Saturday, 31 January 2009

the pope defeated

According to Nicole, her mother was getting distressed because I didn't update my blog on a regular basis. Since I don't want to be responsible for Vicky running around with a hatchet in Adelaide killing people here's an update on the happenings of last week. I dedicate this one to Vicky.

At work the foundation for our new engine room is progressing; the concrete floor has been poured and they're now working on setting up the walls.

pouring concrete

Work this week has been mostly on the Annual Report (what's new…) and the cosmology booklet. The AR is almost finished now; I only waiting for two articles and the introduction. The director promised me to have the introduction ready on Monday. He also said not to beat him up if it wasn't ready since Monday is his birthday. I promised to hit him only softly as a compromise.

On a few occasions I walked home when my feet weren't hurting that much. Most of the time I took the bus, though. Tuesday I went past Frankendael just when the sun was setting, which threw a golden light over the pond.

frankendael sunset

At the Ringvaart a woman was feeding the birds. Seagulls and ducks were flocking around her trying to get at the food. The animal care organisations have asked to give birds a bit extra this year since it has been colder than average.

bird feeding

Thursday evening I was meeting Collins for a Chinese meal in Restaurant Tong Ah near Leidseplein. I left work early and decided to walk most of the route, walking a bit in circles around Amsterdam. My feet were feeling great, so I first set off to the Oostenburgergracht where I saw a bridge going nowhere.

bridge to nowhere

At the end of Oostenburgergracht I took the bus to Central Station. I got off at the Schreierstoren (Weeping Tower), so named because this is the spot where according to tradition sailor's wives would wave their husbands good bye. Again according to tradition this involved a whole lot of weeping.


The North-South Line Metro diggers have broken up their installations on the Damrak so once again we can see the water and the houses which are built straight on the water with no quay in front of them.


Dinner at Tong Ah was very good. Collins is a regular there but for me it was the first time. He usually gets the Gong Bao Chicken but wished that he could get something more spicy. I like spicy food too, so we discussed ideas with the owner who came up with "beef and chicken in a very hot sauce, just leave it to the chef". What came out of the kitchen later was beef and chicken in a very hot sauce, prepared with Mme Jeanette chillies. Very hot, indeed. Yum.

After dinner we went to Dan Murphy's on Leidseplein for a drink and talked about Collins' upcoming projects. We bounced a couple of ideas back and forth, but I don't think that night had one of my 'once a year great ideas', as Collins puts it.

After two drinks we split up and I started to walk home. I only made it two tram stops from Leidseplein before I caught the tram. The longish walk earlier had done its damage and my feet now seriously hurt. Taking the tram was the best option.


Friday I attended a conference for physics teachers which was organised at work. Several people were giving talks on what was happening in 'big science' with it's 'extreme machines'. Very interesting as they didn't throw too much mathematics and Greek around so I could follow it easily. One of my colleagues, a physicist with a PhD confessed that even he learned from the talk about entanglement in quantum mechanics. This reminded me of a Richard Feynman quote: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."

Today, Saturday I slept late. After my morning coffee I went to do the weekend shopping. The community centre in Joubertstraat is nearing completion. The building has two very large windows in the façade. I looked inside to see what they were building. It turned out to be a mosque. I like the idea of a Dutch-style mosque; one of the things that tourists always notice is the large open windows in Dutch houses where you can see the family sitting in their living room. It looks like the designers of this mosque took that idea and implemented it here.


The tunnel under the railroad has been painted with graffiti since I don't know when. Years ago the council told the local graffiti painters to do their best and supplied them with the paint. Miraculously, it has not been overpainted with other graffiti much. Most of the original is still there. What is new, is the 'Escher' swans on the sign. It used to have words on it (which I have forgotten). I like the re-use of graffiti in this way. It gives it a feeling of continuation and renewal. Graffiti is one of the non-static arts. It keeps evolving. You can see it here.

transvaal graffiti

Those who don't like graffiti are warned by a sticker I saw on the old 'Volkskrant' building.


I got my exotic coffee blends for the Senseo at the AH on Wibautstraat and bought a small jar of Dun Peas which I ate tonight with onions, pickles and a meatball. For tomorrow I got a Mozarella salad.

loading up at AH

When I got home I saw on on of the FaceBook games I play, Mafia Wars, that Miss Jo and I had defeated the Pope. I didn't make any money from it.

the Pope defeated

Monday, 26 January 2009

that was the week that was

Another week's gone past and the light is slowly returning in the sky. I worked basically non-stop on the annual report and a cosmology booklet, typesetting equations. I was happy the weekend came since that meant it was time for the Viking Winter Banquet. Most years we go to Oerlinghausen in Germany for the banquet but this year it was a home match: the Archeon in Alphen aan de Rijn.

archeon: old houses, young girl.

The banquet was organised by Martin and Rona and was a great success. The food was excellent and so was the company. I went there with Marion and Danny in Janneke's car. Janneke couldn't make it to the banquet as she had other commitments that weekend.


The weather (which had been lousy the last week: rain, rain and more rain) had picked up considerably. The sun was shining all weekend and the temperature was well above freezing. The old houses of mediaeval 's-Gravendam looked fresh in the sunshine.


More hours of daylight also mean that I now leave the house in the dark, but slowly walk towards the sunrise in the morning. By the time I get to Muiderpoort the streetlights are switched off and by the time I walk into the gate at work the sun is up.

morning light at Muiderpoort station

Two years ago the HiSPARC cosmology experiment wanted to change their website from the one I had made to one driven by a content management system (CMS). They would do all the work themselves. Now, two years later, the CMS still doesn't work properly; they can't integrate the data acquisition and analysis into the CMS and the database interfaces don't work. Today they asked me to 'please take over again and make it work.' I told them I'd think about it and would discuss it with management since I don't know what other work they've got lined up for me. I do like to work on HiSPARC, though.

When I made my escape at 16:00 the sun was still shining. I walked along the Amstel to Hartog's bakery where I hadn't been in a few weeks due to the weather. I did some more food shopping on the way home and decided that dinner would be tiny today. I had eaten too much at the banquet, so today I only had a Soato soup (spicy chicken and bean sprouts) with a little rice from the Surinamese take-away down the road. With two mandarins and a pear it made enough for a healthy dinner.

afternoon light at the amstel

My weight has been steady over the last three weeks. I'm bouncing between 95 and 97 kilos. According to my dietician this is normal and could last up to two months. I think it is caused by not enough exercise in winter time and eating more than normal to keep my body stoked in the cold. I have to do more cycling on the exercise bike, I think.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

no rioting, please!

Ok, stop, I submit. I will update the blog. Whether you like the contents or not I don't know…

Here's the batch of photos I made in the last week. I made a few more, but they were not fit for publication due to unsharpness, movement or general uninterestingness. As you can see from the photos, I walk to work in the dark. The last week the sun has started to rise a bit earlier again, so now I usually see sunrise somewhere along the route. One morning the sky had lovely shades of red and pink when I was coming through Frankendael. I experimented a bit with the settings on the camera and here's the result.

sunrise in frankendael

When I got near the stand of trees the clouds were looking very streaked against the rising sun.

more sunrise frankendael

I tried to catch the same colours at the villa, but by that time Aurora had left the building…

villa frankendael just after sunrise

When I got to work I saw a tanker truck delivering more clouds to our sister-institute AMOLF. They ware getting a load of liquid nitrogen which always makes for nice little clouds.

delivering clouds

I didn't go out in the evenings this week; I stayed in, chatting and playing Dragon Wars on FaceBook. Work was mostly editing the Annual Report. This will last for another two to three weeks by which time it should be on its way to the printer. The most boring part has yet to start: the publication list. This is a long list of articles which have appeared in peer-reviewed journals. The titles typically look like "Measurement of cos2β in B0→ D(*)h0 Decays with a Time-Dependent Dalitz Plot Analysis of D→ Ks0π+π", which is hell to type set. I'll be doing that job at home so I won't be distracted by colleagues walking into my room.

Friday afternoon I went to Enschede, near the German border. One of our graduate students, Jeroen, had to do his PhD defence at the Univerity of Twente. I drove up with Frank, who was on the promotion committee. Jeroen and I had worked in the past on the data acquisition and data storage for the HiSparc astrophysics project and we also have spent quite some time drinking pints of Guinness in Mulligans. I also designed the cover for his thesis and gave advice on some of the figures in the thesis. All in all a good reason to go to his defence.

He passed with flying colours and is leaving for Geneva one of these days to do a post-doc at CERN where he's been made a CERN fellow. That is a signal honour since there are very limited places for CERN fellows and typically there are more than 20 applicants for each place. To get selected means you know what you're doing.

Frank dropped me off at the train station in Almere on the way back where I caught the train to Amsterdam CS. By this time it was already 19:30 and I was getting really hungry. I got myself a falafel at Maoz on Mint square and then went to Mulligans for a drink.

Jeroen was giving a party later that evening in Café van Zuylen on the Singel. I walked there around 21:00 and came past this brightly lit house opposite the University Library.

singel at night

When I got to van Zuylen there was nobody there whom I recognised; it was crowded like hell and the music wasn't to my liking. I went home. I had already had my 'bitterballen' in Enschede, so I didn't feel too guilty.

Saturday night I went to Mulligans to hear Daithi Rua and Ed Veltrop play; a good gig. I had two whiskeys with Danny and then walked home.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

follow me to facebook

The darkness of the Dutch winter prevents me from taking photos. Also, my feet are hurting too much for long walks when there is light, so that is the reason for the prolonged silence in the blog. If you're really keen on finding out what I'm doing, join facebook and let me know what you're doing, too.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

on yer bike...

The last couple of days I didn't make any photos because my feet were hurting so much that I took the bus to and from work. This morning at 08:30 the doorbell rang and the delivery guy from the mail order company brought my exercise bike up the stairs.

I had ordered the thing way before Christmas, so I was happy to finally see it arrive. I started unboxing it immediately.

the box

The body was the biggest part to come out of the box. It has an 11 kg fly wheel.

the body

I placed all bits and pieces on the floor to see what was what. The big black box is not part of the bike, but will be my 'new' linux server. It's an old Dell 8300 which I bought from work.

the parts

The whole bike is put together with only two tools, a combined allan wrench / philips screwdriver and a little spanner.

almost finished

When I got to the last part, the ergometer computer, I couldn't find the bolts to fit it to the column. I went down the stairs to the hardware shop around the corner and got 4 M5x10 bolts for the princely sum of €0.75.

When I tried to find the bolt holes to put the bolts in it dawned on me that there were already bolts in the holes… All other bolts had been wrapped separately and were chromed. These were screwed on and black on a black background. €0.75 waisted…

ready for entertainment…

After setting the computer's time and reading (part of) the manual I dressed down to shorts, t-shirt and sneakers and gave the bike a whirl. Forty minutes later I was sweating like a pig and gasping for air as if it was my last breath.

I read the rest of the manual. It turned out I had selected a program for 20-year old athletes in top condition. I should have started with a 5 to 10 minute easy program and build up over time. Oops. Luckily I didn't die on the spot of a heart attack.

One thing I have noticed: it is a lot easier on my feet than walking. And, with either a documentary on the laptop or my own music on the stereo it is also a lot more comfortable than in the gym.

Friday, 9 January 2009

the wake

This morning it was still dark when I got to work. I didn't sleep too well, but a cup of Abdul's asphalt coffee cured that quickly.

I worked on a few articles for the annual report. Monday morning is our next review meeting and I wanted to have as much ready as possible.

When I left work I took the bus to Amstel Station and walked home from there along the Ringvaart, which is now completely frozen. There were people on the ice teaching their kids to skate in the traditional way: by holding on to a chair.

traditional lessons

After dinner I went out again; I had to go to the wake of a colleague of mine, Jef Colle, who had died last Sunday. Jef was a physics teacher at the Amsterdams Lyceum and worked part-time at Nikhef on the HiSPARC experiment. When that experiment was starting up I worked with Jef on putting the web site together. Jef was a very enthusiastic teacher and well loved by his pupils. Quite a few of those are now studying physics or working at Nikhef, due to his influence.

The wake was in the auditorium of the Amsterdams Lyceum. I guess there were about 200 people there, both pupils and colleagues. I met a few people I hadn't seen in a long time. Jef was a man with a love for living well, so his wish was for a wake where people would gather for a drink and some finger food. As a result it was more like a party than a sad occasion; a good way to say good bye.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

gevulde koek

First of all, my apologies for not updating the blog the last few days; the only excuse I have is that I've been pretty busy lately.

Sunday the weather was bad, so I stayed at home. No photos.

Monday was the first day back at work after the two week holiday. The morning started with shaking hands with ±250 colleagues and then working like mad to get the bid book finished; it had to go to the printer today to be ready to be mailed by registered post tomorrow. I got the last bits and pieces around 13:00. By 14:00 it was uploaded to the printer's server.

Monday was also the day the mail order company was supposed to bring my home trainer bike in the evening. They didn't show up.

Tuesday I worked my butt off to do the layout on a number of articles for the Annual Report. I also received a box with a few bid books; the printer had sent them by bicycle courier. Just in time for the post.

Both Monday and Tuesday I had forgotten to bring my camera, so no photos.

Tuesday I phoned the mail order company to ask where my home trainer bike was: "we tried to deliver at 14:00, but there was nobody home". I said that my preferences stated "delivery in the evening". They said they only did that for small packages and the bike wasn't small. When I asked if I could make an appointment to have it delivered on Wednesday during the day they said they would phone me back.

Update: In the evening I helped Joeri understand her new MacBook. I had to brave the cold and the dark, not to mention the 40 pirates who live in the cave under the bench in the Oosterpark.

Wednesday morning I woke up early and saw my doctor. I'd been a month without the diabetes medication and he wanted to see what my fasting glucose level was after the days of gluttony holiday season. When he jabbed me for a drop of blood I said I hoped he would measure a 'gevulde koek'. He looked nonplussed. I explained that if the glucose levels were good, I had promised myself a gevulde koek at Hartog's.

The level was 5.1; smack in the middle of the normal range. He told me to go and get a gevulde koek. I was now officially non-diabetic again! I raced to Hartog's.

breakfast at hartog's (the clock didn't work)

Walking back from Hartog, the sun had risen and the snow (did I tell you it had snowed?) was looking white instead of grey. Only in the children's playground on Krugerplein the snow was red from the firecracker papers that were still there a week after New Year.


In the evening I walked to Mulligans; Margot was in a foul mood because of things at her work and needed cheering up so I got marching orders to go to Mulligans and cheer her up. Mark Gilligan was playing with Paul Martin. That didn't particularly cheer her up, but the pint of Guinness I bought her seemed to do the job.

stopera at night

Today the world was wrapped in fog. I walked to work and on Kruislaan you couldn't see the buildings across the road.


I did more work on the annual report. Monday we're having out editorial meeting with the first review and I want to have as much ready as possible.

The mail order company called in the morning to make an appointment for delivery of the excercise bike. They've got it planned for next week Wednesday; four weeks after I'd ordered the bloody thing! Why didn't they ask me when delivery would be optimal when I ordered?

I left early since I had an appointment with the dietician of the diabetic support. She was happy to see my weight loss graph, and even happier to hear I was taken off the medication all together. We discussed the problems I'm having with the diet: hunger and cold. We agreed that it could have to do something with not eating enough and temperatures below −10° C…

I walked back through Oosterpark where kids were ice skating on the pond. When I made this photo, the kid on the left had just made a fantastic crash landing. It took him a while to get up again; he legs kept going everywhere…

skating in oosterpark

For dinner I got a roti with beef from the Surinamese place down the road. I asked for two bags of their hottest sambal, but they must have changed the recipe because it wasn't all that hot. I ended up throwing some sambal oelek on top.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

birgitte's party

Last night was Birgitte's dinner party at Jon K.'s house. The whole set of photos is up on both FaceBook and Flickr, so here's small selection.

A lot of people brought food; Miriam had made a few delicious quiches and Mic had baked two apple pies. Marina had made two type of chicken legs, tandoori and hot chilli as well as a spinach and feta pie; all very good. Jon had produced his famous chilli chips. I ate too much of it all…

Somebody had brought chocolates in two varieties: chocolate covered almonds and chocolate covered liquorice. When I presented Collins one of the liquorice chocolates I thought he would explode; he took a bite, looked horrified and said "you could have warned me it had liquorice inside!" He then ran to the toilet.

hen legs

There was good variety in booze, too. I made a discovery: A while ago I met with Collins and Nantko in Cafe Eijlders on Leidseplein. They had only one Irish whiskey there, a Bushmills, but I couldn't see clearly what type of Bushmills it was. I liked the taste of it, though, and tried the better Bushmills in Mulligans. They weren't the one. Now Danny had brought a bottle of the normal, run of the mill Bushmills White Label. That was the one I'd been looking for. I have a cheap taste, obviously.

in the mood for booze in the hood

Dick, Mic and Sass had brought their guitars. Even Birgitte tried her hand at playing, even though she hadn't done so in a long time.

playing guitars

Everybody had brought cameras, so there were a lot of people making photos of people making photos…

making photos of people making photos

All in all a very enjoyable evening with a group of good friends.

collins washed the dishes

Friday, 2 January 2009

sashimi in the zushi

I'd been working on Kate's web site, and she had promised to take me out for a sushi lunch as a 'thank you'. I suggested going to the Zen on Frans Halsstraat as I had been there before with Nicole and liked it very much. We were going to meet at 13:00, so I started walking towards the west. First across the Amstel.


At the Sarphatipark I turned right towards the Albert Cuyp market. Here I saw a very nice riksha. I don't know if it is for rent or just an ornament for the Badcuyp Music Centre and Restaurant. Around this time Kate sms'ed me to say she'd be 30 minutes late.

albert cuyp riksha

I made it to the Zen in time. It was closed for holidays until the 13th, so I walked back to O'Donnell's on Heinekenplein for a cup of coffee and let Kate know where I was. She suggested going to the Zushi on Amstel instead. Fine with me. I walked down the Vijzelstraat and onto the Amstel, where Kate was already waiting for me in the Zushi.

The Zushi is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. The chef prepares the different dishes and places them on coloured plates on the belt. The colour of the plate is an indication of the price.

japanese fast food

It tasted very good. I stayed on the healthy side by eating little rice and lots of oily fish, full of omega 3 and 6 goodness.

after the meal

Because I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast at 08:00, and it was now around 14:30, I was pretty hungry. Kate looked in awe at the amount of sushi I could put away. Hey, I love Japanese food, and if it is free…

fear and loathing in amsterdam

We went up to Kate's apartment. She lives on the 5th and 6th floor in a building across the Amstel from Mulligans. From her balcony you have a grand view of the Amstel . . .

view from kate's balcony

. . . and from her roof terrace an equally stunning view of the city.

view from kate's roof terrace

I took a bunch of photos to see what could be used on her web site and left again. I walked down to Waterlooplein where, after taking this photo, I discovered I'd left my gloves at Kate's apartment.

shoppers at waterlooplein

By the time I got to the end of the flea market, my hands were freezing. I saw a stall with hand knitted gloves from Nepal, only € 1.– per pair. Best investment this winter so far. These gloves are really warm and comfortable. Better than the ones I forgot at Kate's!.

hand knitted in nepal, €1.–

I walked down the Weesperstraat and took the usual route home.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Fuyu no moya

Since I didn't make it too late last night, I woke up at a normal time. After breakfast I went for a walk. The fog was thick over the city and I thought it would be nice to make a few photos of the mist over Frankendael.

quiet morning / the weight of snow / before the snow

The restaurant was closed, so no coffee stop here.

frankendael villa

This father and daughter were actually the first people I saw on my walk. Amsterdam was still in coma.

first steps

This is the Middenweg at 10:25. No cars, no trams, no people.

middenweg at 10:25

On Steve Bikoplein somebody had stencilled 'δεμοκρατια', demokratia in the middle of the square where the fountain once stood. The fountain was removed a couple of months ago and last week the council placed signs there for the kids that play on the square that said "don't play in the fountain"... What ignorant council member approved of that? δεμοκρατια at work…

δεμοκρατια / demokratia

The rest of the day I sat at home doing nothing much.