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memories of Grandma

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Ted

When I was young I was always very excited when my parents dropped me off in Lakeview for a week with my grandparents. I was young and energetic (some would say very energetic) so Grandma had be very creative to find things that would keep me entertained, especially activities that kept me in one place and did not make much noise. One day she introduced me to a state-of-the-art mechanical adding machine that she probably considered to be an ordinary object that was part of her job. To me it was a mechanical mystery machine that I could never fool no matter how complicated the calculation I hammered into it. Trying to figure out how all the keys and linkages could always type out the correct answer on the roll of paper kept me entertained for hours on each visit to Grandma’s house. Grandma was probably just trying to get some well-deserved peace, but actually she sparked an interest in machines and mathematics that started me on the path to becoming an engineer.

Paula

You know how it’s usually difficult to figure out what to call your in-laws? It was a lot easier for me; the first time I met her, just before our wedding, she marched up to me, held out her hand and said firmly, “Hi, I’m Gramma.”

Problem solved.

When Ted and I were setting up our first house together, she gave us a whole handful of knitted squares. We thought they were potholders at first, but they were too thin to work well. When she told us they were actually meant to be dishcloths, my first thought was, “Knitted dishcloths?? Wow…. She has wayyyy too much time on her hands.” It wasn’t until later I found out that they were her mindless knitting, what she did on long drives to keep her hands busy. It wasn’t until much later, when I learned to knit myself, that I found out how much it bugs a knitter to have her hands idle. And in fact, my own first knitting project was a dishcloth. I had learned the basics from a book, but there were a few things I just couldn’t seem to figure out. Fortunately we had a trip to their town that summer, so I took my knitting (such as it was) along. She helped me figure it out – of course she’d had lots of experience as a knitting teacher for 4H so she was good at explaining things – and I got the feeling she really liked the idea that her grandson’s house would also have a knitter in it. That first dishcloth of mine wasn’t exactly square, and it wasn’t exactly pretty, but it did get the dishes clean. I got better at it with practice.

We still have a drawer full of Gramma’s dishcloths, and we still use them to wash our dishes with. Knitted dishcloths do wear out eventually, but it won’t matter when our stock runs out. Because now I can make my own, and every one I make comes from her and carries a memory of her, just as surely as if they’d come off her own needles.

differences and universalities

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

I tell you, every day is an adventure here. A few minutes ago I put some money into a vending machine. As it fell down, the chocolate cookie-sort-of-thing I had chosen (item 41) got stuck on something else (item 61). I had a bit of extra change, so I decided to get the something else and save it for a snack another time. However, the machine decided instead to give me item 62, which was identical to item 61, but which was not the thing holding my other item in place. So now I am down €1.30 and I only have one snack. That’s not a particulalry Dutch thing, of course; American vending machines jam all the time too. The difference is that, had this been an American vending mahcine, I’d probably have known what, exactly, item 62 was. When I said something about it, the group of guys who had been standing there attempting unsuccessfully to help me by hitting the machine in strategic places (another universal) said, “It’s a gevulde koek!”

I think they were being sarcastic, or maybe they really didn’t know how else to describe it. Anyhow, I had figured that much already, having learned how to read some years ago. I could even make a guess at the literal translation, “filled cake”, without needing to consult my dictionary. That still wasn’t much help.  It turned out to be sort of a little round pie, maybe 4″ in diameter and lens-shaped, with a delicate almond paste between the top and bottom crusts. Quite tasty.

Another difference is that a US vending machine would not have had three separate types of licorice, one with candies that were each half banana-flavor, half licorice. Without buying any, I couldn’t tell if any of the licorice was salted instead of sweet.

Speaking of that, microwave popcorn can be obtained here in either sweet or salty versions. The sweet kind isn’t bad: it involves real sugar and not an excessive amount of it. (You can buy microwave kettle corn in the US, but it’s usually made with sucralose – yuck!)

People at work often refer to business “metricses”, which always makes it sound like Gollum as Quality Consultant.

The weekend before last, the adventure part was when we went to Utrcht; they were working on the train tracks, so sent us in a bus the last part of the way. Even a little deviation is more of an adventure when you don’t know your way around or understand all of the announcements, though of course it’s made considerably easier when railroad personnel can reliably answer questions in English. Last weekend we went to a local modern art museum, the van Abbe, so the only strange part was some of the art, and it was meant to be. The building was beautiful and I’m sure the exhibits were well designed, but it turns out modern art exhibits leave us just as baffled and unexcited in Europe as in America. As I said, some things are universal.

Too Busy to be Exited

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Everyone keeps asking me if we are exited about the move, the honest answer is that we are too busy to be exited.  Until today during the 1.5 hour drive from Schipol Airport, in Amsterdam, did I realize the magnitude of the decision.  It became clear to me that the flat green landscape bisected by cannels that I was driving though is my new home.

 

The last 6 weeks have been a flurry of activity.  About 6 weeks ago I traveled to the Netherlands for a 4 week period within my new role at ASML.  At the beginning of this stay it looked like the company was definite about moving me to Europe; however I did not actually have an acceptable contract to sign until about 3 weeks ago.  Before I signed the contract all we could do was plan for the move, after I signed the paper work the rush began.  We ended up with less than 4 weeks to sell 3 cars, put our house on the market to sell, and pack everything that we were going to ship to Europe.  Luckily both Paula and I are reasonable planners and are used to sleep deprivation.

 

While I was in the Netherlands I was able to get a lot of things done and become a little more comfortable with the environment.  I figured out the bureaucracy of the local rowing club, and successfully passed multiple exams allowing me to earn a key to the boathouse and scull in any club boat.  I still have to take exams to allow me to row in a sweep boat.  I also stumbled into a partnership with a really good rower and was able to row with him at least twice per week.  I am really looking forward to my first race in the Netherlands.  I hope the race course is wider than the 1.5 lane wide cannel I have been rowing on in Eindhoven.

 

During these 4 weeks I also found an apartment.  The layout of the apartments is a lot different than I am used to.  The living spaces are huge, the bedrooms are small, and there is not place built in to store stuff.  We really wanted a 2 bedroom place so our guests would have their own room.  Unfortunately most of the apartments had a second bedroom that could not accommodate a double bed.  We also wanted to be in the center of Eindhoven, within walking distance of the train station.  Only 2 apartments really met this criteria and one was out of the running because it was more of a fixer upper.  I think we will enjoy what I choose but the real test will be this weekend when Paula arrives and sees the place for the first time.

 

So now I have to get used to all the small things that are different here.  Just for example as I drive along from the airport I do not understand all the signs, distances are in kilometers, my speed is in kilometers per hour, reverse on the stick shift is on the opposite side and requires a special manipulation to get it into gear, there are no mountains, and there are no wide expanses with no buildings or people.

some good news

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Good news today: I’ve sold the MR2 Spyder.  There’s still some paperwork to do but I’ve got a verbal committment plus a check for earnest money. What I still haven’t got is the fax the $&^% bank is supposedly sending me as of several hours ago. Apparently they can’t send it directly to the other company on my request. In fact, Heaven forbid they send it directly at all; they can see it but instead of printing the damn thing out and sending it on or even emailing it (gasp! bleeding edge of technology!) they have to request another department to send it. Who, of course, have all gone home early for the weekend. No good news without bad; I think banks and governments are there to make sure of it.

Also, Ted got confirmation today that we definitely do have the apartment he liked – we were just making sure that the cat was OK and that everything was confirmed, and now it is. So this weekend I can send out an email telling everyone I know that we’re moving, where we’re going and what we’re doing, what our new addresses will be and where this blog is. I’m looking forward to that.

On the down side, I’ve had to throw myself on my mother’s and brother’s mercy and beg them to go get a copy of our marriage record and Fed Ex it to me, because though that was mailed out nine days ago, apparently the Postal Orifice has taken a liking to it. (It’s not that my family wasn’t willing to do us a favor, just that it’s an inconvenience for them have to trek out there on a work day.)  When I get it, I have to FedEx it and my birth certificate to a courier in Harrisburg (the state capital) so they can hand-carry it over to get an apostille and FedEx it back to me. I’ve given up on trusting the state government and the US mail to get things done for me in time.

 No good news without a little bad news; I think banks and governments are there to make sure of it.