February 28, 2003

Ik ben een pools meisje

Thursday nights, I go straight from work to my heavily state-subsidised Dutch second language class and don't generally get home until after 10pm. This is not an optimal situation for me. I invariably do better in high intensity language classes and once per week - especially after a full work day - isn't good enough. But, the location is good - a mere three blocks from home - and I only pay €65 for a year's classes.


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June 11, 2003

Lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

I have never - at least as far as I can recall - put forward a policy on e-mail here at Pedantry, but since I'm going to respond to an e-mail I received today, I guess I should start with one. I'm not going to go with the conventional disclaimer, which usually reads something like "I'm going to feel free to do what I want with your e-mail unless you ask me not to." Instead, let me try this - I promise not to be a jerk and post your name, e-mail address, personal details, whatever, unless I think you've been awful and really deserve it. I may, however, choose to answer questions by posting on my blog and may quote your e-mail briefly in doing so, but I will try not to disclose your identity thereby. In short, you have to trust me a little if you send me e-mail, I will endeavour to act in a manner worthy of trust.

The e-mail I got today compliments me on my blog and flattery is the fastest way to my heart, so let me first express my appreciation to its author. My already quite monstrous ego thanks you.

My correspondent appears to be an American woman who would "love to read more about your lifestyle in Belgium and how you came to the decision to leave California. I've been reading through your archives and have found your post from February 11, when you mentioned that it was not a political protest, but something more personal." She is herself contemplating a move abroad and mentions France and Quebec and asks how I came to be specifically in Belgium. Since I know that some of my readers have also been down that road, I thought I might respond with a post and let people add their own experiences.

I don't think I have ever written a post on my reasons for leaving the States, in part because it's complicated. You see, it has to do with why I went back to the States in the first place and why I stayed so long. I grew up in the US, but I decided to leave when I was 17 and finally managed to do it when I was 19, with the intent to leave permanently. That was when I went to Montreal. I moved back just before my 23rd birthday and went to California.


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January 5, 2004

Why there's been so little blogging lately, and why I'll never complain about Belgian taxes

I've been doing very little blogging, and not very much blog reading, since early September. I realise that this has cost me readers. But, since I've been nominated for a Koufax award, I still seem to have a few readers who like what they saw and want to see more.

So, this is my New Year's resolution: more writing. Also, I feel that everyone is owed at least a bit of an explanation why I sort of had to drop out of cyberspace.


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April 16, 2004

Maybe I should write that post about air traffic control sooner rather than later

This just came over the wires:

Airliner Has Near Miss Over Brussels

BASEL, Switzerland - The Swiss national airline said Friday that one of its aircraft came within 65 feet of a small plane during its approach to Brussels airport.

The smaller plane crossed in front of the Jumbolino, a four-engine commuter jet, 6,000 feet above the Belgian capital city on Monday, said Dominik Werner, a spokesman for Swiss International Air Lines.

The Swiss plane, which was en route from Zurich with 38 passengers and five crew on board, landed normally after the incident.

The pilot, who gave the estimate of how close the planes were, informed civil aviation authorities in Belgium and Switzerland, Werner said.

Swiss newspapers reported that the pilot of the ultralight had illegally entered Brussels airport airspace and that an investigation was under way.

I live underneath the main daytime approach to Zaventem airport. The wife and I are at work, but I still would not have appreciated coming home to find a Swissair flight in my kitchen.

Update: Jeez, how lysdexic can I get? This all happened Monday, which makes it worse. Monday was a holiday. I was at home.


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February 9, 2005

Change of Status

Ho ho ho...

I have big news and it will lead to more blogging. Don't want to jinx it just yet until I officially know. Ho ho ho.... European social democracy can be a wonderful thing.

I may get the next chapter of Grandpa's memoirs up today. I hope so - I'll be busy tomorrow. I have a dermatology document to analyse first. Right now, I can't stop smiling.


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May 5, 2005

That end-of-the-chapter feeling

I've been kind of out for a couple months. The truth is that I'm kind at loose ends. Between my job disappearing - my last day was Friday - studying Dutch, studying the Belgian driving code, trying to catch up in Russian (I'm spending the summer in Saint-Petersburg learning Russian), trying to get my doctorate going (still no progress) and seeing the wife off for most of a month... I've been kinda hard pressed creatively, weighted down by a sense of grand change and uncertainty about how I feel about it.

This sort of thing used to happen to me a lot. I had a... well, a kind of sense for the big transitions. You could say that I could tell when my autobiography was reaching the end of a chapter. It was always a bit of a weird feeling, and it usually involved travel. The crisp memories of my life always seem to involve moments of transition. I can still close my eyes and see the lights of Chicago from I-90 headed east; flying over Newark as I left New Jersey that last time (and flipping the entire state the bird through the window); the bar at Keflavik airport; the smell of my first night in Montreal, in a little hardwood-floored room on the Plateau; Donner Pass out the window of a Greyound bus; customs in Munich a week after 9/11... all clean breaks, where clear lines separate the before from the after.

And this time, no clear line. Months - over a year - of quiet and growing frustration at my situation, ending in its replacement. A slow withdrawal from work, leading to an unemotional last day. The discovery of my impending fatherhood, followed by weeks of having the idea seep in.

Last week, on the way to work, my bus passed by a small sheep farm. It's passed by that small farm every day for over a year. But this time, the spring lambs were out, bouncing around, munching grass. I just about broke down and cried. When I got home, I told the wife about it, ending with "This is you're fault. YOU got me pregnant!"

It's all kinda weird. and I just don't quite know what to say about it. Things like international politics just, suddenly, seem awfully remote and not too important. I find myself unable to write even the most trivial things. Like, I promised to write a recommendation letter for my intern at work, who is applying to Saarbrücken. I've been putting it off since yesterday, and need to get it out tomorrow, but I just can't quite pull it all together.

I'm trying though.

Several people have recently gotten on my case to get back to blogging. Besides, I'm going to Russia for threee months, and I'll be damned if I'm going to do it without saying anything about St-Petersburg. So, starting tomorrow, with the British general election, I'm going to do my damnedest to be back, both here and on AFOE.


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May 30, 2005

It looks like it may be okay

Kiera had another ultrasound today, and things are looking pretty good. Fluid looks a little low, but it may simly be normal for Kiera. It seems that it's not dangerously low. I cannot tell you what a relief this is. The chromosome test came in today too - my baby doesn't have trisomy 21 - a.k.a. Down's syndrome. Making sure of that was the whole reason we did an amnio. One more thing to be terrified of that I don't have to be terrified of. The rest of the chromosome test won't come in for a couple of weeks, but we're not at an elevated risk for anything else they can test that way. I still don't know the gender - they'll tell us when they've done the full work-up - but there's no important choices resting on that.

They only do an amnio when you say that you intend to take action based on the results. But if they do it, they do the full work-up. Abortion is not fully free in Belgium. The law does not recognise the notion of a "woman's right to choose" the way it does in the States. However, in practice there are few restrictions, and even when there are, the Netherlands isn't far away. But this is one of those categories that the law fully recognises in Belgium.

There were some tense moments though. They brought in an old analog baby heart monitor, and it took a while - I think about ten minutes, but it seemed like hours - to find the baby's heartbeat. Hearing it, getting that kind of reassurance... I can't tell you how that felt.

She's still in the hospital, and I'm not even going to consider going anywhere until she can go back to work. But, it's definitely looking up. Thank you everyone for your support.


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January 16, 2006

Hyperdrive - boldly going anwhere?

Okay, this is a frivolous topic, but look: I loved Red Dwarf, so naturally I'm dying to see if BBC can get another sci-fi comedy to work. Because I have Chinese class on Wednesdays, I flip over to Hyperdrive last night, and I am totally not amused.

For a guy who is utterly into British sci-fi comedy and who is never going to get a new episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Red Dwarf ever, this is a major bummer. I mean, they've got the guys who write for the dead hilarious Black Books. This series really ought to be better than the first episode leads me to think. I hope it gets better. Right now, it's pretty weak.


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