26 May 2009

Arnhem Openair museum


We went to Arnhem to the Openair museum. It's a bit of a strange place. Part amusement park, part educational center, part eponymous old-stuff holding depot. It was a lot of fun and I would recommend it.  

My friend Dom is staying with us a bit and went with us.  One of the highlights was a display where we built a Dutch fronteirsman hut.

We also saw an old butter factory powered by a gigantic steam engine.

Word of the day

stoomtrein Steam train.

Teylers Museum

We went to the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. It's one of the oldest public museums in the world, the only older being the Louvre. The Teylers folk point out that that the Louvre may have opened a year earlier, but it wasn't excactly by choice.

Teylers is somewhat eclectic, but the main theme is 18th and 19th century science.  This was a very exciting time in human history as we finally began to believe that the universe was comprehensible and that it may operate according to sets of internally consistent rules and that these rules might be ferreted out by means of the scientific method.  Galileo and Newton of course set the stage for this revolution with the examples of celestial and classical mechanics, and the early advances in optics nearly a century earlier.  In the 19th century the unification of the laws of optics with the laws electricity and magnetism gave impetus to the idea of a grand unified theory of everything.  

Sundry Scientific stuff

Uranium glass candlestick holder

Telescopes and microscopes

A spectrometer

A table of states of polarization of light

A generator/condenser for generating huge static-electric discharge

One of the main halls

Part of the large fossil collection

Word of the day

natuurkunde physics. Natuurkunde heette natural philosophy in engels in de 19e eeuw.

24 May 2009


Summer camp for the whole family

While my mom was here, we went to a so-called Centerpark in Peer Belgium.  That park is called Erperheide.  The idea is like summer camp for kids, but the whole family goes.  We went for a four-day weekend and had a great time.  

There were lots of outside activities including petting zoo, playgrounds, a giant swing, trails to hike or bike, and general running around.

There were inside activities including giant Lego projects, ball pits,  jump houses, etc.  The best indoor activity was the waterpark.  Unfortunately I did not get any pics, but you can see it of the website.  It was absolute heaven for the boys.

We stayed in a little cabin.  It had three bedrooms, each just large enough to hold the beds, and a nice livingroom with a fireplace that Ethan was very excited about.

One can rent paddleboats, bikes, tennis rackets, or go minigolfing.  

Most importantly, one should relax.

Word of the day 

ontspannen to relax.  Wij gingen naar Erperheide om te ontspannen.

15 May 2009


The boys each had birthdays in April. We had nine of Ethan's friends from school and the neighborhood over for a party. We celebrated Leif's birthday in Belgium (more on that later).

So the Boys are now 2 and 6.  Crazy.  Ethan seems a lot older than when we arrived.  

Word of the day:

verjaardag birthday.  Fijn verjaardag.

14 May 2009

Barneveld and Amsterdam


I grew up in New York in a little village called Barneveld.  My mom came to visit for a couple of weeks during the second half of April.   We rented a car to drive to Belgium (upcoming post) and thought we might swing through Barneveld, NL (Gelderland) while we had a car.   

The Netherlands has a Bible belt just like the US.  It is scaled down to Dutch proportions and runs in  30 km wide strip from the south west to the central northest of the country.  Barneveld is perhaps a buckle.  It was interesting.  The place is apparently famous for a breed of chicken developed there.  It looks quite big by comparison to my hometown, but is generally viewed as provincial and a bit backward by the west-coast Dutch.  I thought it was quaint.

There are lots of old churches.

There's a very nice museum that has quite a lot of good stuff in the archeological history of the area.  

The Rijksmuseum boiled down

On another day, Mom and Ethan and I went up to the Rijks in Amsterdam.  It's currently under renovation and is a small fraction of it's normal size.  This is actually good as one can still spend a whole day there, but they've boiled it down to the best of the collection.  

Ethan had a great time there and on the Museumplein what he climbed on the IAmsterdam sign in front of the Rijks. 

Word of the day  

woord van de dag word of the day.  Woord van de dag is de woord van de dag, of mischien fier. 

Self-fulfilling profecy

I predicted back in December that I would probably wander off sometime in April and forget how to edit this blog.  I wasn't actively trying to keep with the prediction, but I do apparently know myself fairly well. 

I really just have been busy.  I'm going to try to catch up in a series of posts rather than one go.  The good news is that I've been fairly productive and we've been having a lot of fun.

I like trains

Back on 11 April I took Ethan and one of his friends back to the train museum in Utrecht again.  Good times. 

Hanging around the neighborhood

They put up scaffolding on the front of our building sometime in January and finally took it down at the end of April.  I don't think they actually did anything with it.  It did serve as a jungle gym for the neighborhood kids.  

There seems to be a big Dutch industry in putting up and taking down scaffolding for doing really small jobs for which you might expect a ladder to suffice.  There also seems to be a tradition of attacking a job with great enthusiasm but then forgetting to actually finnish it for months.  

Getting through life on his looks

Leif finally got a haircut.  He's awfully cute.

Word of the day

zorg care or worrIk zorg voor jou en jij zorgt ook voor mij.

04 April 2009


Hazard duty

Our good friends Taco and Anja  watched our kids for us last weekend while we went to Prague.

The little one, Leif, now walks around the house asking for "Taco, Taco, Taco."  Tonight, when Taco and Anja came over for dinner, it was clear as Ethan served up juice in wine glasses for Anja and himself, that perhaps there might be room in his Oedipal little heart for another woman. 

There are not many people with whom we would leave our children.   Though at the right time at the end of a day particularly well-filled with whining and broken stuff and sand and dirt and snot and poop and crying and demands and cajoling and deviousness-beyond-their-years, we might consider leaving them with passing strangers on the street, there are really only a handful of friends we would really trust for a weekend.  


Prague is a very fine city.  

We took public transport from the airport to out hotel .  It took about 50 minutes and was quite easy with a single change from bus to tube.  It cost about $2.50 pp.  

We stayed in the Marriott Prague.  It is listed as a five-star place.  I would say in reality it is three and a half.  That is, it's perfectly nice Marriott, it was well worth what we paid for it, but it was not super-luxe.  It was a Marriott.  

It is located near the town gate and is an easy walk from the Old Square. 

The Old Town Square is home to a celestial clock that is very pretty and interesting.

The square is very lively at all hours.

There was half-marathon being run the day we were there.  Here is a picture of the last finisher running along the Vltava River.  

This is a view from one of the towers of the Charles Bridge. 

and here is the bridge itself.  It's currently under repair.

There is an old Jewish quarter that has become largely a museum.

This is a night view of the statue of Wenceslas, the founder of the Czech republic. It sits in front of the National Museum.  

My old PhD advisor, Emil Wolf, was originally from Prague.  He fled as a teenager when the Germans invaded.  He became friends with another Czech refugee in England, Vlada.  He and Vlada were separated after the War.  Vlada returned to Prague and Emil eventually came to the US.  They managed to stay in touch through the Iron Curtain and eventually reunited after sixty years.  The agreed to meet in '91 "beneath the horse," that is, beneath the statue of Wenceslas.  

We had the great privilege of meeting Vlada on our trip:

He showed us around Prague by foot and by tram.  

We had lunch at Parnas on the Vltava.  The traditional duck was amazing.

Vlada was in the British RAF for a while.  In this photo he is wearing an RAF tie and pins.  During the war roughly 2500 Czechs served in the RAF and 2000 survived the War.  Vlada says that today there are 28.  There are only a few left in Prague; they meet on the first Wednesday of every month.

After the War, Vlada worked as an engineer in Prague.  After the Soviets invaded in '68 communication with the outside became heavily censored.  He was finally able to send letters to Emil while he was on a business trip in India.  

Lastly,  I liked this mural.  It is perhaps a little pessimistic.  I'd like to take it as a warning.  

Word of the day:  vakantie. vacation. Wij waren op vakantie