Saturday, November 8, 2014

Grey skies in morning

DSC09745 (1300x975)Back in the sloppy, wet UK: frost on the roofs and scaffolds against Woodside’s backside.  The drip through the roof had turned into a three-bucket stream in my absence as weather fronts rolled in from the southwest.

DSC09751 (1300x975) DSC09771 (1300x973)

The weather warmed with each successive wave of rain, though, and so I took a wander along the coast east of Christchurch to Mudeford Bay.

I found a satisfying surge of surf washing over the seawall, submerging the tires of the stormwatchers huddled in their cars.  At least one boat already lay overturned in the harbour. 

A lone fisherman stood among the rocks of the outer breakwall, waves breaking over his boots in a white froth.

DSC09765a (615x367) DSC09768 (1300x975)DSC09764 (1300x959)

It all gets much more interesting when put into motion, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Force of habit

Habit 1He paid attention to what he did when he traveled, on the lookout for those first repetitions that would create the pattern of that particular place and moment in his life.  He knew that habits begin to form at that very first repetition.

And so often the first time one did things they were contingent, accidental, and not necessarily good things on which to base a set of habits.

-- Robinson, 2312

What habits have I adopted, consciously, unconsciously, settling into a new place, expat among unfamiliar people, language, culture?  It’s a funny little question to ponder.

On vacation, I find a particular place to eat where the food is good and the people are nice, so the next night, I’m back. Repetition.  The third, I’m looking forward to it, recommending it to friends.  Habit?

In the late afternoon, I push back from my computer, switching Skype to Away and disabling Messenger.  Gym clothes in the bag, I drive cross-community to the Leisure Centre and take an hour’s break, reading or watching television while pumping away on the bike.   I come home separated from my work, ready for the evening cook and connecting with people.  Scheduled?  Or habit?

Habit 3We build our lives around repetitive patterns and expected actions.  Some I create fresh in the places that I live, among people that I care about.  Others, I carry in from previous lives, unpacked and adapted to my new circumstances.. 

My conscious habits are true pleasures.  Developing a sense for art and skill for cooking has outlived the people who encouraged it in me.  Days spent walking cliffs and beaches, biking Dutch hills, photographing faces and towns, are rediscovered joys. 

Some habits, coastal sailing and life-drawing with charcoals, are temporarily aspirational, set aside in crowded days; interest in cultivating gardens or making music have become vestigial, unlikely to ever return.

Taken as a whole, they make meaningful and defining interests and traditions, familiar and personal.  They define me even more than they structure my day.

Habit 2Of course there is no such thing as a true repetition of anything;  Heraclitus and his un-twice-steppable river and so on.  The pattern of the day might be the same, but the individual events fulfilling the pattern were always a little bit different.

Thus, there is both habit and surprise, constructed as a little work of art.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Red sky at night

DSC09733 Stitch (1300x453)

I had to ride out for groceries and a quick visit to a friend in Maastricht, just at sunset.  The skies were amazing, blazing red to the south against deep blue overhead.

DSC09737 (1300x975) DSC09740 (1300x975)

Photographers were out all along the river to capture the contrasts and colours.  These effects never last too long, but they are vivid in their moment.

DSC09722 (1300x975) DSC09724 (1300x975)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunday miscellany

DSC09687A quiet day in Maastricht, catching up with correspondence, bookkeeping, voting, laundry, and shopping.  An afternoon bike ride ahead of the cold front due tomorrow, some time with the weekend papers, biertje en bitterballen at the local cafĂ©.

It’s a weekend; life should stay balanced.


DSC09709Many grilled foods are more appetizing if the outer skin gets crispy: it’s certainly true for steaks and salmon.  The secret turns out to be in making DSC09710sure that the meat is dry and the skillet is hot. (The Dutch say that the #1 kitchen mistake is not to  cook with hot enough pans.)  The crusty rare meat, the  crispy duck breast, the perfect fish skin,  all require searing, turning, resting. 

Hot pans.  15 minutes, and you’re golden.  Literally.


DSC09712My ‘repat pile’ is growing with things to take back to the UK, starting to rival the stack that I usually bring back from the US.  It’s interesting to see what pends up being quintessentially desirable from any given country: there’s probably a coffee table book to be made from photos of exported artifacts from around the world.


videostreamI’ve talked before about Chromecast, a simple dongle for the TV that makes broadcasting from your computer fast and easy.  I’ve brought a number of them over for friends (along with Melatonin and Desitin) on trips from the US, but it’s been difficult to link downloaded movies and TV shows into it.

Lifehacker recommended VideoStream, and it really works well.  There was a small patch needed for the firewall, but afterwards it’s been flawless.


DSC09698‘and an interesting comparison of US and Dutch systems for funding late-life care.  Outcomes and efficiency of care, links between medical and non-medical support, and the overall sense of social responsibility characteristic of the Netherlands are well profiled. 

Neither system is perfect, but it would be wonderful to see the US be willing to adopt best practices from wherever they originate, cr3eating local versions that could improve support and decrease costs for the most vulnerable, rather than just shun ‘socialized’ (actually, social) medicine.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A last glance at Marrakech: In the souks

DSC09459 (1300x956)A lot of my time in Marrakech seemed spent scurrying through the maze of twisty passages (all alike) that make up the vast Medina of market stalls across the heart of the city.   Sometimes the best strategy was to wander aimlessly (all roads lead to the tanneries), other times to link with a tour group (great among the metalworkers).

In all cases, though,avoid any locals offering directions (sooner or later they would ask 300 dihram).

DSC09579 (1300x972)DSC09573 (975x1300)DSC09576 (975x1300)DSC09542 (957x1300)DSC09456 (968x1300)DSC09457 (1300x1009)DSC09297 (1300x974)DSC09281 (975x1300)DSC09544 (1300x975)DSC09584 (955x1300)DSC09548 (1044x1300)DSC09570 (954x1300)DSC09582 (1300x974)DSC09571 (1236x1300)DSC09555 (1300x975)DSC09561 (1300x978)

More pictures, as always, on my Flickr site.