The secret project

It is time to expose my secret project: I am attempting to build myself up to the point where I can do 100 pushups in a row. I was doing very well in Berlin and made it to the end of the third week in the program and then ended up fighting a rather impressive stomach bug just as we were leaving and all through the time in Paris. I am now back on the pushup program but ended up being thrown back to the start of week two. I just finished week two again and next week should put me back to where I was when we left Berlin.

I have laid down a challenge to Terry to see if he can beat me to 100 in a row. This may sound unfair given my head start but, I assure you, I will likely need far more than the two weeks I have. So, the secret and the challenge is out. Feel free to try it for yourself if you want. Also, feel free to announce your kicking of my butt if you get to 100 before I do.

P.S. Remember, if you are young and fit, it is wrong to make fun of old fat people–especially when they are doing pushups.

Vincent van Gogh the artist

Vincent van Gogh is a famous artist from around hundred years ago. He did Pointillism but instead of just small points, Vincent van Gogh used small lines. His art is amazing.  Vincent van Gogh got his inspiration from other artists. My favorite panting of his is sunflowers because it’s not what it really looks like–it’s what he saw in a sunflower. I think that he is famous because he made up a new way of painting.

Most Pepole say he is famous because he altered art complely and inspired many young artists after him.

Van Gogh and beyond

I have been spending most of my time working on school work lately. Part of the vacation is suposed to be used to find out if I can finish up my degree or if I am going to stop playing with the idea and get on with getting a job already. This is the put-up-or-shut-up portion of schooling. Today was a vacation day as we all went down to the Van Gogh museum to take a look at the offerings.


The museum offers a wonderful description of the artistic styles and influences that led up to Van Gogh’s style of painting and showed how his work developed and grew up until his death (suicide–gunshot to the chest) in 1890. The paintings were presented with a story of Van Gogh’s life. Examples of the work of his early mentor are mixed with Van Gogh’s work. Similarly, when he created works that were modeled on the works of others (notable Jean-François Millet) often, the original works were displayed beside Van Gogh’s version.

Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus, 1935

As a side note, my first exposure to Millet was through Dali, who had painted Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus. This painting was displayed in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. That museum is the best part of Florida.

Back to the Van Gogh museum. The displays and the virtual audio tour are designed to be a true “learning experience”(tm). This was, by far, the easiest to understand description of an artist’s work, his influences, and artistic styles that I have seen. We were able to have discussion of Impressionism complete with examples from Monet, Manet, Pissarro, et al. Similarly with Pointillism and Cubism (there was an exhibition that was moved from the Rijksmuseum of work by Jacques Villon, the pseudonym of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘unknown’ brother Gaston Duchamp). “Learning moment” does not cover it. The afternoon was fantastic.

Oh, did I mention the paintings? That was rhetorical; it brings back the original purpose for going to the museum. We got to see Van Gogh’s paintings–many of them, in context.


The Garden of Saint Paul's Hospital, 1889

There were works I knew and many I did not. My favorite (and there was some very stiff competition) was The Garden of Saint Paul’s Hospital, 1889. I am very seldom emotionally moved by any painting. This one is a view of a mental asylum where Van Gogh admitted himself for about a year and it is (to me) an expression to pure frustration and confusion set in an otherwise tranquil environment. Van Gogh wrote that he often would need to calm himself by spending time in nature contemplating his surroundings. This painting is a view of nature that is not calm. I can imagine the viewer hoping to find repose in the garden and finding only a reflection of his inner turmoil.

Both girls will write about their time in the museum. They may even mention how Daddy took them on a very long walk back home that began with a walk in the exact opposite direction. I have excuses for this as my iPhone has died (no GPS or map) and the Rijksmuseum is under construction making the direct route to the canal slightly more difficult and resulted in one more right turn than should have been taken. I will offer no more excuses for our unplanned expedition. I was wholly at fault. Janet had left early to go to get her back adjusted and had no trouble getting there or back. It was all me.

Glass of Absinthe and a Carafe, 1887

I am enjoying seeing the girls enjoying art. I am enjoying having them point out aspects of paintings that I did not see and then discussing how particular elements fit into the painting style (really, they are doing this; it is possible they are doing it because I practically become giddy with praise and the like when they do because I love it so much). We are able to discuss Paris again because of the paintings set in Montmartre or on the Champs-Élysées. We get to talk about the changing role of women at the time (usually around World War I). We can talk about mental illness and drug abuse–lots of that in the art of the time. Similarly, in many of the paintings from Van Gogh’s Paris years (other artists as well as Van Gogh) depicted “women of questionable virtue” (I got to discuss euphemisms as well–there were lots of phrases that implied prostitution or the more “party-oriented” subjects … hey, there is another euphemism). We even managed to work in some science talk when looking at statues in bronze. We talked about melting points, boiling points, mailability, clay working, kilns, and on and on.

This is not to say that there was not a fair bit of discussing how pretty a particular painting was and how much the trees looked like the woods on PEI. There was a lot of that too and it was every bit as enjoyable.

We stayed at the museum through lunch and ate in the cafeteria. It, too, was very good. The food was tasty and not excessively expensive. It was €41 for the four of us with a main course and drink as well as a small desert.

Tomorrow I will be back at school work. Today will keep me going in smiles for a very long time.

Part 6 of A Hat Full of Sky

Tiffany was realizing that being a witch means you get more work instead of less. You don’t use your magic unless you really need to. Tiffany has been doing more work with helping everybody with injures and then get food for it. 

At the mound, Rob Anybody was telling the clan that he needed volunteers to save Tiffany from the Hiver and immediately all the feegles put their hands up. Rob chose 5 feegles and then said “i’ll take the last 50 men standing after the fight is done.”

I want to know what happens next just as much as you!

Some Reflections on Paris

Paris was an experience for me. I did not like the rush, crowds, noise and poverty of some areas. I really missed the green spaces and relative calm of Berlin and now Amsterdam. I often felt uncomfortable whether due to noise, heat, or the forcefulness of some people. One man repeatedly prevented me from getting closer to Robin on one subway ride. He was very angry with me for some reason that was not clear to me, his looks and pushing were very unnerving. Another day we were pushed a number of times by a set of angry beggars on the steps of Montmatre. We had signed what we thought was a petition to help people who were deaf and then they refused to let us continue without giving them money. This really scared Sarah and it took quite a while to calm her down.

All that said, Paris has beautiful art, buildings, bridges, and people. I met an older lady in a marche who asked me to help her find something, celeri remoulade, if I understood correctly. She asked me in French, it took me a couple of tries to understand. I found her a container and explained in my french that I hoped I was getting the correct thing for her, as my French is not very good. She told me that her eyesight was no longer good and that I was doing just fine. We chatted for a little bit more and thanked each other. I think she made my trip to Paris. It was wonderful to have a brief contact with someone and to actually do a little bit to help. It also felt good to really practice my French skills beyond the pleasantries necessary to get what I wanted from the city.

A few days later, I met a another lady in a laundry. We started talking a bit and smiling at each other when the phone rang. We did not answer it, laughed and knew that it was not going to be for either of us and since it was self-serve, there was no one working. When she tried to dry her clothes (you put money in a central kiosk and select the number of the machine to use) her dryer did not start. However, the dryer above mine did. Together, we rushed to move her laundry from her machine, to one that did start. We laughed and had a little moment.

Although we had some trouble leaving Montmatre, on the way up the hill we met a family from Holland that was just wonderful. We later met then in front of Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and we talked about traveling, school, and life for about an hour. You can see their two daughters enjoying ice cream just over Gordie’s shoulder.

One of the lessons that I am learning is that, for me, the people make the place. I love interacting, and I have to say interacting because most of what I have been doing so far is smiling and pantomime acting, with people not talking. I was heartened by the laugh at the laundry machines and the laugh with a slightly inebriate older man in a donner shop who thought that I was ordering 5 donners for Sarah, Robin and me. Between my sparse German and his broken English, I reassured him that we were not going to eat it all. I now have a great desire to learn more languages so that I can get more of what makes me happy from traveling.

What to do in Amsterdam

Here are somethings that you can do if you come to Amsterdam:

  • Rent a bike and go biking. It is really crowded with bikes though!
  • Visit the Himalaya Tea House when there isn’t a protest at Dam Square!
  • Rent a paddle boat for the canals
  • Have a coffee at a koffie shop, not a coffee shop (because this one sells marijuana!)
  • Take a bike ride to the beach
  • Take a canal boat tour
  • Go to museums
  • Walk around the city, but watch out for bikes
  • Go to the metropolitan deli for ice cream after the tea house. They have two double fountains of flowing chocolate. They also gave mom cocoa beans from their display so she can have raw cocoa nibs!

Tea House in Amsterdam

Today Robin, Mom and I went to a tea house. We went on shanks’ ponies (which means we were walking). If you ever read about Gramma Dowdel in A Long Way from Chicago or A Year Down Yonder you will know what this means. There was a book store attached to the tea house. It felt to me like a combination of Tai Chi Gardens and Booktales, but without my friends.

I had a chai tea and I liked it but it was not as good as Wenny’s tea!

The Police

Please read Sarah’s post before this one.
On our way back from the tea house, we went by Dam Square. At Dam Square, positioned in a circle all around it, were police SWAT vans (there are three police vans in the picture). They were filled with police officers in riot gear and on the roads we saw police officers on every form of transport except boat or train.

To me, seeing all of this was very scary because I am not used to seeing that many police officers in one area. I was very happy when we got back to our apartment; even to see two cats whining.

I am glad that we don’t have anything like this on PEI.

Part 5 of A Hat Full of Sky

Rob Anybody was sitting on the mound when the kelda, Jeannie, came up to talk to him about his behavior. He would not take  a drink of special sheep lineament and everybody said he was dead! Which to me is very funny because if I said no to something that I eat every day they would say I’m dead. 

 Jeannie said, as his wife, please stay; I don’t want you tryng to kill something that can’t die. Then as the kelda, she said for him to go and that was an order. Jeannie then told him why he should come back and the reason was that she was going to have seven sons and one daughter . Feegle women are rare, so hearing that is very good luck!

Part 4 of A Hat Full of Sky

In this chapter, Tiffany is at Miss Level’s and she is just waking up from having a night’s sleep. When she woke up she got dressed and put on the necklace that Roland gave her. Roland is a boy from The Wee Free Men who is the Baron’s son. The reason Roland is important in this book is because in The Wee Free Men Tiffany rescued him from the land of the fairy Queen. Back at home, everybody seems to have gotten it into their heads that he had rescued her. But Roland and Tiffany know the difference that she rescued him. I think the reason that Roland gave her the necklace is he want to “be even” for all his father’s gossip.

Tiffany wanted to see how the necklace looked on her but there were no mirrors, not even a small one. She used the “see me” spell and the Hiver knew where she was again. This is quite bad because a Hiver can hurt a person. It won’t hurt a person physically but mentally she will be quite hurt because a Hiver takes over the personality and forces her to be strong-willed, hurt others around her, and generally be a bad person.

After she had gotten completely ready for the day, she made up her own small experiment. She moved the candlestick from the bedside table over to the chest of drawers and turned her back. Pretty soon, the candlestick moved from the chest of drawers to the bedside table. And nobody touched it; it just floated in air over there. Then she went downstairs into the kitchen. On her way she saw a lot of circus posters. Most of them had the act of Tipsy and Topsy, the amazing mind-reading sisters.

When she got down to the kitchen, it was too tidy. The drawer for utensils was completely neat. Most cupboards she had seen had other things crammed in there other than spoons forks and knives. Most of them had slightly-too-big ladles, bent soup-can openers, and lots of things that didn’t fit. Then she did another experiment. She moved one of the spoons into the fork section, closed the door, and turned her back. The drawer slid open, the spoon was removed from the forks and was moved back with the other spoons and the drawer was closed. Then she did another experiment by moving one of the forks in with the knives; she closed the drawer and leaned against it. For a few minutes nothing happened. Then the whole counter started to shake faster and faster until she said “Okay, you win.” and released the drawer. The the drawer flew open, the fork jumped back in with the other forks, and then it slammed shut. Something was angry at her.

Then she went outside to the garden where she stayed for a while until she was sure the thing was not mad at her anymore. Then she went back inside to find Miss Level sitting at the kitchen table. And, with her was Miss Level. Two Miss Level’s were sitting at the kitchen table. The first Miss. Level said “Well, I thought it was a good time to tell you that I am one person with two bodies.” Miss Level then got into a lot of stories and one of them was about Tipsy and Topsy, the amazing mind-reading act. She would read her own mind, which everybody thought was amazing. Eventually, when all the stories had ended, she asked if Tiffany had anymore questions. Tiffany said “Who is the thing that keeps moving things about?” It turned out that it was a spirit who was absolutely nutty about keeping things tidy. Miss Level (both of them) called him Oswald because that is what they think of when they think of his personality.

I really liked the chapter because it answered a lot of the questions I had in my mind such as “Why do the Nac Mac Feegles not want the Hiver to get Tiffany?” and “What was the ‘two noses’ that was mentioned in the last chapter name?” I Tiffany feels quite good because she now knows answers and Tiffany really likes answers.