Jan. 18th, 2013 02:02 am
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

our counteroffer was accepted yesterday, so I guess we have a house! We won’t close on it until next month, though. We’re still keeping the lake house, Rowell, and plan to go there on weekends, so we wanted something nice but small here. This one is a new townhouse; two bedrooms and a den.

So now we have shopping to do! Our furniture is in the other house, so we need to buy most of the furnishings for this house. There are just a few things we’ll bring up, like a rocking chair or two and some of our extra bookcases. (That’s “extra” in the sense of “they probably won’t all fit in the other place”, not in the sense of “we don’t have enough books to fill them.”) We’ve got all the kitchen gear to augment what was provided in the Dutch flat, like my good knives and Dutch ovens, and all of the dishes, cups, pots, sheets and towels we had to buy the Taiwan flat. So we have duplicates of those things, since what we’d had from before was kept in the US while we were abroad. (Our old sheets and towels are getting ratty and are about due for replacement, though.) Meanwhile, our stuff from the Netherlands just arrived in the US today; it will be delivered to us in a few weeks when it gets through Customs. We plan to just lay out all the kitchenware and linens on the floor and just divide them all up: “this pile to the lake house, that pile to the townhouse, that pile to the dump, this list of things we still need”.

But we need to buy all the big stuff: beds, dressers, sofa, dining room table, and a rug for the living room. Should be fun (I hope).

Meanwhile, yesterday I counted pages as well as words; since starting a week ago Monday I’ve got 37 pages done, so I’m feeling like this book is something I can finish. Whether it ever gets published is another story, of course.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

We arrived in Oregon last Friday, and I’m liking Hillsboro so far; there’s a nice mall 5 minutes walk from our apartment and all the supermarkets and big-box stores anyone could want, but you can be driving beside planted fields in about ten minutes. There are just lots of things happening to us or that we’re encountering, to write about.

Things about our temporary apartment: two bedrooms, two baths Reasonably nice, great location, OK storage (except the clothing storage will be completely inadequate once our stuff gets here!). The kitchen is far better equipped than our Dutch ones, but why am I the only person who thinks that a ladle is part of basic required kitchen gear? The thermal control here is a bit weird; the living area and the two bedrooms each have their own thermostat but it always seems to be too hot for me. The location really is excellent: Ted’s office is 10 minutes away, the mall is right next to us, lots of restaurants are nearby, we can catch a train into Portland at any of several nearby stations, and the Portland airport is a half hour away.

Things we’ve eaten that we can’t get in the Netherlands: Chipotle burritos, crispy bacon, pretzels, ales from BJs in English and Scottish styles, green asparagus in winter, good tortilla chips, American steaks. We will miss the European wines but Oregon has plenty of its own.

Things we’ve bought so far: All the groceries (making this the 3.5th kitchen I’ve set up from scratch in the last few years; the half is our lake house, where we try not to keep much food between visits so we don’t stock much); assorted housewares including a broiler because for some reason we don’t have one; an iPhone; and a very large truck. Well, sort of; we go pick it up and give them large amounts of money tomorrow.

Things we’ve done: found a realtor we like and viewed about 16 houses so far; gotten a US phone number (um, let me know if you need the number); gotten Oregon drivers’ manuals so we can study for the knowledge test; checked out a local rowing club (nobody was there); started learning our way around. Also, gotten rained on a lot (It’s a peculiarly drippy rain. In Eindhoven we had mist, drizzle, and hard rain; here, there’s also a particular state in which large occasional drops fall from the sky, so you don’t get really wet but you know when one’s hit you. It feels like standing under the drippy edge of a roof.

Things we aren’t: any closer to a decision on what happens next.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

The book I was listening(1) to finished while I was 5km into through today’s 10km workout, so I decided to listen to music instead of starting a new audiobook. I set my iPod to random shuffle. Today’s workout was 1km warmup, then 3 sets of 1km hard, 2 km easy. (“Hard” is meant to be your PR 5km pace, “Easy” is marathon pace.) Just as I was going into the last hard kilometer, a new song came on…

Anatevka, from Fiddler on the Roof.

Depressing music is not good for working out! And when you’re about to leave Europe for good (and Jewish, just to boot), it doesn’t get much more depressing than “Soon I’ll be a stranger in a strange new place, Searching for an old familiar face”.

Maybe it’s time to go listen to London Homesick Blues again…

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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it feels very real now, Things we’ve done to prepare for going home, so far:

  • Turned in my resignation letter, with some weasel wording because I may not be leaving the company
  • Requested a meeting with HR (Ted) to talk about repatriation
  • Talked to the bank about how to close our accounts remotely (we need to leave them open long enough to get tax refunds next year)
  • Talked to T-Mobile to have my account closed at the end of the eyar
  • Set up our going-away party and invited people (we may invite more still)
  • Picked dates to pack up and move, and notified the company of same
  • Discussed what to pack, vs what to have shipped, in both of the possible scenarios for our return (that is, working vs trailer)
  • Investigated real estate and attributes of the area we may be moving to
  • Decided for sure which truck to buy, and narrowed down which RV, though there’s no rush for that if we end up working
  • Investigated US car models – having been away for 6 years, we don’t know thw current models and have no idea what we’d want. In addition to the truck we’ll want a more fuel efficient car [1]
  • Bought several of the wines we’ve liked most in the last few years, with a view toward buying a care or two to take home
  • Notified our landlord as well as the person who handles housing for our company that we’ll be going home
  • Pointed out to the people I work with which things won’t get done when I leave, until they hire a replacement
  • More or less decided on our holiday plans

So we’re in pretty good shape. Now if only we knew what we’d be doing when we got to the US, we’d be perfect.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

The account in words of our trip to New York, Allentown, and Philadelphia is posted here; I don’t have pictures up yet.

Short version: Because Ted now has Diamond status and because the flights were very crowded because Dutch kids were on Fall vacation, we got upgraded to business class both ways. It’s so much nicer when you aren’t squished and get decent food! We walked all over Manhattan for a couple of days (we recommend the Belvedere Hotel – decent prices for NYC, comfortble rooms, fab location), then drove to Allentown where we spent far too much time sitting around the house where my brother and SIL. They live with her honorary aunt and uncle, as does her adult grandson; other relatives are constantly tropping through, hollering at each other, and there are decorations and collectibles on every conceivable surface. I found the place exhausting. But we did get lots of time with the baby sleeping on us and lots of time with my family and other assorted in-laws. Then we retreated to my parents’ house, which actually seemed serene by contrast. We hung pictures for my parents, which hadn’t been done since they got their walls retextured a few years ago, and only put one hole in the wall in the process. (The shared wall with the house next door turned out to be plaster over brick, not wallboard with a space behind it as we’d unconsciously expected. Oops. We spackled, and it’s behind a picture anyway.) Saturday we got snowed on, so we didn’t make it to the Halloween party I’d been looking forward to, and Sunday was my nephew’s christening. It was a bit hard to watch them Christianizing him, but my parents and brother will make sure he knows about both sides of his heritage, and he’ll make up his own mind later anyway. For all I know, he’ll end up a Buddhist monk. At the moment he is adorable but a bit boring, as he sleeps almost all the time.

I think I’ve gotten over my feelings of not knowing what I wanted to knit, and now I want to knit all the things at once – finish my current sock and then start a cowl from a skein of Kidsilk Haze I’ve had for years, and maybe a Moebius scarf out of some silk/alpaca I’ve had since giving up on the wrap it was supposed to be. (I judged the match of pattern and yarn badly; that pattern needed a yarn with good stitch definition.) I’m also hankering to make my nephew a Christmas stocking, but it’s a bit late to start now; maybe next year. The current sock has been going for a month, but that’s because when I started it I was still working on a skirt (which still needs buttons, as well as a ribbon to stabilize the waistband) and then I stopped to know a couple of cowls, which I’ve given to my mom and SIL. Both the Kidsilk and the alpaca yarn are reddish, but you can’t have too many red scarves, can you?

I’ve also started doing more serious research into RVs, for our planned year of travel around the US, currently planned to start at the beginning of 2013. That’s close enough not to feel like forever away, so the research is less frustrating and more fun. We’ll need a big-ass truck (F350 or something like it) and a fifth wheel toyhauler, because we want to take bikes, kayaks, and at least one rowing machine. We don’t know what kind of kayaks to buy, yet, and their length will determine how big a ‘garage’ we’ll need. So far, we’re looking at something like a Voyager - a bit fancy, but it will be our full-time house for a year. The hard part is all the contradictory requirements – we need the biggest possible living space and storage with the smallest possible length and weight, for ease in driving and finding places to stay. A tesseract would be about right, or a pocket claudication as in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books or the tents in Harry Potter. Maybe the 2013 models will be equipped with one.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Man, it’s nice to be able to go to bed with my husband every night, and to know that isn’t going to end at the end of this week!!! (Italics and exclamation points fully justified here.)

It’s been kind of weird to be sitting at my old desk, good to see my old co-workers, and convenient for some of my work to be in an Asian timezone.

I seem to have bonded with the iPad; we were at Ted’s computer last night, trying to figure out whether it was possible to sync with his iTunes to get a couple of videos on it that he could watch on the plane while I’m reading a magazine (we decided it was too risky). At one point he took it to look at some settings, and I was very surprised at the strength of my “No! Mine!” instrinctive response. I think this will be better once I have a Kindle again. Meanwhile, the iPad is proving to be a decent Kindle substitute. It is also handy for games; as good as my laptop for checking email (possibly better; Gmail’s interface can be a bit slow when you want to glance at, then delete a bunch of emails, so that is actually faster on the iPad); not ideal but feasible for minor amounts of typing as in reading and responding on LJ or Ravelry; and excellent for showing your friends your photos. That was always a problem for us – you take good photos, admire them on your beautiful home Mac screen, carefully choose the best, blog them … and then see them looking wimpy and washed out on a work laptop. The iPad provides a beautiful, vivid, commodious and portable screen that’s actually large enough to really see the photos.

ETA: Kiwiria asked about battery life and I realized I forgot to discuss the downsides of the iPad. Battery life, unsurprisingly, is nowhere near the Kindle’s – I need to recharge every day or two rather than once a week. Kiwiria asked specifically about claims that it will show movies for up to 12 hours; while I have not tested it that way (I would never *want* to watch 12 hours of movies!) I can say that I charged it Saturday night, used it heavily for much of Sunday, mostly for reading but with the wireless switched on, occasionally checking email or websites or playing games. It may have been on for 8 hours or more of the day; at the end of that time it was down to about 30% charge. So yes, 12 hours of movie watching with 3G and wireless off seems possible.

Other downsides: iWorks (iPad version of MS works) is not free but costs $9.95 each for the Word, Excel,and Powerpoint-type files. Still cheap compared to MS Office on a laptop, though! It can be a bit tricky to sync with multiple computers, though apparently it is possible. Online videos run slowly enough that I can’t play better quality ones from YouTube, even on the faster connection I have here. The vast majority of apps are still only optimized for iPod, not iPad, though that’s a problem that should be fixed over time and iPod apps mostly work fine, just with a small screen image. For me, at least, these are all very minor issues, except the battery life.

I mentioned having a Kindle again; I have to give props to Amazon (and to the person on Ravelry who told me to check with them). It turns out that even though breaking my Kindle was *entirely* my own fault, it is covered under warranty, so they will be sending me a new one, free. They’re sending a Kindle 2 since that is what I broke; that seems a bit odd since the Kindle 3 is much cheaper, but I suppose they have stock left over when they switch models and this is what they do with it. No problem here, since I’m perfectly happy with the K2 (when it’s working) and it fits my beautiful cover. The guy I spoke to was a bit hard to understand (Irish accent, in fact) but was very helpful, even working with me to figure out how we could make sure it wasn’t shipped too soon. I expect to have to talk to customs and/or UPS to get it delivered, so I don’t want that to happen until I return.

Finally, yesterday I finished Rick Riordan’s latest, The Lost Hero, and I loved it. It’s interesting, because he’s written a bunch of adult books already, long before Percy Jackson, but it does look to me like he’s grown as an author. The world, the plot and the characters are all more complex here than in the previous Percy Jackson books, though definitely not too much so for a YA audience. Also, he’s established a reason for this second series to exist that’s entirely consistent with the mythos the first series is built around, a nice trick. As in The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, book 1), he’s using multiple POV characters, though this time in third person; also as in that series the characters are nicely varied. Of the three main characters, one is Hispanic and one Cherokee; their ethnicities have shaped them to a much greater extent than the Kanes were (reasonable in both cases; the Kanes are from a mixed race family in which one grew up traveling constantly and the other in London, whereas here Leo grew up in a Houston barrio and Piper is influenced by a Dad and grandfather who grw up on the reservation in Oklahoma). I do wish Jason’s character had been a bit more fully fleshed out, but then he has lost his memories (not a spoiler; it’s established in the first paragraph). Riordan has also done a good job indicating directions for this series to move in, while still leaving plenty of room for surprise. It’s possble Percy Jackson himself could show up as a central character in the next book – or not.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

in Taipei

Oct. 13th, 2010 04:20 am
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

The long trip to Taiwan went unexpectedly qiuckly, even including the four trains to get there. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I can just step back inside my head and let it all wash over me, and then zone out further once saely on the plane. There was a tiny hiccup at the airport, because the driver from the taxi service we use knows us by now, was expecting to see both of us (I asked for a ride from the airport and forgot to specify for one person) and wasn’t holding up the sign with my name. But I was pretty sure it was her even though she didn’t really seem to be looking at offloading passengers, and sure enough it was.

The iPad worked pretty well on the flight. Even though I normally prefer a non-backlit screen for reading, I have to say it’s useful for when the lights are off and you don’t want to turn on the reading light and wake everyone for three rows around. It’s nice to be able to play games on the same device, too – not that having to switch to the iPod was exactly a major inconvenience. I had a couple of nice quiet ‘spot the difference’ games with beautiful artwork, plus Sudoku.

On the way, I read Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Thresholds. I’m not actually sure if I like it yet. The thing is, as a standalone this leaves me unsatisfied. *Why* are the neighbors bound to their roles? What will Maya and, er, her new friend do when she reaches adolescence? (I’m trying not to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say I’m concerned about privacy.) Most important, what happens next? The whole book sets up a really fascinating situation – then ends.

If this is the beignning of a series, I would give it 4.5 to 5 stars; if not, 3 or 4. The characters are likeable, the author does an excellent job showing Maya’s emergence from acute grieving, the world-building is interesting and has a lot of potential. I just want more of a conclusion; I hope Hoffman plans to supply it.

After that I began Studs Terkel’s Hope Dies Last. I don’t have to say much about this one: if you love the sort of thing Terkel does, you will love this one. (You will also if you like to read perspectives on history from people who have watched a lot of it and who stll have hope.)

Tonight we’ll be going out with a friend to the sort of restaurant that will take all evening. (In fact, here’s a review written by someone who’s annoyed that she won’t be with us, since we’re actually going with her husband and she’s out of the country during my whole stay here.) I’m looking forward to the restaurant and the company – just slightly regretful that I’ll have to wait until Friday (tomorrow being another dinner) to download and read Rick Riordan’s new book. It’s a minor regret anyway; I’m not actually quite as excited about this follow-up series as I am in seeing where he goes with The Kane Chronicles.

It’s been weird being back at my old desk, nice seeing my old colleagues, good being back in the old apartment (I wish we could take it with us to the Netherlands, if only we could add heat and some thermal & sound insulation.) I do not think I need to say that being back with Ted is the best part.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


Jul. 11th, 2010 08:35 pm
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I was right – it’s not really possible to take great crowd photos if you can’t get up above them. But I had to at least try.

This is just the queue for an ATM – a very uniformly-colored queue.

Here’s the crowd in the market square. As you can see, there is a wide variety of personal adornment.

And here’s the blaze of orange in the Plaza.

I wasn’t going to take these guys’ photos, but they seemed disappointed, so…

Bavaria Beer gave away dresses with a case of beer. I’m kind of sorry I didn’t get one as a souvenir – apparently they had a fashion designer figure out how to make them versatil and easy to wear for different figures. Albert Heijn’s giveaways are these Beesies – I once saw a woman at work wearing one around ear ear, like patriotic earmuffs

*interruption to say the game’s started! I just heard the national anthem and a loud cheer from outside. I’ll switch channels in a moment to see it, but first I want to see who wins the women’s eights in Lucerne.*

A small fan, and a tall one:

The Katharijnakerk seems unmoved by it all.

The US women won!!! Now over to the game.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Might as well, it’s not like I’ll want or be able to do anything *else* tonight! Though some poor football fan is going to end up here via Google and be terribly disappointed. Not in South Africa, sorry. Also, I’ll be duplicating this on the travel blog – I don’t know if anyone actually reads both this one and that, but if so, don’t bother tonight!

They’re already congregating for the game (2 hours away still.) There’s so much noise it’s hard to parse the sounds but I swear I just heard a crowd singing along to the end of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” WTF? Seems like an unlikely football song!

Half an hour or so ago I went down to check out what’s going on (and to get an ice cream cone. Of course I wore an orange top – I wanted to blend in! There’s music playing, though it’s not live; the beer tents are already set up and someone planned intelligently because there are sprinklers in a few places. People here aren’t used to this much heat – today is very slightly cooler than yesterday but it’s a little more humid. So sprinklers are a good idea, so they don’t have people getting heat exhaustion. It’s not terribly crowded yet, but between the people, the beer tent and the big screen you already have to walk around rather than through the square. It’s going to be packed tonight!

The vuvzelas are already going full blast. The noise level is already comparable to anything except an actual goal from any of the previous games, beginning to reach Queen’s Day levels already. (I bet it will be quieter when people are paying attention to the actual game, except of course for when something happens.

Apologies in advance for the lack of photos: between the crowds and the sprinklers, I don’t think I want to go walk around with a camera tonight. Hard to take pictures of a crowd from within it, anyway.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Without talking too much about work stuff, there is some possibilitiy I’ll move back to the Netherlands before Ted does (he travels there so much it won’t make much difference to how much I see of him). Hopefully we’ll get it figured out one way or another soon after we get back from Australia, though I just found out some disturbing stuff about what was done to my salary when I moved here.

But anyway, here’s the big comparison post.

People occasionally ask me which place is better to live in – I think the following will make it clear why I don’t give a short answer.

  • In the Netherlands I would be able to row on the water, regularly. However, I might not be able to bring a rowing machine and it’s usually hard to row during the week. (Even if they don’t let me bring much freight, I may be able to send an erg and a bike along with a returning Dutch employee, who would have a 20′ container to ship in.) If I don’t have my own erg, I’d need to go use the ones at the boathouse and probably wouldn’t do so before work. I wouldn’t have any access to weights, probably.
  • Taiwan has the nicest people I’ve met anyway. on the other hand in the Netherlands there are a few people I consider friends, not just acquaintances I like. There’s also more opportunities for sort of drop-in socializing – breakfast at the boathouse on Saturday mornings, the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group biweekly.
  • In the Netherlands more people speak English, the ones who do speak it better, and even when they don’t I speak and understand considerably more Dutch than Chinese.
  • Taiwan has convenience. Stores are open on Sundays and until 9 or 10 most nights. In the Netherlands most stores close at 5 or 6. They’re open until 9 one evening a week and on on Sunday a month (in Eindhoven it’s Friday evening and the first Sunday or each month). Repair people come out even at night or on weekends – in contrast it took two weeks to get our internet connection set up when we first moved to the Netherlands.
  • In Taiwan there are supermarkets that cater to expats and there are two hypermarkets (Carrefour and A.Mart) in walking distance from my house. In the Netherlands the groceries are tiny by American standards, but what they carry is closer to what I cook with. It may help if we cross the Belgian border and go to the Carrefour there once in a while – we did try another Belgian supermarket once, but though bigger, it didn’t have much more we wanted, except a better selection of beef. Taiwan has Costco, where we can buy US brands.
  • Wine is much cheaper in the Netherlands, and so is cheese.
  • I can get take-out food or have a quick restaurant dinner in Taiwan; in the Netherlands eating out is a 2-hour affair, which is nice for special occasions but annoying if you do it on a regular basis (hopefully I’d have a more functional kitchen this time). Fast food there is limited, especially healthy fast food.
  • Flying out of Taiwan is expensive; from Eindhoven you can drive or take trains all over Europe. The German and Belgian borders are very close.
  • You can get almost anything in Taipei – if you can’t find what you want, you’re probably not looking in the right place. There are things I just can’t get in the Netherlands – but what I can get is in walking distance.
  • Finding clothes that fit is (slightly) easier in the Netherlands. Ordering from the US is both cheaper and easier in Taiwan – the higher shipping costs are greatly overset by much lower customs. (Though apparently books are cheaper to import into the Netherlands than other things.) Also, in our Taipei apparently there’s a doorman who will receive packages, whereas in Eindhoven I usually had to go to the post office to pick them up – and during the week it’s only open in working hours. However, sending packages was easier in Eindhoven because the local PO is open on Saturdays.
  • The Netherlands have bike paths and bike racks everywhere. Taipei has an MRT (metro train) system and as of July there’s been a stop near our apartment.
  • Taiwan’s own food may be more different but there’s also more American food there. (Taiwan’s also famous for its own food, especially snack food, but I’m not crazy about a lot of it.) Both places have McDonalds, KFC and Subway; here they also have Outback, TGIFriday’s, Ruth’s Chris, Chili’s, Gordon Biersch, Macaroni Grill and a couple of decent Mexican places. The Netherlands have good Argentinian steaks but I have never had a decent hamburger there (Ted says there’s a new place that’s not too bad, though). On the other hand you can get great bread and a good tomato-mozzarella salad almost anywhere in Eindhoven, and there’s a wider variety of restaurants in walking distance.
  • The commute in the Netherlands is about half as long – I can bike it in the time it takes to drive to work here.
  • I probably won’t be able to bring many of my books until Ted comes, though of course I’d have the Kindle.
  • I won’t have the nice big American fridge, washer and dryer I have here. Might not have a freezer at all.
  • I much prefer the weather in the Netherlands. They have seasons other than just too hot and too cold. (Paradoxically, Taipei is actually too cold indoors only. Outside isn’t too bad in winter.) Might not have air-conditioning in the apartment they’d put me in though. We would have it when Ted gets there and we could choose our own flat.
  • We get more friends and family visiting in the Netherlands than here – but when I’m there on my own I might or might not have a guest room.
  • The bookstores downtown in Taipei have more English-language books – the local bookstore in Eindhoven have some but not a ton (they’re well-stocked with Pratchett but I have most of those – in fact that’s why I do) and you have to go to Amsterdam for a better selection. Though the local store does have a lot more than the one near my flat here. Also, books cost much more in the Netherlands. The Kindle makes this less of a problem than it was before, though.
  • There’s more sense of history there than here. You think of Asia as having old cultures, and Taiwan’s culture is old, but most of the history didn’t happen here. The oldest building I’ve seen here is probably the fort in Danshui, built in 1641, only 60 years older than the oldest building in my hometown – and Phladelphia has loads of other buildings more than a couple hundred years old, while Taipei doesn’t.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


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