A Trump surrogate recently stated that, without stricter immigration policies, we’ll soon see a taco truck on every street corner. Now, I’m almost per definition against anything coming from the Trump camp. I’m liberal, anti-bigotry, anti-fascism and all that. However, I’m not that easily pigeon-holed. Because I have to say, I agree that having a taco truck on every street corner would be a terrible scenario on every level.
How do you eat a salad? How do you cut your steak?
In Holland, I learned to eat with knife and fork, the European way. Holding your knife in your right hand, in a certain way, and your fork in your left hand, in a certain way. The cutting or folding of leaves happens just so and you keep your knife an fork in your hands the whole time you’re eating. Not just with salads, anything that isn’t finger food. Continue reading →
Every year, on the first Saturday in December, John Aeilli–host of the KUTX program Eclecticos–and a few other public radio people lead the Christmas caroling on the steps of the Texas Capitol and my family and I always join in. Yes, I know, no separation between church and state, but I pick and choose which principles I stand for as much as the next person. So sue me. Continue reading →
I locked myself out of my car at a convenient store a while ago, for the umpteenth time. I used the store’s phone to call a locksmith and, pacing back and forth outside during the first hour (long story), I found myself having thoughts more or less along these lines: Continue reading →
I think it’s time for a sequel to my post Rated R, where I literally translated some Dutch swear words and phrases into English. So here are several words I used when I was a kid in the early seventies. They’re not as R-rated as the first post. I found these “retro swear words” on this site. Continue reading →
I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. I’m approaching the end of Season 2, and I’m still not sure what to think of it. Is it an ultra-hardcore version of The Dukes of Hazard or is there more to it? So far I’m still going back and forth on that one about ten times per episode but the characters are definitely growing on me. Continue reading →
Today’s prompt for NaPoWriMo is to take a news article and use (some of) its words in a poem. My goal was to use all the words. I managed, although I did change some words from verbs to nouns, from plural to singular, etc. Continue reading →
My son B has been maturing by leaps and bounds the past couple of months. It’s like he’s having a massive mental growth spurt.
As a result, he is increasingly finding out what it means to be him, and learning how to be more assertive about the boundaries between himself and others. At the same time he’s also expanding his experience to include more and more of the world around him. All this seems to suddenly be happening at a faster pace than ever before. Continue reading →
Yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a poem for children. Here’s mine.
Old Mother Hubbard, who lived in a shoe,
Had so many blackbirds, but no stew.
She put them in a pie and said rub-a-dub-dub,
Gave it to the dog and put him in a tub.
The dog had a great fall and hit a clock,
The pie flew through the sky and went into shock.
That’s how the blackbirds avoided the spoon
And the spoon went over the moon, the moon, the moon,
Yes, the spoon went over the moon.
My daughter’s 8th-grade History and Geography teacher is teaching Ancient Civilizations this year. She gives some cool homework assignments.
Recently, R had to write three journal entries from the point of view of Emperor Wu, of the Han Dynasty. Each entry had to be six or seven sentences long and they had to include three innovations. Continue reading →
Years ago, when B was nine, I wrote this silly poem, framed it and hung it in his room. It didn’t work, but I had fun writing it anyway.
Who art almighty,
Whom I know by Name.
Please keep me clean,
Please, please, please, please,
On my floor as I am on my ceiling.
Put away daily all your books.
And I’ll forgive you your clothes
As long as you put them where clothes belong.
And bury me not in toy animals,
But deliver me from clutter.
For thine is the neatness,
And the power,
And the glory,
For ever and ever.
I consider myself to be a relatively tolerant, open-minded person. A pacifist, even. Not always in thought, but definitely in actions. I don’t hate much. It’s a toxic attitude to have. Live and let live, I usually say. But nobody’s perfect, not even yours truly. Continue reading →
An empty lot in the middle of the Rue Royal had been taken over by sellers of hand-made jewelry and such. It was evening and getting cooler. One lady sat in her folding chair, laboriously pulling hot pink (much hotter than in the photo), ruffled, nylon bloomers on over her leggings, explaining that there’s nothing like synthetic bloomers for keeping your thighs warm. Continue reading →
On the third day of my road trip away from Las Vegas, I came to this little crossroads in New Mexico called Loving, near the border with Texas. On the other side of the road from these poor things was a warehouse, and not much else. Continue reading →
The daily prompt: take the third headline from a website you visit regularly for the news and write.
Well, I went to BBC’s UK & World News, and this was the third headline:
Topless Skyscraper Photos Spark Suit
“Look up there!”
“What is it?”
“It’s a shiny rocket!”
“It’s a giant penis!”
“No, it’s a topless skyscraper!”
Where’s my phone? I’ve got to take a picture of this! Then sell it to CNN! I’m going to be rich, rich, RICH, I tell you–aah-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!!!!
“Oh my God! Quick, somebody get that building a suit!”
This Ruthless World is one of my favorite blogs. And her newest post is hilarious. A Tea Party guy reinvents Jesus to fit his personal ideas of what a man should be. And the blogger responds so thoroughly that there is nothing left to add.
I discovered this blog, Conservative Newswire, only last week. I immediately became a follower, because I felt sorry for them. Such inexperienced boys, they were obviously never going to make it without the benefit of my help. Continue reading →
I’m being lazy this week; can you tell? One of the effects of a shitty health care system in America is the amount of self-medication that goes on, and the number of commercials for medicines. These commercials are always good for a laugh and a spoof.
Happitame! For temporary relief of minor symptoms associated with colds and fever. No more sneezing; watery, itchy eyes; no more congestion, or runny nose. Enjoy life again: with Happitame!
Dosage: Adults: Take 1 pill twice a day for relief from minor cold symptoms. Do not exceed 2 pills in a single day. Also, do not take fewer than 2 pills a day. If you should be unable to take a second pill 12 hours after the first (exactly 12 hours), induce vomiting and consult a physician immediately, after which you should induce vomiting again. Continue vomiting until no longer physically possible.
Warnings: Happitame should be kept out of reach of children, the elderly, and the insane.
Happitame should not be stored within 3 feet of fresh produce.
Daily prompt: Talents I’d like to have, but don’t. Well, jeez. Where to begin.The thing about talents is that they are per definition great to have. So I’d want them all–why not? Okay, okay, I suppose the idea is to force me to choose the most important one. Well, I’m not going to. I’ll give you my top ten. Number one being the most important, but the others are close followers.
I know I promised in my last post that I would continue with a post about my gear, but I walked into the garage to find my lightweight camping stuff and two steps into it I changed my mind. First our garage will have to be straightened out. Ugh!
The bottoms of concrete structures, dead trees–whatever next? Well, the bottoms of dead trees, of course. There are a lot of them in Yellowstone. Isn’t the bottom of one dead tree much like the bottom of another, you ask? Not at all; like the bottoms of bridges, each deadfall has its own personality.
I just decorated the Christmas tree with R today–my back was giving me shit for a week–and then I turned on the news. And started bawling. But I won’t say anything about the shooting. Everything has already been said. Over and over and over, for years. Continue reading →
I filled out a U.S. citizen application form last night, when Obama won re-election. After nineteen years I decided to bite the bullet; this seemed like a fitting moment. I’d been waiting for some evidence of common sense, even though I knew I had to do it sooner or later, regardless. I mean, let’s face it, after nineteen years and with both kids teenagers here and T not being a billionaire just yet, it’s pretty obvious I won’t ever be living in the Netherlands again. Continue reading →
One thing I’ve learned is the difference between Dutch politeness and Texan politeness.
To A Texan, being polite is not just a matter of saying please and thank you, holding the door open for the person coming behind you, not belching loudly at the dinner table, etc. It also means avoiding embarrassing someone. Continue reading →
For many years now, there has been a huge rift within our family, caused by traffic lights. T and I are in permanent disagreement and our son B is pretty firmly on my side. R is undecided, but I’m convinced she will see the light (I couldn’t resist) in due time. Continue reading →
Every now and then I make myself unpopular with many of my neighbors. We have a Yahoo group, which is great, because with lightning speed we can get the word out about a lost dog or a scam artist in the neighborhood. But sometimes it can get contentious, and when it does, it seems that I’m often right in the middle of it. I have no idea why, because I’m just mild, non-confrontational, li’l ole me, right readers? Continue reading →
Don’t worry, I will continue what probably seems like my endless series of photos of Pedernales Falls later (I aim to bore, but you love me anyway, right?), but I just had to give you this link to a another blogger’s post about a famous Dutch person. Dutchies, don’t get proud just yet…
I was in a school gym, remembering how we would be made to run laps around a gym just like that in high school in the Netherlands. And I remembered that I could. I’d be tired, and I’d be protesting loudly like any self-respecting un-sporty teenage girl should, but that’s all. And I resented–in this dream–that I can’t run for two minutes now without having a gimpy knee for the next two weeks (this is real; I ran for two minutes last weekend, and now it hurts when I walk down steps). Continue reading →
I wrote a post about the anti-science attitude of many Republicans two days ago. This Daily Show video is going around Facebook, but it illustrates the ridiculousness of the anti-science folks so beautifully that I just have to share it here as well.
Two of the great things about living in Austin are the wildlife and the music. One of my favorite Austin bands is The Austin Lounge Lizards, and one of my favorite Austin Lounge Lizard songs is “Arnold”. I feel like I’ve posted this before, but I can’t find it. And if you’ve listened to it before, I know you will love to listen to it again. Continue reading →
One of the many enjoyable things about translating is that I’m always learning something new, no matter how short the text. I just finished translating a sample from a Belgian novel for middle-school-aged girls, in which the characters communicate face-to-face, on the phone, via email and via texting. Continue reading →
Although I’ve lived here for 18 years now, and although there are a lot of things I’ve gotten used to and in some cases even adopted, there are some things that, by now it’s safe to say, I’ll never get used to. Here are ten of them.
1. Bobby socks for men. Yep, men here (including T) often wear socks that barely show above the shoe, just like girl bobby socks in the fifties. The only difference is the absence of pompoms. I know they’re considered perfectly normal here, but to me they will always look ridiculous. Sorry, guys. Continue reading →
I’m going prematurely senile. I know, most people my age joke that little joke, only half joking. And doctors on TV say that it’s okay, just brain farts, nothing to worry about. I talk to my doctor about it, and he asks me what day it is, who the president is, and tells me to start counting in threes backwards from 100. When it becomes clear that I can still do that, he, too, tells me it’s okay, just brain farts, and there’s nothing to worry about. I hope so, but Continue reading →
The first time I visited America, at age 18, I visited my great aunt and her husband in Bakersfield, California.
The evening I arrived, we went out to dinner at an Elk Lodge and after we had finished our meal, my great aunt asked me if I wanted to join her in the restroom. I replied that I wasn’t really tired, but she insisted.
We Dutch are world-famous for our directness, so American conversations require a whole new set of skills. In my previous post, I wrote about an example of what Americans say and what they mean. There’s a lot of that. I have figured most of it out by now–at least I think I have. But that doesn’t leave me any less mystified.
When I still lived in Holland a Canadian friend came to visit and we went to see my parents, in part because they lived in Enkhuizen, a wonderful tourist destination. At lunchtime my mother set the table with all the different sandwich toppings she had. My parents looked on in horror as my friend first put jam on her sandwich, then chocolate sprinkles, and then pink sprinkles on top of that! Continue reading →
I usually took the bus and the train from my home in Eemnes to my high school in Bilthoven. But in early summer of my senior year, if the weather was nice, I would cycle to school. It was a 45-minute bike ride.
On the way back from school I often battled a head wind so then it could take almost twice as long. Continue reading →
In America there’s a stubborn connection between cops and donuts. I’m sure police hate the stereotype, but with the rudeness I’ve encountered by American police, and considering how overweight a lot of them are, and since you do almost always see at least one police car parked at any given donut shop, I admittedly partake in the joke now and then. Continue reading →
My (at the time 2-year-old) son says almost everything in English, but he does understand my Dutch. It does lead to misunderstandings, though, like recently at the zoo. I told him he could give the goat an “aai” (a pat), so he promptly poked the poor beast in the eye. Later, at home, we practiced patting his pet monkey, giving it lots of “aaien,” because the next animal may not be as forgiving as that goat was.
This was a big test: could I do it? Could I stand in a row with five American women, in front of a church congregation, without being the odd one out?
Yes. I would just have to do it. I would just have to forget my Dutch sense of individuality and put on a dress that I was ordered to wear – the exact same dress that five other women would be wearing – and walk for several hours in high-heeled shoes of someone else’s choice.
I would have to ‘have my hair done’ – in a style, at a time, and at a location determined by others – and I would have to ‘have my nails done’ with a polish that was handed out at the bridesmaids’ luncheon.
I came to this country with a degree in library science and eleven years of experience setting up, running, automating, and reorganizing libraries. I had voluntarily left my wonderful job in the Netherlands as the librarian of an awesome archaeology library, to follow my husband to his country, and – as it turned out – to his hometown. Continue reading →
In the late 60s Richard Proenneke built his own cabin in the Alaskan wilderness with only a few simple tools. He spent most of the rest of his life there. Sam Keith fleshed out Proenneke's diary of his first 16 months, when he was making his home by a lake. I love these kinds of books!
An old Oji-Cree healer and her nephew canoe down a river in Canada, away from the world of white people. They both have to come to terms with their past. The woman has lost most of her tribe and the young man is traumatized from his recent experience in the Belgian trenches of World War One. My second book by Boyden. Can't say enough about him.
An incredibly comprehensive history of everything related to slavery in the Southern United States, from the beginning of the colonies to the end of the Civil War. Over 700 pages and I took over 30 pages of notes. I will be sharing over many posts to come!
Hamid's debut novel. I love this author. A young man in Lahore, Pakistan, is the victim of love, drugs, obsession, the class system and his complete lack of self-awareness.
A golem, created in Poland and brought to life on a ship to America, and a jinni who was trapped in a flask a thousand years ago and released in New York -- the most unusual immigrants you'll ever meet.
The only part of her life a Korean woman can control is her body, so she withdraws into it. Harrowing.
Autobiography lightly disguised as a novel about the son of Southern migrants growing up on the streets of Harlem, New York City, in the 1940s and 50s. Written like you're hearing the whole story in a bar. Quite a feat.
The story of a man struggling to make a living in Morocco. No plot, no clearly defined characters, but fascinating in its authenticity.
Pakistani man tells an American about his experience as a college student and employee of an assessment firm in America years ago. Smart, nuanced and pretty darn honest considering the unreliable narrator.
Wow! The answer to the inane platitudes about how all parents love their children and how children should always respect their parents. The protagonist must come to terms with his deeply flawed immigrant parents in order to change himself.
Seven short stories about life during the Kim Il-sung regime, by a writer who still lives and works in North Korea, were smuggled out of the country and translated. Mind-boggling stuff.
A 15-year-old autistic narrator wants to know who killed a neighbor's dog, and ends up much further out of his comfort zone than he planned. Wonderful read!
In politics, education, religion, agriculture, business--it turns out that dumbing down has been here from the start.
Fifty years of Istanbul seen through the eyes of a street vendor who migrates to the city as a young boy. It's also a window into the complicated dance between men and women in Turkey.
Hey, don't laugh, at least I'm trying.
A Norwegian immigrant is cooped up with six other people on a tiny island off the coast of Maine all winter in 1873. A woman in the present researching the Norwegian immigrant is cooped up with three other people on a tiny sailboat. What could possibly go wrong?
A man stuck between two worlds in more ways than one. Fascinating!
Historical novel about early contacts between first nations and the French in Canada. Beautifully written story that doesn't pull any punches. I bought his other two novels right away.
Beautifully written. By my children's favorite English and Creative Writing teacher! It's got rave reviews and we're all very proud of her.
Suki Kim is a Korean-American journalist. She poses as an evangelical Christian posing as an English teacher at a school for the sons of North Korea's elite. Her experience and the information she manages to get via writing assignments are incredible. Definitely a lot more eye-opening that any CNN special.
This. Explains. Everything!!!
Why has Islam not undergone a reformation like Christianity? Why is it so easy for Islamic extremist groups like IS to recruit young muslims? What would it take for Islam in fundamentalist Islamic countries to enter modernity? Does the West have a role to play?
Amazing! A man wanders endlessly through a dreamscape, becoming other people, himself in the past, everything is fluid. Kafkaesque disconnect between people and their different needs.
A multi-layered novel about the history of Libya. A fast read, but one you can repeat and find something new each time.
Twelve Americans go missing in Burma/Myanmar during a tour. Touching and hilarious, but mostly hilarious.
The most unusual murder mystery I've ever read. Incredible writing. It haunted me for days.
The quote on the front mentions that these stories are exhilerating. I couldn't disagree more. They are almost unbearably painful to read, and yet I couldn't put them down. Very well done, apart from the third story, which is written in the second tense. Please let me know if you know of ONE story that works in second tense.