Gibberations by Kiffin Gish...
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Saturday / August 14th / 2004
Fatima needs money...

Her name is Fatima and she has not eaten in two days.

She explains this to me in broken English and all the while her breath reeks like alcohol, tobacco and other unpleasant odors. I look like such a fine and friendly young man. Please, please will I help her out with a euro or two?

(From her coat pocket a large can of beer lies open, and it nearly falls out. In the bag she is carrying, I catch amongst the wads of old clothes a glint of green glass from the half-drunk bottles of wine).

Why should I spend my days working long and hard, and then give Fatima some euros? To run off and blow it on some more beer and wine?

I think not, and then I tell her that sorry I do not have any money. Fatima stands up and leaves me in less than a second.

There I remain all alone, such a fine and friendly person that I am.

~ Posted at 07:31 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Sunday / April 4th / 2004
A voice from the past...

Sarge? Is that really you?

Hard to believe after all these years.

~ Posted at 09:31 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Wednesday / March 24th / 2004
Keep a distance...

Alright, so what are all those people doing over there and what are they planning to do? From this distance it is hard to tell, but the motions and gestures hint at something daring and unexpected. Could be something good or could be something just as evil. I might choose to go and join them, or being on the safe side I can keep my distance. Or even back up so I am further away. You never know for sure what is going to happen.

~ Posted at 08:35 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Sunday / March 14th / 2004
Opa's fiets...

In one way I feel kind of funny using his bike, but then again maybe I should view it as an honor. Kind of like I am carrying on his spirit, although he passed away more than a year ago.

This was his so-called "new" bike which was more than forty-five years old, and while he was alive he took great care in keeping it shiny and in shape.

Now that my bike was stolen last week and I need some form of transportation to get me to the train station and back, his bike becomes a symbolic time saver exactly at the right moment you might say.

Those carry bags on the back of the bike were faded and bleached by decennia of sunlight, and when I first loosened the metal latches and opened them up, it smelled like world war two. As if I had discovered an ancient sarcophagus, opened the lid and got a whiff of two thousand year old air and dust.

So come Monday I will proudly use his bike, carry his spirit with me, knowing that his life was good for more things than one at first realizes.

[Note: "Opa" and "fiets" are Dutch, meaning respectively "Grandpa" and "bike", in case you were wondering.]

~ Posted at 10:39 AM | Permalink | any comments?
Tuesday / February 24th / 2004
A little bit different...

So rather than doing things like you have been always doing them up to now why not consider changing them even if it is ever so slight. Once started on this new way of things you pretty much get the hang of it and wonder why you had not begun long before. Ironic, isn't it?

~ Posted at 08:23 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Thursday / February 19th / 2004
Eternal life...

So that is what it is like to acquire eternal life. To be honest with you, I had originally expected it to be something completely different. Who could have ever imagined the simplicity of the situation? Not me, not that guy over there, nor anyone else with whom I had become acquainted during the last few years. The change was significant though from the outside the metamorphosis was barely discernible. Now it is time to find something else to attain, something completely different.

~ Posted at 09:14 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Monday / December 29th / 2003
Plants all gone...

There they were the poor plants which were to be discarded forever. Ripped out of the flower boxes - shifted and displaced so they were leaning against the first floor balcony railing. At an angle ever so slight but enough to make it all look uncomfortable for the plants left hanging in there.

Lots of dirt scattered around which made the chore indeed a filthy and unworthy one. Pull the clod and forcibly drop the mass of roots and leaves and other chloriogeniated tissue cells. Disappear into the garbage bag what a way to go and then dropped with a thud into the last place that I would see them again.

Now the coming end of the year and then the new flowers. (ah... the new flowers... that will still be some time to go...)

~ Posted at 10:51 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Tuesday / December 2nd / 2003
Catch it is all...

Over there in the distance he could see them very clearly. To the unknowing eye perhaps merely smudges of the mind or better yet pinpoints of insects crawling their own ways.

Normally it would seem that this had in fact little or no impact on the daily routine of things.

The truth was quite the opposite.

That is why he chose instead to concentrate on this distant movement of things and objects and other living slices of reality in order to catch it before it was too late.

Catch what?

Just catch it, is all. The essence of things.

~ Posted at 11:27 AM | Permalink | any comments?
Wednesday / November 5th / 2003
Better day...

The best part of the day lately is the early morning when everything has been taken care of and I can finally sit in peace behind my good old laptop in the hopes that this will be a better day.

Alright you the better day please show your face. We can work together if you want.

~ Posted at 08:39 AM | Permalink | any comments?
Sunday / September 21st / 2003
Lousy sunday...

Today I had a really lousy Sunday if you don't mind me saying so (#@!%!!). Too bad if you do. These were the aggravating activities that kept me busy:

  • Vacuumed the whole house (60 mins).
  • Tried to transfer the vacation video from my camcorder to the VCR but failed miserably (140 mins).
  • Sawed, glued together and attached the white floor boards for the kitchen which I have been postponing now for about a year but they kept falling apart the whole time (110 mins).
  • Attempted to go running but had to stop after my left ribcage kept bothering me, I must have bruised it badly somehow and someplace (3 mins).
  • Had a really stupid argument with Thea about absolutely nothing (15 min).
  • Played tennis with the neighbors and won (60 mins).

Sorry if I am complaining too much, but I had to get it all out.

~ Posted at 08:57 AM | Permalink | 2 comments
Friday / September 19th / 2003
Thinking logically...

And then they were saying (nothing) at all. This was to be expected if you were thinking logically, but at the time I was not thinking very logically at all. So for me it was indeed quite a surprise. If you know what I mean.

~ Posted at 04:45 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Sunday / August 31st / 2003
American BBQ...

The annual labor day picnic sponsored by the Amsterdam American Business Club was a lot of fun for me and the family.

Not only was there fine food and lots to drink, but the kids could run around and play games like football, baseball and basketball.

For me it is a nice and familiar feeling hanging around fellow Americans and just reasserting my roots. Keeping touch with the way it used to be.

Once an American always an American, that's what they say.

~ Posted at 03:49 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Wednesday / August 27th / 2003
Painting the plinten...

Painting the "plinten" is more difficult than you might at first expect, as much patience and precision handwork is required. Undaunted by the present it is important that you continue up to and including completion.

Not only that, but stooping down and making the razor-sharp lateral motions back and forth without splattering unwanted drops of paint is a nearly impossible task. Hang in there.

Parallel lines never touch.

The perfectly straight line along the wall as well as along the floor must be followed without hesitation. Lost in thought and with automated motion matching the coordinated flexing of muscle and limb is one long intense activity.

So what are "plinten" exactly? Translated into English?

Well, for the life of me I was at first unable to make the translation, which is kind of strange when you think about it. Afterall, my mother tongue is English, so I should certainly know what "plinten" are shouldn't I?! Sure.

I wrestled with this mental conflict for several days. How would I ever be able to tell other English-speaking acquaintances what I had been doing the last couple of days? How could I prove to them that that activity was not only a necessary part of existence but a fun and relaxing form of meditation as well?

I broke down and had to look it up in the dictionary. There it was in good old plain English. Of course.

One of the first things I learned in Algebra was that a single point was dimensionless. Then I learned that exactly one and only one line can pass through two of these dimensionless objects called points. The most difficult for me was the concept of parallel lines. It was said that parallel lines run along forever and ever and will never intersect no matter what. This seemed impossible to me at the time, and indeed it was an awkward rule to master. That's what "plinten" do all day, don't they?

A molding covering the joint formed by a wall and the floor.


~ Posted at 04:26 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Monday / August 11th / 2003
The flu is no fun...

Having the flu is no fun. The best thing to do is accept the fact that you will be sick for awhile and then patiently wait for the recovery period to set in. See it as a perfect opportunity to reflect back on your life and what you have or have not achieved and contemplate about nothing else in particular. Once you start feeling better resist the temptation to speed things along. Just let it happen. When you feel like you can go back and work again wait a couple extra days. You will be glad, feel much better and will have learned much more than you would have ever expected from having the flu. See, even the most negative events can be turned around to reveal more positive tendencies.

~ Posted at 03:22 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Thursday / July 10th / 2003
Blue M&M...;

Over there a couple of meters from where I was sitting I saw a single Blue M&M; poised ever so perfectly on the floor of the train carriage in which I was sitting. There it was right exactly in the middle of the aisle screaming for my attention. Amazingly enough, it appeared to be hovering perfectly in place no more than a fraction of a millimeter above the floor surface. Maybe it was even less than a fraction of a millimeter for all I knew.

As the train bounced and shifted from left to right or came to a stop and started again abruptly or initiated a slight curve, the single Blue M&M; just stayed there in place. It did not move, it refused to budge. This was against all the laws of physics I had ever learned in school. You know, where it is a proven scientific fact that objects in accelerating and/or turning vehicles will succumb to the centrifugal forces of nature by flying off to the left or the right depending on the changes in velocity. The causal observer would have expected the Blue M&M; to roll over to one side or the other, but it did not.

My mind was boggled in place, and then I realized that I was observing a miracle of which no one else in the train was aware. Yes, it was a miracle.

To make the miracle even more of a miracle, at each train stop where droves of passengers got on and off the train, passing along the very aisle upon which this vulnerable Blue M&M; was located, not a single stepping shoe crushed nor even barely touched the hovering candy treat. That crazy Blue M&M; just stayed there unharmed and unchanged as if it were always meant to be.

For the next thirty minutes or so, all I did was watch with much joy and awe this miracle of nature taking place. I stared and thought about how interesting it was that I had been chosen to observe this and no one else.

Finally it was my time to get off the train, but a couple hundred meters before the stop I got up early and ran over to the spot where the amazing Blue M&M; was drifting in a frozen dimension of space and time. Trying not to be too obvious, I bent down nonchalantly, placed my knees on the ground and inspected the little miracle up close with peering eyes. The casual observer must have thought that I was in prayer.

No my eyes did not deceive me, though the Blue M&M; was not exactly hovering -- still a miracle nonetheless.

What was really happening was this. The curved under-belly of the slightly flattened spherical shape formed a perfect tangent with the infinite flat surface of the train floor. A single dimensionless point held the two surfaces in tight contact, as if they had fused centuries before. The Blue M&M; had been able to affix itself like a parasite, because of a random coming together of natural processes: moisture, gravity, shape, sound, the angle of light and the coming of time.

I was tempted to extract this little wonderful blue miracle from its throne, and I could have taken it home with me as a souvenir of my amazing experience. I did not because it would not have made any sense to do so. It was not meant to be.

All of a sudden, the train shuddered to a complete stop. The many passengers stood up to get out. One old man carrying a walking stick accidentally pushed me to the side when the momentum of his weight carried him forward due to the abrupt train stop. With his walking stick flailing in the air, he was just able to regain balance by absorbing his collision with my left shoulder, and at the exact same moment firmly stabbing the train floor with his cane at the correct angle.

That is when I heard the crunch and then the silence. Oh dear.

The rubber tip of the walking stick had come down "exactly" on top of the Blue M&M; and crushed it in a millisecond. No it was less than a fraction of a millisecond. A perfectly thin two dimensional object whose length was approximately one meter and a half intersecting exactly a one dimensional point on the infinite surface of the train floor. The impossible had occurred, yet another miracle on top of a miracle on top of the first miracle. The innocent and unknowing Blue M&M; had been caught right in the middle of this meeting of unequal dimensions. What were the odds of this happening, exactly at the same moment when my eyes were glued on the little blue sphere?

I suddenly felt nauseous as if I had witnessed a most terrible accident, a tragedy of human existence.

The tip of the cane raised up and it was true. Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat became dry. I could not move. The single Blue M&M; which had been hovering perfectly in place for centuries upon centuries had now been flattened into non-existence.

I followed the old man out of the train, but I could not blame him nor have any ill-feelings. I could have saved that Blue M&M; and brought it home as a memento, but I hadn't. That also had a reason.

Tomorrow would bring me to other more interesting miracles and amazing feats of nature.

~ Posted at 12:15 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Tuesday / July 8th / 2003
Curious indeed...

By nature I am a very curious person indeed. You see, I love learning new things and am pretty much interested in anything that at least appears challenging and refreshing. The only problem is that there is a limiting factor called time which prevents me from splitting off into a thousand and one different personalities to absorb all this information.

Because I have been forced to live inside a single personality I cannot do this. Still I try and often get fixated and frustrated searching all over the place.

If I knew what information would lead to the best results then I could focus better on one area. But what area of knowledge is this? Some people just let it happen, but I need to know. Should I concentrate on what I think is the most interesting at the moment and hope that it leads to positive results in my life? Or should I wait before delving into one or more areas, do some serious research, and only after concluding which areas offer the highest chances then choose the most appropriate path?

The only problem is that even if you can successfully conduct exhaustive research you can never predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy.

So the best choice seems to me to choose what I think is the most interesting and hope it turns out for the better.

Isn't that how fate works anyway?

~ Posted at 01:03 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Tuesday / May 20th / 2003
Fuzzy items...

This morning I found myself inadvertently bending over and removing various pieces of fluff and other minuscule fuzzy items from the carpet on our stairs. So what does this mean?

~ Posted at 08:32 AM | Permalink | 7 comments
Saturday / May 3rd / 2003
Messy hair...

So what's a man supposed to do nowadays? You wake up extra early on Saturday morning just so that you can spend some more time with the wife and kids. You manage your way downstairs, and what do you get? Not a good morning how are you doing? Nor a how did you sleep? Nor a nice weather outside isn't it? Nor even a so what would you like for breakfast dear? The kids remain glued to the boob tube which is blaring. The wife is too busy with everything else, and she barely has time to snap a question in your general direction. "So when are you going to comb your hair? It looks awful?"

~ Posted at 10:50 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Saturday / April 5th / 2003
Lots of disorders...

I knew that I was nearing my destination when I spotted the strange folks wandering towards that large hall off in the distance. To my left there was this tall guy with his left hand poised in the air as if he were holding a lease of some invisible dog he was walking. Over to my right and a little farther away this sad-looking character was laughing and joking out loud to himself. This lady had attached herself to me explaining endlessly about her teenage son and how she was concerned about him and that was why she was coming here and on and on.

I had decided to attend the yearly Nationaal Fonds Geestelijke Volksgezondheid seminar in Amsterdam and it would be an interesting event. I am a paying member of the NFGV (which when translated in broken English stands for something like "National Fund Public Mental Health") so could attend this event for a slight discount, ten euros. Not that the money really matters that much. I was especially interested in the presentations that would be given by various famous Dutch psychiatrists covering such topics as autism, schizophrenia, manic depression, cultural differences between patient and therapist, treatment of men versus woman, childhood disorders, biological psychology, laughing therapy, etc.

Yes, I had come to the right place and it would be an interesting day. Here are a few points of interest:

  • One fourth of those suffering from schizophrenia end up completely recovering from the disease in later life.
  • Thirty years ago they blamed the parents for causing their kids to become autistic.
  • There is a fifty per cent chance that if one suffers an instance of depression there will be a repeat within ten years.
  • In general, women blame themselves for their problems whereas men try to find an external reason (beyond their control).
  • There is a scientific correlation between certain gene sequences and the chances of acquiring given mental diseases.

~ Posted at 07:49 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Friday / April 4th / 2003
Some day...

A common misconception from which the majority of the people suffer is the idea that one continuously has to prepare for the future. Most if not all of our actions and efforts are directed towards an upcoming cause, be it the next day, next week, following year or the end of our lives. Strange when you think about it. What is happening right now seems to be ignored for a better collective purpose with which everyone else is preoccupied. Some day I will do this and I will do that. If there were no future then what would we do? I am not talking about the end of the world or dying of cancer or something else terrible. I mean just that supposing the future did not exist that it was a figment of our imagination, what then? Perhaps it is better to sit down today and think about this so-called dilemma.

~ Posted at 07:34 AM | Permalink | any comments?
Thursday / March 13th / 2003
Waste of time...

I really hate wasting my time for nothing, especially when there is so much to do and so little time left. Doing something completely stupid makes matters that much more worse! Take this morning for example. I could not get my computer to connect to the Internet anymore. I tried everything, and finally romped around the new room screaming and yelling and cussing all over the place. I was almost on the verge of tossing something out the window, but fortunately I restrained myself. Just barely enough to give myself just that much extra time to spy on a tiny detail which had escaped my attention. That is when I realized that none of the LEDs on my ADSL modem were working anymore. As it turns out, I had inadvertently dislodged the plug of the modem from the wall socket under the table by wiggling my big toe the wrong way. Unplugged means no electricity means no energy means modem dead as a door knob. Get it? So I plugged it back in, and lo and behold everything started working just fine again. About three hours of valuable time gone down the drain! That was a morning which screamed by in a blur and a complete waste of time. What next?!

~ Posted at 11:24 AM | Permalink | 5 comments
Saturday / February 1st / 2003
Weird day...

Today has been a really weird day. Outside it is snowing really hard and everything is covered in a nice thick white blanket. The space shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry killing all seven members aboard. I got up extra early this morning, setup my shiny new work laptop on the dinner table with piles of books and information about starting your own business, figuring that I could accomplish something, but ended up doing nothing except reorganizing my contacts list in Microsoft Outlook. The kids were fine and so was I. Thea the combination working woman, wife and mother worked hard all day at the new department and was tired so she lay an hour on the couch. Weird day, don't you think? In-flight breakup, silence of snow and then life just goes on as if nothing matters. Seems like a normal day but it wasn't. Not at all.

~ Posted at 10:45 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Tuesday / January 28th / 2003
Quit mumbling...

As conversations slowly become more frustrating and aggravating because no one understands what I am saying. Or because everyone seems to interpret my words and sentences in a way foreign to all intentions, almost like they are doing it on purpose. To bug me. To make me insane. Like I am slowly losing touch with reality, and the real conversations of which I am never a part. Then it is time to rethink things all over again. Why can't they figure out what I am saying? Just rubbish. Makes me often feel like I am talking complete rubbish. While I know for sure that I am not. So whose fault is it anyway? Speak in simple and clear terms, slowly and more slowly. Even then there is room for misinterpretation. Restrict yourself to straight forward facts, numbers, exact figures, lines on graphs, round circles connected with dotted-lines and arrows, that kind of thing. Point exactly to the spot in three dimensional space about which you are referring, without a doubt. Wagging your forefinger should be avoided, and do not stare too much that it seems you are getting cross-eyed. See, there it is again: seems. Do not embellish and never hint at something personal because emotions just gets in the way. Every time. Be brief and repeat. Civilization seems to be regressing back to the primitive days where language was made up of grunting sounds and waving hands. Was that exact or not?

~ Posted at 11:07 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
Friday / January 10th / 2003
Boring risks...

Risks are a part of life, but I sure hate taking them. The problem is that you cannot just think about yourself but also how your decisions will effect others around you, mostly family and friends. Some so-called stronger people have the ability to brush it off like it is nothing, but not me. That's what you get for being born with an excess sensitivity to the way things are and the way things turn out.

~ Posted at 01:42 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Friday / December 20th / 2002
Spin cycle blues...

Just when you thought you had finally managed to balance all the financial stuff for the rest of the year. That is when the washing machine decided it would be a perfect time to break down. For a couple of months now it has been emitting especially annoying sounds and vibrations, during spin cycle as well as when switching over to the next settings. On occasion it has randomly decided to stop altogether, and then for no reason at all starting again. With what one could call a hopeful denial, we had accepted these idiosyncrasies thinking that as long as the washing machine kept on working forever we would be happy enough. That is not the case, however. With a last gasping click our washing machine heaved its last sound and died, poor thing. Four kids can generate an amazing amount of dirty clothes, so it is paramount that a replacement be found within short notice. This morning I drove down to the store with a list of requirements: no more than 85 centimeters high, strong pump, large door opening (to the right), spin rate of at least 1200 rpm, preferably a Blauknecht, and not too expensive. I was able to adhere to all but the last severe requirements, making us just that much poorer until the end of the year. Will just have to re-balance my financial discomforts as creatively as I can.

~ Posted at 12:39 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Sunday / November 17th / 2002

Books, books and more books, arranged orderly...Everyone has heard of spring-cleaning (a thorough cleaning, especially of a residence when winter is over), but what about winter-cleaning? Well, that's exactly how I spent my time today. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but not for me. Just had an urge, and since I had been putting it all off for so long now that it was high time to do something about it at last. All that dust collecting all over the place. Cleaning is a kind of catharsis, a way of releasing the soul of its many past sins, and (supposedly) you feel pretty good afterward, kind of relieved they say. Most of the winter-cleaning time was spent dusting off my extensive collection of books and sopping off the many shelves in the attic room. So much dust has collected on the surface of my beloved books that I could not believe it. Fondling every single one of my cherished books (most of which I had read) was a special treat. With loving care and adoration I dusted each one individually before returning it to its place in alphabetical order from left to right. Each title brought back a different memory: vacation in Greece, meeting Thea for the first time, university days, working in the bookstore, preparing for exams, the birth of my children, etc. I was also a bit surprised how many books I have that I still have not read yet. Just think how much money I could have saved. I only read brand-new books which I purchase personally, as I have a phobic aversion to any second-hand books which have been handled and breathed on by other fellow human beings. The books have been placed back in an orderly fashion and aligned perfectly parallel along the outer edge of the shelf. Not pushed back slightly so that there is a elongated space of bare shelf running at one point five five centimeters like before, but rather right flush up to the edge and producing an interested and esoteric affect. Pretty neat. I used a long ruler and a magnifying glass to verify this. Within a plus minus tenth of a millimeter margin of error that is. So now the attic has become spotless, dust-free and disinfected for future habitation the rest of the winter. Not that by looking at it nor even inspecting it closely anyone would or could even notice, but it is the idea that counts. I can now breathe freely and feel good being surrounded with spic-and-span walls, floor and ceiling. What a relief.

~ Posted at 03:56 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Wednesday / November 6th / 2002
Ripples which spread...

These are your thoughts...What never ceases to amaze me is the fact that despite the human need for order most everything in nature is completely random. You might even call this a kind of dilemma. At the microscopic level with the zillions of atoms and molecules vibrating around endlessly up to the scale of light-years where zillions of stars and galaxies out there are twirling and expanding like there was nothing to stop them from acting so crazily. As if somehow there has to be some kind of order where it is not nor has never been meant to be. Thoughts are like that also. At the microscopic dimension inside of the brain, pseudo-thoughts and ideas are popping up all the time, like a bubbling foam on the surface of the subconscious sea where vast expanses of water meet the bluish skies of consciousness. Purely random under no control. In desperation we collect and analyze, trying to sketch some facsimile of sanity when it is not there. Who are we kidding? Multiply this attempt by the millions of individuals that interact and communicate, the endless permutations and variegated interweaving of experience, and it is a wonder that humanity is even functioning at all. Wars come and go to set things straight. For a moment. Then God decides to slap us around but we never wake up. Just for a moment. Between sleep and the wakened state. Bubbles and foam and ripples which spread out along the surface for our late night entertainment. The ripples are spreading, so watch out before they overcome you.

~ Posted at 12:00 PM | Permalink | 6 comments
Thursday / October 31st / 2002
Aantal gevonden vacatures...

Every morning after the kids are gone to school and I have cleaned up the mess they have left behind, remade the beds, aired out the rooms, ad infinitum, the first thing that I do at around eight-thirty is read all of my email. Here is an example of one of my favorites:

Geachte heer Gish,

U hebt aangegeven dat u regelmatig op de hoogte wilt worden gehouden van het vacature-aanbod. Hierbij zenden wij u de zoekresultaten van onze e-mail service over de afgelopen 1 dagen. Het aantal resultaten is ingesteld op maximaal 15. Zowel frequentie als aantal zijn instelbaar.

Aantal gevonden vacatures: 0.

In case there might happen to be any readers out there who are unfamiliar with the Dutch language, basically this is a daily email notification which says that there are zero openings available at this time. So much for my job search.

For the last two weeks, this magical number called nihil has not changed. Hey nihil, how are you doing today? I guess you could be positive about it and say that at least it is not getting any less, what a nice round number. Oh well, I will keep my fingers crossed. For the time being, I will just finish off going through my piles of emails (I am so very popular).

~ Posted at 08:33 AM | Permalink | any comments?
Thursday / October 24th / 2002
Cleaning is not final...

Today was my cleaning day again. However, one wonders whether or not there is a more efficient way to keep one's house spic and span. For example, in order to be able to vacuum the kids rooms, all the junk has to be removed from the floor and preferably returned to their rightful spots. That is exactly what I did. The most work was taken up in Maarten's room, because there were still a number of half-opened boxed and packages from his birthday party yesterday. Alright easy enough. At last I could run the vacuum cleaner along his floor, make his bed and arrange his furniture back to where it belongs. All in a days work you might say. Well, two hours later I returned to his room to see how it was going with his playmate and him. My chin dropped and I almost fainted. The room had gone back in time, the exact time being this morning just before I first entered his room to clean it up. In other words a "complete mess" to say the least. Shock and dismay and I wondering all the time if I was really cut out for this cleaning day stuff. The more efficient way would have been to wait until the very end of the day before cleaning the room. Perhaps the chaos might have been slightly greater, but at least one round of cleaning activities would have been sufficient. But one thing I have learned is that no matter what point in time you choose there will always be ten more points in time just a little later when actions are negated and it is time to start all over again. Do not clean thinking that it is final, not even for an hour, perhaps for a minute but not much longer. Words of wisdom from a pseudo trainee house-cleaner kind of guy. Tomorrow will be yet another day and another turn of the dial which cycles around and around.

~ Posted at 06:42 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Sunday / July 7th / 2002
Scraping ends...

There were two moments in my life when I almost died. I mean "really" almost got killed, kicked the bucket, entered the mysterious world of complete darkness, and I am not joking. I would rather forget about these bleak memories, as they were indeed moments of dreadful panic. However, it is therapeutic to unbury these hidden demons and expose them through the catharsis of writing. In this entry, I will describe both these episodes the best I can, starting with the most recent (though it is already more than 15 years ago) as it is the freshest in my mind.

1. Crete (1986).
Thea and I were strolling along the beach during summer vacation, when the high waves crashing down on the beach were so irresistible that I had to run and dive into the water. I had not noticed the warning flags flapping in the wind, and without thinking I just took a huge flying leap into the raging Mediterranean Sea. Because of some storm out at sea, the currents were unpredictable, and before I realized it I was caught in an undertow, being pulled out to sea and under the surface of the water. I could feel the sand losing its firmness below my feet, almost life quicksand, and I had to struggle for air, barely being able to raise my head above the water before the next wave came crashing over me. As the inevitable end approached, I thought about two things. First of all, I wondered why I had studied so unbelievably hard the last four years to get a degree in Physics when in an instant that knowledge would be for nothing. I called Thea. "Help, help me!" So much time and energy and wisdom snuffed out by chance. I should have enjoyed the last four years better, making it more meaningful than cramming late into the evenings for inane curlicue esoteric formulae. It just did not make sense. Secondly, and this is what saved me, the first thought leading to the second, I remembered as a kid reading about undertow. How one should not fight against it which was hopeless anyway, but that one should move sideways to the pull. So I did just that, it was very very hard, but slowly and surely I moved perpendicularly to the outward downward pull, and I approached the beach to the left which curved around. I was saved and fell to the sand. I was shivering and shaking. It took me about thirty minutes to recover from the foolish mess I had gotten myself into. But in the end, I stood up, brushed the sand from me, and continued my walk with Thea along the beach back to the campground as if nothing had ever happened. Should have payed better attention to those warning flags.

2. Monterey, California (1979).
I had visited a fellow Stanford fraternity SAE brother at a summer house on the outskirts of Carmel where he was visiting his girlfriend. It was late in the evening, and I gave him a lift back to his house in Pacific Grove. The road connected point A with point B ran through the forest along a windy route and the drive was poorly lit. As is usual we chatted and laughed and recounted things. Without realizing it, I misjudged a tight turn to the left, and I overcompensated by steering too far inwards, slamming my breaks. The car spun around twice and came to a screeching halt on the wrong side of the road. Stopping motionless with that smelly burned rubber smell. On the blind curve facing impending doom of any oncoming headlights that could come at any instant. If at that moment a car or truck had come bounding around the bend, I would have been no more. Before waiting for the headlights to appear, I put the car in reverse, swung around to the other side, and then we continued our way. Though this was obviously a close brush with death, my friend and I just shrugged it off with a chuckle and some quick comments about how "cool" such a maneuver would have appeared on some action film. Should have paid better attention the that notorious curve.

Have any of you had similar experiences in life where the closeness of impending death has changed you forever?

~ Posted at 04:20 PM | Permalink | any comments?
Tuesday / June 18th / 2002
You are...

This is a special message for all you folks out there in need of guidance in one way or the other.

You are who you think you are...

Just in case you were wondering, this flashy message was created with the help of SWiSH.

~ Posted at 04:52 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
Sunday / June 9th / 2002
Usual Sunday...

Today is the usual laid back relaxing Sunday for me, and I have a number of chores which have to be attended to. To name just a few from my endless list:

  • Fix the broken fence again by adding green wire across the gap (done).
  • Repair Marlies' bike by tightening the right screws (done).
  • Replace Maarten's lock on his bike which shattered during his recent fall (doesn't fit).
  • Hang up the new pictures that we bought last week in Amsterdam (done).
  • Email reactions about my yearly review to my manager (done).
  • Hang up the rope on the swing-set (done).
  • Attach computers on shelves so they hang sturdier under table (next weekend).
  • Write this blog when I get the chance (done).
  • Shave carefully without producing a bloody mess (tomorrow morning).
  • Configure my new Windows XP computer so the other kids can log on also (postpone until next year).
  • Go for my second weekend jog (once on Saturday is enough).
  • Replace that torn mosquito net in our sleeping room (done).
  • Give my kids enough attention (never enough).
  • Finish another chapter of my Javascript book (read chapter 19).
  • Take a bike trip around the Reeuwijkse plassen with the family (done).
I hope that I can finish them all (chances are that I won't but that is no reason not to give it a try), but I will have to wait and see.

~ Posted at 10:54 AM | Permalink | 1 comment
Saturday / June 8th / 2002
From blue to white...

Our house has been transformed. During the past four weekends the painters have been busy painting the house. It used to be a faded and peeling blue color, and now it has been reborn as a white palace bright and happy for the summer days. This is definitely a big improvement. From blue to white. During the last weekend there was a potential conflict brewing in the air because we claimed that the agreement had been three layers of paint. However, the painters shook their heads and refused to give in saying that no the original agreement was two layers. During the ensuing discussion they gave conflicting accounts and finally agreed that they had said two and a half layers. Two and a half? Now I am not a professional painter, but please tell me how one applies "half" a layer. That is new to me. I pointed out a few badly painted areas where the old blue color showed through. I remained calm and everything turned out fine in the end. They ended up staying alot longer than planned in order to finish the job, though in the end they still refused to give in. Two and a half layers. Alright it looks fine to me. They were paid in cash and left my life this time around. Sitting in the garden or returning home from a bike trip to town and there it is our nice white house. Majestic, clean, impressive and encapsulated in two and a half extra layers of comfortable white stillness.

~ Posted at 10:20 PM | Permalink | 1 comment
Thursday / June 6th / 2002
How to understand...

During the average working day I sometimes find myself in situations where there seems to be some kind of mismatch in communication. This can range from the very trivial, leading nowhere which does not matter, all the way to the very critical, leading to a heated escalation of emotions. The core problem is not the disagreement but rather the misunderstanding about what one is actually discussing. Sometimes certain aspects of the problem are imagined, tones of voice implied and words and sentences incorrectly translated.

The first thing I try to do is understand what the other person does not understand and why there is this obstacle. The best way to approach this is to be open and honest. The deadliest killer of relationships is to assume that the other person understands you or keep on pretending that you understand what the other person is saying even though you sense that you have missed some vital point.

We are bizarre creatures who have the tendency to fight a win-or-lose battle when it is very likely and also to both sides' best advantage rather to seek out a win-win result. This win-win result is ironically enough easier to reach than having to fight it out. There are also much fewer cuts and bruises.

There was this guy named Carl Rogers who developed a theory called the "actualizing tendency." This theory focuses on a single guiding force where every life-form develops its potentials to the fullest extent possible. This same person also taught: "that which is most personal is most general."

What this means to me is that the more truly authentic you are and the more genuine and open in your expressions and gestures, the safer people feel and the more naturally they can express themselves near you. Especially those related to inner thoughts and personal experiences, even if it means exposing self-doubt. This so-called "actualizing tendency" extends outwards from your soul and even encompasses those near you, feeding the other person's spirit. Genuine creativity springs forth, stimulating efficient communication and eventually even producing new insights (ref. Stephen R. Covey, paraphrased by me).

So when conflict threatens to arise, this is more than likely due to poor communication which in turn has its roots in the inability to understand why and what the other person does not understand.

Sincerely try to understand the other side from your heart, balancing emotions with rational thought. This is a difficult yet noble path to follow. Put aside exaggerated emotions just enough so that they guide rather than drown you. Temper the overly rational ways of thinking with the stuff of emotions.

Open up and be genuine.

~ Posted at 10:04 PM | Permalink | 4 comments
Monday / May 20th / 2002
One-on-one level...

"Creating the unity necessary to run an effective business or a family or a marriage requires great personal strength and courage. No amount of technical administrative skill in laboring for the masses can make up for lack of nobility or personal character in developing relationships. It is a very essential, one-on-one level, that we live the primary laws of love and life."

Stephen R. Covey
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

~ Posted at 12:35 PM | Permalink | any comments?
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