk to cheer you up. After the harsh, dry winter cold of Hungary it is nice to go out and not hurry to the nearest heated space and the nearest bottle of handlotion.

My point is not that Belgian weather is better than Hungarian weather - it is not. My point is not even that Belfast as the worst climate in the western world, though it does. It is that, yeah, it's good to be back.

BTW, and entirely off topic, my favourite* mondegreen is still "The ants are my friends, they're blowing in the wind."

*for the benefit of some members of the audience which shall remain unnamed, I think this one is funny too: B. Young was charmed to hear that both Coke and Pepsi came in "cheerleader size." Later, he was disappointed to learn that it was actually "two litre size."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Not very good stress management

So I am trying to juggle Belgian paperwork, American paperwork and organising a big engagement party.

Did I mention that I am terrible at juggling and hate organising parties?

Righty-ho

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

On the radio

One of the biggest perks of being back in the Home Country is the fact that I can now once again listen to Studio Brussel, my favourite radio station in the whole world. It has the best mix of alternative and good mainstream music, and is also quite funny. For the non-Belgians, I recommend you try it sometime, you can stream it from the site. Obviously you won't understand the talk, but the music is still great.

Go on - experiment. Who knows, you may even hear some good Belgian music.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Muchness

While furiously busy, my mind keeps wandering to spring and to my absent lover.









"My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me. "

Christina Rossetti, "A Birthday"

I have, of course, read too much Victorian poetry, and as my mind strays further I think again of Shelley -

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?".

Friday, March 03, 2006

The most depressing thing you can do with a shark

You would think that would be either eating a shark, or even the much less statistically favoured possibility of being eaten by one.

Trust the Pentagon to come up with something better (well, worse). Well I am certainly not asking them for dinner again. Who the hell do they think they are to do this?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Happy toes


Appropiately, I first came across striped toe socks on a trip to Florida. Socks you can wear with flipflops. Bright, happy, multicoloured socks.

I didn't get to buy any toe socks before I left and for weeks after that I would dream about them. Seriously. I have since acquired many pairs, and besides, they have become widely available in Europe. But a good pair of stripey toe socks still make my day.

New frontiers


"Space . . . The final frontier.These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.Its five year mission:To explore strange new worlds . . .To seek out new life and new civilizations . . .To boldly go where no man has gone before!"**

Today, and almost miraculously, the US embassy called me. They were fairly encouraging, mostly in their implicit assumption that getting the fiancée visa would be a formality, and quite a bit faster than we had expected. This is good. I also definitely do not need translations of my Dutch documents, which will save me a considerable amount of money and time.

Having finally extricated myself from the hassles of Hungary***, I am really pleased that things seem to be moving. Bring on the new frontiers!

*This is, of course, from Cute Overload. It's great, and I think I will have to consider being a hedgehog in my next life.
**Yes, original version. I like Picard's too though.
***No, not the country as such, only the parting mess. The country is fine.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope I no longer strive to strive towards such things (Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)

Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think

Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

T.S. Eliot, "Ash Wednesday"

Today Lent begins. While not a Christian, I believe in finding a time for being small, for knowing that "most days what I know/is small enough to carry in my front pocket" (Tanis McDonald). A time to remember what you need and what you do not. So I am giving up a few things, and setting some goals.