Monday, April 30, 2007

Pills

Lately, I have been coming across reports about a new drug that is supposed to enhance female libido. The latest article, and the most reputable, comes from the BBC and adds another claim - that it decreases appetite. Women as slim sex kittens. Does this remind anyone of anything?

For now, the drug has only been tested on monkeys and shrews, so frankly, it's not really an issue just now. What worries me in this context is the easy solution idea. There, you take the pill and all is fixed. Ta-DA! While I am sure that if this drug reaches the market it will certainly help people who would otherwise not be helped, I am concerned that it will "help" a whole bunch of people who, rather than pills, need some attention for their relationship and normal, healthy eating habits and exercise. To extend that point, I firmly believe that while this drug undoubtedly addresses a real need, it presents itself as a medical shortcut for what is mostly a social problem. Unhealthy eating habits, well, we all know that the contrast between the sedentary lifestyles and food on offer in the mainstream and the image of beauty projected in the media is enough to drive anyone to drink, never mind pills.

There is so much pressure on relationships for people right now - you are expected to juggle jobs, your family, an active social life and then have the energy at the end of the day to do that sex kitten thing as well. Something has to give sometime, and it depends on every couple what it is that gives. I think most of us need more time rather than more pills. Perhaps fewer pills, considering how birth control can affect women's libido. I hate to say it, but perhaps what it takes is mostly fewer demands on either party's time, and perhaps a glass of wine to help withstand the pressure of society.

It is really not easy, dealing with societal pressure, and this is really where I think all of us need help* especially the women. Can't we get a pill for that?

*speaking for myself, I really struggle with my self-image and my weight, even though I know that my weight and eating habits are normal and healthy, and that what I really need is exercise. Taking into account that I don't watch much tv and don't read beauty magazines, I wonder how women who do get through the day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Thrills

I don't know if Stephen Hawking is likable. Maybe he's not*. But after seeing the pictures on the BBC site it is very hard not to like him.

*Personally, I would understand any person who is so disabled being mean. Imagine living with so much of other people's awkwardness and pity. It is quite enough to make anybody angry; although I guess that in Hawking's case that would be awkwardness, veneration and pity. I am not sure whether that would be better or worse, though he seems happy with it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An interesting story

With all the to-do about children of congressmen/the administration (not) serving in Iraq, it is interesting to see that the British royal family does not flinch at the prospect of sending in one of their own.
They do have an awful lot of warlike genes, I guess.

Oh Baltimore

People ask me if I like living here. When I say yes, most of them are surprised.

Pre-exsiting knowledge of Baltimore*:
- "Raining in Baltimore" by Counting Crows
- "Baltimore" by Randy Newman

Recent additions to knowledge of Baltimore:
- Edgar Allen Poe is buried here
- Mama Cass Elliot was born here

Two great but depressing songs, and two great but depressed artists who died young.

Some people will tell you about Baltimore that it's a city in revival, that there is the Inner Harbour (haven of waterfront consumerism), that there is the gentrified Fells Point, full of bars and restaurants. They will tell you about the Museum of Visionary Art, about Center Stage theatre, about Mount Vernon and the Walters. They may even tell you about Cafe Hon in Hampden.

I would agree - Baltimore is cultured, lively, even pretty sometimes. We have, I guess, that prat Martin O'Malley to thank for that. There are more good restaurants here than any other place I've lived, including Budapest. I love how all the neighbourhoods have distinct identities, and how cohesive they are.

Then there is Baltimore's well-earned reputation for violent crime. Oh, and the murder rate.

Oh Baltimore, perpetually gentrifying, ever the underdog.

*yes, that is really all

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eek

Just accidentally killed poll. Bother.

No, really not


Sorry folks, but my brain is too tired today to post even semi-intelligent things. Life is a bit crazy just now.

And for my little nephew - happy birthday, kid.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New! New!

I put up a blogpoll. Other suggested activities welcome.

Guide dog

Most of the time I like my job. Sometimes I don't. I am tired today, and bored, and annoyed at being left out of a meeting I really should be in. It doesn't matter much; but like I said, I am tired, and tiredness never does me much good. These guide dog moments - times when I am expected to be meek and helpful only - make me rebellious. My lack of anger management skills is always especially apparent at these times. Apparent to me, that is; I am far too polite to do or say much. So I just quietly seethe - if that sounds like a bad deal, it is because it is. And I blog, because it reminds me that I only have to appear to work, rather than actually work.

A synonym for happy


For those of you who like their podcasts and British humour, I recommend BBC radio 4's The Now Show. I was listening to it this morning, and it made me laugh out loud on the bus here. I miss the BBC. My devotion to it is well known. "Happy is England, I could be content to see no other verdure than its own", or something to that effect as Keats had it. Much as I do love the US, and somewhat oddly I do in fact love it, I do miss Britain. The self-deprecating, apologetic, polite, class-obsessed, pub-goingness of it. I miss it. I miss being able to criticise everything and everyone freely, without it being taken too seriously. I miss idle bitching about politics, the sad state of Britain and the silliness of Americans.

I even miss shopping at John Lewis, though I never did have the money for it.

Sure, I hated the ridiculous prices for everything, the public transportation that rolls over and plays dead every time it rains, the ignorance of all things non-British. After two stints of living there, I am not sure I could live in Britain - they're too afraid of hugs. Their system of education is pretty awful, and elitist. Their coffee is terrible, and the food is much the same. Only - imagine living in Chicester or something, hm, a pretty town in Hampshire, not far from London but far enough to be safe and quiet, but with its own theatre festival. Who can say no to that?

Maybe all of this warped homesickness is just part of my quest to find a home, a safe place.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Something to be happy about

I am going to stick to my habit of talking about things that I know nothing about, specifically the French presidential elections. In this time of fear in the US, something exciting is going on in France - they're voting. Last weekend saw the first round of the presidential elections, and the vote was remarkable for a couple of things:

- 85% of eligible persons voted (compared to 72% in 2002)
- Le Pen, who did so well in 2002, sank to the 4th place, and is now out of the race
- Segolene Royal, if she wins - and this is very far from sure - would be the first woman to be president of France

Unlike other recent elections in France, this one had massive involvement from young voters. It is one of those hopeful, passionately fought elections that give you faith in the system. People got scared when Le Pen, a right-wing racist extremist did as well as he did in 2002. Now something has to change.

Every once in a while you get an election like this, when voters make up their mind, decide that democracy, change is important. The Europeans will remember the 1997 election of Tony Blair* - something had to give, the Tories had to go, people were fed up. I expect the 2008 US presidential campaign may be like that - a passionate, important election, where people.

That in itself is something good, even if they elect that creep Sarkozy, the man who did so little to appease racial tensions when the riots started in Paris. That said, I hope they don't elect him.

*What ever happened, Tony?

Whatever you may want to think

A splendid spring day, with one of those beautiful, slightly chilly mornings. I enjoy these days, though not the prospect of not seeing any of this loveliness due to obnoxious driver's ed. This past weekend was full of nice, leisurely things, the lacrosse game and brunch, nice dinners out, the first barbeque and all that. One would hardly notice that we have started packing. Still suffering from bouts of anxiety/morbid imagination. Never keep a food processor in your bedroom.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Anxious

Back when I lived in Hungary, back in those bad, dark days, I started having nightmares. They generally involved psychopath murderers and one day when I woke up my flatmate because I woke up so scared, I actually scared both of us. I won't share, if you don't mind, I'd like to not scare anybody else. Since then the nightmares come and go, and recently I haven't had any. An unpleasant side effect/thing that started about the same time is that I have since developed an extreme aversion to any violence or mention thereof. I was always fairly sensitive, but there was a time when I thought Pulp Fiction was funny. I am pretty sure I couldn't watch it now. The killer, the breaking point here is of course Sin City. For months after I saw it* I would recall some of the more horrific scenes as I was trying to sleep. Even now, more than a year later, I can wake up in the middle of the night to some image from the movie.

The point is that I live in constant submerged fear that something terrible is going to happen to me, or worse, to someone I love. The more I love anyone, the greater the fear. I fall asleep trying to fend off images of such a thing happening. I would describe it, but to describe the horrors in my head, the details, seems to give them a reality I don't want to give them. I do not pass my days being afraid of the more everyday disasters of car crashes and disease (well, mostly I don't). Why then worry about statistically unlikely psychopaths** and horrid deaths?

I would love to shed all this random anxiety. I would love to know what started this. But I don't, and don't know how.

*By the way, I am not passing judgement on the movie. Some of it is pretty funny. Some of it is indefensible to me; both are beside the point. I acknowledge that I am particularly sensitive.
**Yes this is why I really try not to follow the Virginia Tech coverage

Other things you or I might do

Don't read this, sillies! This is boring. No, trust me, you want to go to, hmmm, this site about spherical supermagnets. Or this one about Randy Newman, because as it turns out not nearly enough people know about him. Or go over to Susan's blog and encourage her to actually WRITE something. In fact, let me commission her at this very moment: Susan, you should write something. Seriously. Preferably something about involving squirrels. Or George Lakoff. That would be good. Or both. As my boss would say - go to it.

I have been very bad at blogging this week, mostly because it has been very busy, and I have been in training for all sorts of interesting bits and bobs. The other reason I haven't blogged is because the flat situation is still taking up a lot of our time - that is to say, the final decision still hasn't been made. I feel like I should be learning something from all this. The question is only what. Surely the universe can't expect me to suddenly become calm and sweet-natured all the time? It's as much as I can do to be as generally polite and well-behaved as I am.

As such, I have not gotten round to doing the stuff I wanted to do, like exercise and take a course in something. On the plus side, I have managed to make life a little more social, which I really wanted.
Oh, and did I mention that it is a gorgeous spring day? At long last!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Things I shouldn't talk about, only read about

Because I don't understand, I just don't. Because it is not my country.

Small world

People love to say how small the world has gotten. I guess they mean that, if I get on a plane now, I can be in Australia tomorrow, depending of how I define tomorrow. They mean that I can email my family, chat to them, though they are roughly 3800 miles away, over 6000 kms. All of this is undoubtedly true.

The reality to this picture is that when you are sick, or you need someone to babysit your kids, you're on your own*. Families and friends are reserved for holidays and major emergencies. Leaving your country always makes you homeless, leaving your family and friends always makes you more alone. There is, as yet, no technology to fix that.**

So don't forget to live where you live with your mind, not just your feet. A good neighbour beats a far friend when you need a hand.

*Not literally, necessarily, but you are without that bigger support system.
**Which is not to say that I'm not grateful for the existing technologies

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday, obviously

Monday didn't work for posting, as it was mostly taken with my being trained on how to use some pretty nifty Apple stuff. They're a smug bunch, these Apple people, but there are many worse things one could do with one's time. Getting paid for it as well is a definite plus.

So housing stuff, well, you have made you opinions clear, but I guess in the end we decided that we really wouldn't be comfortable in the lovely place with the draconian lease. Instead, we are waiting to hear back from another place we saw, one we liked - it is a little further away, and a little smaller than we'd like, but in a much nicer neighbourhood, in a beautiful old mansion, and with a very reasonable lease and rent, and some very nice owners. If that falls through, then we move to the bigger, still sort of ok priced apartment in the place we used to live and which has since, thankfully, changed hands as well as its bathtubs.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes and will then go back to blogging about marginally more interesting things which don't involve rents, or Sam West.

*See picture. Or: how you can make not one, but two perfectly attractive men look like prats.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sad absence

Patrick Stewart has a show on the ITV. Rather, he is in a detective series called Eleventh Hour. You don't understand - there is a British detective series out the with Patrick Stewart and I can't watch it. I feel like when I found out that Sam West had played Hamlet for the RSC. The words "athletic prince" are enough to make my eyes glaze over. At least with the West I got a chance to see him later that year, and that was good. I saw him in a marvellous adaptation of that amazing book, The Master and Margarita. Same principle: great literary source, as performed by great actor. Even without my mild obsession with the West I would have tried to see it. I'll admit that it helps to be mildly obsessed, but the whole thing gave me a taste for after-play discussions with cast/director curiously unmotivated by Samuel's dreadful taste in clothing*.

Ok time to get back to the topic here, before I get completely sidetracked by the thought of the Honourable West. So Patrick Stewart is wonderful, a really lovely actor, and I do love detective series. I mean it's like Stephen Fry, that other former fixation of mine** when he did Wilde. It was great. It had Jude Law. Or when he did Jeeves & Wooster with Hugh Laurie***. Wodehouse adaptations AND Fry & Laurie. Hmmm.

Anyway, Patrick Stewart is great, as are British detective series, and I am very sad I can't see Eleventh Hour. Sorry it took me so long to say that.

Unnecessary footnote for those who have no idea what I am talking about: Not Patrick Stewart, he needs no explanation, but Samuel West. Ok. So here's this actor/director who's not only quite lovely to look at, but who is also an Oxford English grad, loves poetry, has a great reading voice, is a geek, has done lots of sexy period drama and is a politcally active left-winger. He doubted for a while between studying English and Astrophysics. It's like someone had looked at all my teenage fantasies, found someone to match and then said, and now let's make him good at fencing and cooking too.


*What is with perfectly gorgeous men having bad taste in clothes? Is it some kind of test or something?
** In an entirely platonic way, yes, all right, I do know he's gay. I just think he's a very sweet and kind man with a fabulous sense of humour and considerable talent as a writer.
*** Particularly platonic. Very funny, charming man, not sexy. Not even as House. No matter what anyone says.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Service


When I first got involved in this particular relationship, people kept telling me to be nice to the boy. My friends. My family. Without any provocation - just be nice to him, will you. And I would burst out - but I AM nice. I'll have you know that I am VERY BLOODY NICE.

Anger management is not my strong point. It's ok with the Spouse, to whom I am, yes, genuinely nice 89% of the time. This is hard work and says a lot about our relationship.

Anyways, so I still have moments where I turn into the huge, bubbling, seething vat of rage. Generally I end up visualising myself as a dragon with steam coming out of its nostrils; if I haven't lost my sense of humour by then, that is. Mostly, this rage is provoked by commercial agents of all sorts. I am pretty forgiving when it comes to personal contacts; but with customer service, I just have too much experience to put up with the bad kind. Why should I have to?

You see why I run into trouble sometimes (*THWACK*)

On a good day, I can out-evil people. I do a very nice passive-aggressive polite-but-insistent friendly thing that really annoys most service people. The current provoker of my wrath is, of course, the local real estate market, which has managed to make me very, very miffed indeed. It takes hours of looking at small fluffy things to calm me down in the evenings. Even the smallest, simplest things provoke massive incompetence from said real estate market. I called a place today which we were pretty much ready to rent, I just wanted to see it. I called them, they told me to see it next Tuesday. I explained - we'd like to rent it, do you really want to lose a tenant? Not only did they completely ignore this, they were rude too. I was meticulously polite.

How can I live in a place like that, with that for a start?

Gah. I am so tired of this, so very frustrated. I may just beg to move into the small unexciting flat with a reasonable lease and friendly staff. That sounds like such a good idea right now, I swear.

The good and bad

Goodmorning folks.

Two updates, one good, one not so.

First update gets me massive numbers of Professional Goddess Points - I have obtained a new, infinitely snazzier title, and will soon get business cards, thereby finally shedding my Glorified Secretary position. This is excellent news for me and my resume.

Yesterday afternoon the head of our fairly sizeable operation, previously designated as Dr. Evil for non-evil reasons, called me. He said something to the effect of how nice it was to have me working here, and how fortunate they were to have me. Then he hung up. That, beloved readers, is my employer all over. Weird, but often in a good way.

The other update is on the housing front. This morning the Spouse and I drove past a nice place that he saw yesterday. It big enough, it's convenient, we can afford it. So? Well, Baltimore will be Baltimore. The neighbourhood. The Spouse had warned me about it. You see, 85% of the neighbourhood is perfectly fine. There is, however, half a block here and there that isn't. Problematically enough, on my way home I would have to walk past a strip club; there's no other way to do it. The club as such doesn't much bother me; but then I imagined walking past there on an evening in winter, as a white middle-class girl in business clothes. I would certainly get comments, and facing that on a regular basis...well, I don't think I need to explain.

The other places the Spouse visited yesterday were respectively a gorgeous place too far from public transportation, and a nice places in a good location, which is probably too small. *sigh* I am getting terribly discouraged.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Also

My, I have the passivist readers in the West. Can someone please vote on the pretty poll before getting all distracted by links to puppies? This is a serious dilemma, and we crave trivial advice.
Grazie mille, Thank you

US

When you move to another country, you always have to have a certain level of tolerance and open-mindedness to enjoy the experience. I am now on my fifth, er, foreign assignment, and so am no stranger to this fact. It does not mean that I don't occasionally bitch (with or without reason) about whatever place I happen to be living in. The US is no exception.

The US administration being as politically hostile to my ideals as it currently is, I do whinge about the downsides of American society, and about the lack of public transportation, etc etc. The Spouse, being the patient, loving, kind-hearted person that he is, does not get annoyed with me. Instead, he gets depressed about his country's political state. Now while there is certainly a lot going not so well in American politics and society and more stuff that I just plain disagree with, I would like to point out that I like the country. I know I have talked about this before, but I'd like to elaborate.

This morning, on the bus (in spite of my complaints, it does get me to work every day in a more or less reliable manner), I listened to an NPR podcast about whether America is too religious. I am not going to touch on that subject, although I do recommend the mentioned podcast. My point here is that the debate pointed out to me a whole set of things I like about the US, that I had been vaguely aware us but never quite thought about much.

Debates - oh debates are a wonderful thing. The more heated (if polite) the better, as far as I'm concerned. Coming, as I do, from the most moderate of countries, I love the enthusiasm and passion which Americans invest in the continuing debate about every element of society; because it matters. There is always such an awful lot at stake, for better or for worse, and while people do miss some of the implications of the debates, they never forget that they are important. That, in its own right, is a wonderful thing, and not by any means self-evident.

Values - I know of no other western democracy that holds a single set of values so dearly. The Constitution (so conspicuously absent from Britain's history), while also furiously debated, is so central to Americans' notions about their country that it continues the mission it was set down to accomplish.

Patriotism - I am not kidding. Again, I am from the most moderate of countries, which somehow also makes it the most unpatriotic of countries. It annoys me - Belgians have so much to be proud of, so much to enjoy. If Belgium were real estate* it would be a perfectly situated Regent Park two-bedroom in a safe neighbourhood with a nice view, parking in the basement, outlandish utility bills, gorgeous rooms and a 500 GBP rent. For the Americans, Regent Park = nice side of Central Park, 500 GBP = $950. This analogy actually explains much about Belgium's history as a heavily contested and much reconstructed piece of land, but anyways, I really enjoy Americans' devotion to their country and their love of it. I love it especially when it is, as it often is, more than mere flag-waving enthusiasm, but a realistic, critical, genuine and thought-through appreciation of a country that has at least as much good as it has bad. I love the peculiar mix of critical thinking and emotion that goes with the tradition of American patriotism.

So yes, I love living here; and being a foreigner, am prone to whinges about the food (which is better in Belgium) and the lease contracts (which are insane). That's ok. I would be complaining exactly as much in Belgium, and without someone else to blame**.

*Sorry, still looking for an apartment
** All right, I'll try to stop referring to Americans as "you people"

Help

The housing dilemmas are becoming unbearable. I implore you faithful readers of my humble blog, please vote*, and solve our problems with which you are unfamiliar.

Thank you.

*Legal notice: This poll is not legally binding. Readers of this blog may be called upon to fulfill contractual obligations stipulated in any lease ensuing from said poll, and promise to indemnify and save the blogger harmless of any damage or expense incurred within the blogger's current or future rental properties.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Look away now if you have no stomach for self-help or sentiment

Some time ago I talked about Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages, pre-marital counselling and the beauty of self-help.

I just want to go back to that, and evaluate the validity of this particular self-help experience. Gary Chapman's premise, which I didn't explain at the time, is that there are five basic ways in which people express their love, and in which they accept love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. If a partner expresses their love in a language the other partner does not understand, both end up feeling unfulfilled. Hence this book.

Based on reading the book (which we both dutifully did) and the terrible self-test in the book the Spouse & I decided that his language was words of affirmation, and mine were quality time and physical touch. Cut & dried, we moved on and got married and read other books.

Both before and after the wedding we had some arguments, much like any couple. So far so standard. The interesting part is that after a couple of fights we, between us, figured out that my primary love language is actually neither of the above, but is in fact acts of service.

So?

On an average morning, I wake up at 6.10 am. The Spouse doesn't really have any particular time he has to get up. The alarm goes off, we snuggle for a bit, I get up and shower while the Spouse makes me breakfast. I tell him every morning that there is no need, but he gets up all the same, makes breakfast and by the time I get out of the shower he is curled up in bed again. The sheer heroic effort involved in needlessly getting up at six never fails to move me, and I leave for work feeling nauseatingly contented and happy, after one more snuggling bundle of praise for said spouse.

Self-help, then, is not always in vain. Even if it comes from Baptist pastors.

Monday, April 09, 2007

How not to sign a lease

UPDATE: The place wasn't willing to change anything, so we're not signing the lease. I am so disappointed, even though our backup plan involves moving into a perfectly nice, well-situated, well-kept apartment with a nice view, a balcony, and has a sauna and a pool in the building. Blech.

Goodmorning folks,

And a happy if belated Easter. I hope you had better weather wherever you are.

Here's some news - we finally decided where we are going to move, so last Saturday we went over there and picked up an application form. The application form required, it would seem, not only two recent pay stubs, but a letter from my employer with a note about likelihood of continued employment. Moreover, the form required a character reference and passport number. To top it off, they wanted us to pay the deposit at the same time as the application fee. All of this is highly unusual, so we went back and asked some questions, and asked for a copy of the lease since we'd be giving them our money for at least 45 days.

The good news: the letter of employment is only required if you have just started a job (fair enough); passport number only if you do not have a social security number. So far so good.

The bad news: they kindly gave us the lease to read over. Good, right? No, no, not at all really. Said lease would, in Belgium, be illegal on a multitude of grounds. *sigh* Anyway, different country, different rules - let's look at the basics here.
- Is there a get-out clause? No
- If there is no get-out clause, can we sublet? No, explicitly prohibited
Ah. Well, maybe we can negotiate. Other craziness? Oh, lots of it I'm afraid - there are all sorts of vague rules about wearing "appropriate attire" (meaning what? jeans and t-shirt? tux and top hat?) and "not undertaking any actions that will increase the insurance fee" (wuh?), not to mention that you officially can't play in the common areas, and, depending on interpretation, can't watch tv between 11 pm and 8 am. There are all sorts of extra cost percentages that aren't clarified, and all sorts of vague disclaimers from the landlord about their obligation to fix things. You can't play any instruments, but you can be evicted for breaking rules they have not communicated to you (that is to say that no method of communication is indicated).

Trust me when I say that this is just a highlights collection, and that the only reason I didn't just post the damn thing is because it is too long. And in case you're wondering what the legal safeguards are, -

"While many states actually require that lawyers review real estate contracts before they are signed, Maryland property law leaves buyers and sellers free to enter into bad deals under sales contracts with legally ambiguous language that actually invites real estate lawsuits. In most residential home sales, these real estate contracts are drafted by real estate agents, buyers and sellers who may not understand the legal problems."

Great

Here then we have a classical example of an Evil, though not outright crazy, Lease. The apartment, however, is beautiful and reasonably priced, and we'd love to live there. What to do? Though neither of us is sure that it is worth the trouble, the Spouse is going over this morning to negotiate the lease. I wish I could go with him on this ordeal.

Wish us luck, then, but frankly I am not getting my hopes up. The sad thing is that the owners own two popular and nice properties - do people really put up with this nonsense? Or do people just not read these things at all? I don't know which option is worse.

To be continued...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Not

I love not explaining things.

So this morning I am on the phone to a driving school because, well, I need to get my driver's ed. At one point the following dialogue happened:

Driving school person: Are you a student?
Clara: No
DSP: May I ask you a personal question?
C: Ehm, sure
DSP: What age are you?
C: 28 (or something. 34. 121.)
DSP: *pause*

I could hear the wheels in his head grinding - "hmmm 28, doesn't have a licence. Why not? I wonder if it's on principle. She doesn't sound like she's from around here, maybe she's foreign; still, why no licence then? People drive in other countries. Can people exchange those licences I wonder? Or maybe it's a Quaker thing. Do Quakers drive cars? I mean Amish. Maybe she's Amish. And she's decided to leave. Yes. They sound kind of odd, those Amish, and they're all assertive. The women wear those bonnet things. I bet she has one of those. Though she won't wear it if she's left the community. Hmm. Or maybe she's a foreigner from some really weird country where they don't drive cars. Romania* or something. Doesn't sound like it though. Maybe it's like those flying schools and she going to..uhm...drive a car into something. Hm."**

I love not explaining things.


*Yes, I am just kidding. Or representing American ignorance of world geography. Take your pick.
**I acknowledge that the above interior monologue is not likely to represent the DSP's thoughts accurately.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Useful, or not, as the case may be

As you will noticed, or have already noticed, any intellectual impulses I might have will often be obscured by practical issues at hand, like having to make chocolate-dipped strawberries. The current big practical issue in my life is simple - the Spouse and I must find/decide on a new apartment. Let me try to make this a little more interesting for you all. Once upon a time in a country far far away, I helped people find apartments for a living (well, one of my many tasks). I worked for a relocation agency, and as such we had no bias with regards to realtors. Here are a few tips for those of you who may some day need them - and most of this stuff is pretty common sense:

About the flat/house:
- Make a list of what you really need, and what you'd like
- Stick to it, or at least look at it frequently
- Always open every closet, and look in as many corners as you can
- Test the shower and drains; this seems unimportant, but clogged drains are an everyday bane
- If you view a place that is dirty, do not assume that it will be properly cleaned before you move in
- Do not make any compromises you do not want to make (this sounds easy but isn't)
- If at all possible, obtains reviews or references about the landlord
- Check if there is a freight elevator if you need one for the move; find out if you need to book it.

About the lease:
- Make sure you know exactly what the rent includes (heating, parking, electricity,...). Research what the approximate non-included costs are to make sure that you are not paying more than you can.
- Always, always, always read the lease, all of it.
- Put any verbal agreements on paper, no matter how nice they are
- Ask for changes to the contract if need be. This is standard practice. Negotiate.
- Make sure there is a get-out clause, even if you are penalised for leaving the place early. You never know what the future brings.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Or something

You wake up, hurl yourself out of bed at 6.15 am, the latest possible time, shower groggedly, dress in the dark, have the breakfast your loving spouse has set out, and force yourself out the door.
The way to keep fit on workdays is to be scatter-brained. Remember that this is the point of your making three trips to the same office because its occupant can't be bothered to walk down the hall.
When people arrive bearing cheesecake, welcome them. Cheesecake is not to be sniffed at. I am going to have some now.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday


Yes, it is Monday, I know, but a proper post will have to wait. My head is full of work budgetting and private flathunting. With which we have had no luck quite yet - or rather some, but nothing definitive.
Oh, and Friday night was spent fending off free drinks that I wasn't allowed to have. Drunken business contacts talking about their domineering wives; what can I say?

Other than that, I finally saw the first 45 minutes of Borat, which definitively eliminated any desire to watch the remainder of it.

What I else? We made some progress on the thank yous for the wedding - yes they are coming soon, I hope. Once we order them. Argh. Cutesie pictures, that kind of thing.

Sunday was kind of pointless, too much time spent shopping (without success) and too much time spent having a long discussion with the Spouse about tv series. Sometimes it's hard not to sweat the little stuff.

Monday then, and swanky yet tiny flats. Cookies, too, and while I should not have cookies as the sugar gives me a headache, I did have a macaroon. Who can resist free macaroons? Why? So far no headache, and it is a gorgeous day, and I went outside, and really, contrary to expectations, all is well with the world round here. As long as you don't count the homeless people.

Let me focus on the cookies and the blossoming trees instead of the homeless. The homeless...well, I'm not going to do anything about it today. I give money and time to all sorts of good causes and I am taking a break from feeling guilty.

Blossoming trees. Spring really is the best time of year in Baltimore.