Queensday in Alkmaar

by Rob on

Today Marion and I went for the celebration of the Queen’s birthday to the city of Alkmaar. I never have been before to Alkmaar (apart from a changing trains at the rail road station). Lots of people told me that Alkmaar was a very nice city and now I know they were right.

We did leave for Alkmaar some where right after noon. So yes, we did miss a part of the free market. But is was yesterday way too late that we went to bed to get real early out now.

The weather was beautiful. The sun was shinning very brightly and the temperature was very nice. I hope the weather will stay like this, because I am free from work the rest of the week.

Of course I took my new camera with me. It was the first time that I made real pictures with it. And I must admit that I really love this camera. And yes, the is still a lot I have to learn about this camera, but the most important I think I already have discovered as you just need them to make a picture at all. There is one thing I found out very quickly: I need to buy some bigger memories cards. With my old D40 I could store over 400 pictures on a 4 Gb memory card. My new D300s can only store 150 photo’s on such a card.

Anyway, back to our visit to the city of Alkmaar for Queen’s day. Marion and I made a long walk around the free market of Alkmaar. With the nice weather it was very enjoyable. It is nice to see how people try to sell their (old) things. And to be honest, 95% of it all is rubbish. But when you look carefully you can find some nice things here and there. Just as this person how had this pile of Suske & Wiske albums for sale. Poor Marion, but I went through all of them (so handy to have my book collection on my iPhone) and I managed to find two editions that I didn’t have yet.

Around the city there were all kind of performances. There were musicians, dancers and all kind of other artists.

When we wandered around Alkmaar we both noticed that Alkmaar is indeed a very nice place with lots of historical buildings. Alkmaar must really have a rich history and not only concerning the well-known cheese market. We decided to come back any time soon to have a closer look around. Maybe visit a museum or something like that. It was now way too busy to have a quiet look at things.

At the end of our visit to Alkmaar we ended up at a café called “De Bonte Bengel”. I really liked it there. The food was good, the people friendly and the prices acceptable. Again a place to visit again when it will be a little more quiet.

As said, Alkmaar is a place to return to…

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The Avengers

by Rob on

Yesterday Marion and I have been to “The Avengers”-movie. As always nowadays we went to the cinema in Beverwijk. That cinema is very good. So why go to Amsterdam or somewhere else when you can have all you are looking for so close by (10 to 15 minutes on a bicycle). One thing I really like is that they have a break during the movie. And that they serve Grolsch as one of their beers only makes all better :P.

We went on a bicycle to the cinema. That means I had to do the hard work, because Marion was sitting on the backseat. We had some good laughs on our way to Beverwijk.

And the movie? WOW, what a movie. I have seen some very good movies lately, but this one beats them all. Great action with superb special effects. And the humor in the movie is just awesome. What I really liked is that the characters stayed themselves as we know them from other movies (or comics). They were so recognizable. Very well done.

As a Marvell lover this movie was a pleasure to watch. I am pretty sure that I will buy the BluRay when it comes available.

After the movie we went to a bar (of which I forgot the name) to have something drink and some small snacks. It was very nice to set together and chat about everything and nothing. It is funny, but it seems we have always something to talk about. Almost never drops a silence in the conversations. I think that is a good sign. It means that we still have to tell each other a lot and that we are open for each others opinions. I think that we mostly don’t see each on throughout the week helps here a lot. It is one of the benefits of a LAT relation in my opinion.

The way back home was full of laughter again. Every bump in the road resulted in a lot of giggling behind me on the bicycle. And believe me, we needed much more than 15 minutes to get back home again and it was pretty late before we arrived home. But we had a great evening and that is what counts.

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by Rob on

And suddenly my loyal Nikon D40 is standing in one of the display-cases in my living room together with my old Petri and Olympus camera’s. It must be 5 years back that I bought that camera and I had great times making pictures with it.

Ermm.. wait! That camera more or less retired in a display-case? Does that mean I am stopping with photography as hobby? And with what for the heck camera is the picture above taking? It can’t be my iPhone (which fails bitterly with limited light).

No way, but from of today I can call myself the owner of a Nikon D300s…

So what happened? (And yes, the awful picture above is taking with my iPhone :P)

That I was looking for another camera body might be considered well-known and the D300s was something I set my mind on. So some days ago I noticed a message on the forum of Dutch Nikon Club where someone offered a D300s body. I was really interested and sent that person right away a mail. But later I got the message that the camera was already sold. That was a pity of course, but I didn’t give up and decided to look further around for a D300s body.

First place I looked was “De Marktplaats” (some kind of Dutch eBay). And there it was… right on top, an advertisement for a D300s in the price range I had in mind and there was even an extra battery to it. And the nicest thing was that the person who placed the advertisement lived very close to Heemskerk. After exchanging some mails we agreed on everything and begin of this afternoon we picked up the camera, which is very nice because you can test the camera before making the final decision.

But everything was more than okay with the D300s. All that belongs to the camera was there. Even the box it came in and the warranty papers were there. You could see easily that the camera was well-kept and maintained correctly. It was simple, the camera was a perfect condition. So the final decision was simple: I bought the camera.

For me this will mean that there is a lot to learn again. This camera is way more advanced as my old D40 and that means many more new things for me. But that is okay. I am very happy with my new camera…

But there is something more new…

The computer desk I had in my apartment was rather old. Of course better something than nothing, but it was really about time to have it replaced.

So last week I bought the nice computer desk, storage cub and a good chair. Now I have room enough for all the 3 monitors and still have room to work on other things. Talking about the monitors, people often ask why 3 monitors? Well, it is rather simple. The 24 inch screen in the middle is connected to the same computer as the one to right. When I, for example, process photo’s, I do that on the main screen in the middle. On the screen to right there I have all the tools that might be useful for the job I am doing. Or when I play a game on the middle screen I can use the screen to the right to look up things or keep an eye on my mail. And because the two monitors are connected to one computer you have full copy and paste functionality and that is very handy.
The monitor to the left (connected to another computer) I use almost only for chat programs as MSN, Skype and such. It is almost always running. And this because for when Marion is abroad for her work. This means that no matter what happens on the other computer, I will always notice when she comes online.

It was fun to put everything together. Specially because Marion helped me a lot. And don’t believe her when she claims that she is not handy.

Marion tried to hide all the cables and wires, but at a certain moment she started to understand why I said that it was close to impossible to hide all of them. There are simple way to many of them with all the hardware that I have standing there. And if you would succeed, the result would be that replacing a cable turns into a nightmare. In the end she gave up…. (and that means something!!!! :P).

It looks really good and fits completely to the other things that I have bought for my apartment. And yes, the photo frames on the desk with pictures of Marion should be replaced by black ones. That will look a lot better :-)

Good changes I would say….

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I already told it on Facebook: Last night while I could not sleep, I managed to get the old game “Ultima Ascension” running. It was something I already tried many times. But under Windows Vista and Windows 7 it seemed impossible. But somehow last night I must had a very bright moment that made me ponder about tweaking the graphic card in my computer. The graphic card in this computer is way overqualified for Ultima Ascension. So basically is what I did is making my graphic card as stupid as possible so it could communicate in a good way with the game. And that worked!

You may wonder why this Ultima Ascension (also known as Ultima IX) is so special to me. It was the very first Fantasy Roleplaying Adventure game that I bought. I was so amazed by this game. The graphics were awesome for that time. I loved to do the quests and wander around in that amazing fantasy world… I played it for many and many hours.

But on the back of the CD-box there is an advertisement for another Ultima game…

The advertisement was for Ultima Online. The word “Online” fascinated me very much. The beauty and excitement of Ultima Ascension online? And then this text on the advertisement: “Interact with thousands of players simultaneously in the breakthrough internet fantasy world”? So I ordered the Ultima Online CD and made so my first steps into the world of online gaming. I played Ultima Online for many years. It leaded me to other so-called MMORPG’s (Massive Multi Player Online Roleplaying Games). Some of these games I played for a long time as Lineage II and Everquest II (and the later I still play). Others just grabbed my attentions for a short time, such as City of Heros and Asheron’s Call. And to other I returned again after being away (Aion is an example of that).

I think you can say that Ultima Ascension stood at the beginning of it all…

I will replay Ultima Ascension. Not in hurry, but step by step, when I have time and my mood is after it. And there I got the idea to make a kind of journal about the journey that I will make through the game here on my blog. Some times there may entries following each other, at times there may be more time between them. But to understand it all correctly there is some background information needed.

The adventures of Ultima take place in a world far away. Maybe in another time or dimension, at least it is far, far away. Normally not reachable for mere humans.
The main character in all the games is a fictional male resident of Earth who is called upon by Lord British to protect and, later, Britannia from a number of dangers. Originally, the player character was referred to as The Stranger, but by the end of Ultima IV he becomes universally known as the Avatar.

Before the land of Britannia was formed by the great cataclysm, it was known as Sosaria — a large land, with many feuding city states. And Lord British is the ruler of Brittania.

Virtues are very important in the world of Brittania. They are way of life to find inner fulfillment and give the best to the people around you. At least, this is, when the virtues are well-meaning. Virtue can also be twisted into something different, to tighten the grip of tyranny. In the picture below an overview of the virtues:

There is many more to know about the world of Brittania. It is rather a complicated world, too complicated to explain here. Many things will show during the playing of the game and where needed I will add some explanations.

Time to prepare the first steps into the world of Brittania….. (in the next article about Ultima IX that is :P).

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by Rob on

I said it before and I will say it again: It is great to have a good cinema this close by. When there is new movie that I want to see, it is no problem at all. 10 to 15 minutes on my bicycle. And if the weather is really bad, the railroad station is there around the corner.

Yesterday I went there to see the movie Battleship.

The review I have read about this movie are not very positive and yes, in this case it means again I really liked the movie. It must be the genre that those reviewers don’t like.

Anyway, the story-line is simple: Boy falls in love with girl. Bad forces arise. Boy defeats bad forces, save the world and gets the girls. And no, there is nothing wrong with that story-line. Specially not when it all is placed in an scenery of wonderful graphics and special effects.

And special effects there are. Many and of perfect quality. Already one of the reason to go and see this movie. It shows clearly the people who made the special effects for the Transformer-movies are also behind this movie.
Of course the appearance of Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna (although you see here only military uniforms).
A movie without something laugh about is mostly (note the word “mostly”) for me a failed movie. But luckily between all the fighting and explosions there enough room for humor, which is very good in my opinion.

The movie is well worth to go and see in my opinion. But you have to like the genre…

And yes, if I really want to see a movie, I don’t mind to go alone. As many will know, Marion is not always around. And although she likes this kind of movies, she is not always in the mood to go to a cinema. Which is okay btw. But that means if I really want see a certain movie on “the big screen”, I have to go alone at time if no one else wants to come along. No problem at all. A bottle of beer, some popcorn and I will enjoy the movie.
And no, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like nice company when going to watch a movie!

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Vonder & Bloom

by Rob on

Yesterday was mostly a lousy day. It already started early in the morning when I wanted to go to my work and the train I had to take was standing with technical problems at the railroad station of Heemskerk and it was not planning to move at all. But by travelling by other railroad stations than normally I made in the end to Hoofddorp.

At work the same problems as almost the last two weeks kept me from doing my work in the way I want to do it. And that really makes me grumpy, because I like to do my work in a proper and satisfying way. I won’t go into details (this isn’t the place for that), but the result was that at the end of the working day my mood was extremely bad.

As Marion is this weekend with her friend Sanne, I decided to do some fun things myself as well. One of these things was going yesterday evening to a performance of Vonder and Bloom in the city of Almere (I read about it on their Facebook Wall).
But because of my bad mood I felt just like going home and jump in my bed or something like that. But luckily I called Marion on my iPhone (I needed to talk with someone about that what annoyed me so much) and she convinced me to go the performance of Vonder and Bloom anyway. It would help me to relax and she was right (as so often).

So who are these Vonder and Bloom anyway? Vonder and Bloom are two attractive ladies from Amsterdam and who make great music. “Make great music” as in writing the music and lyrics, but also as in playing and singing them.
A bit more then a year ago, I was travelling home from work. And as it happens at times, the train I was on was late and because of that I missed the train I needed to catch. So I walked a bit around on Schiphol, when I suddenly heard nice sounding music. I went to look and there two ladies where making some really great music. As you may have guessed: Vonder and Bloom!

After that day I saw them play more often at Schiphol. And I have to admit that I missed trains on purpose at times. I really enjoyed listening to their songs.

I bought their album through iTunes for my iPod. To be honest, Marion and I bought their album 3 times :P. I bought it for my iPod. Marion also bought it for her iPod (which made a mark at Hawaii on the world map they had at Schiphol to see where their music all was taken along to)…. And when I saw later at Schiphol that also sold their CD there, I wondered if they were willing to sign and they were. So there, the third time. The signed CD is still standing in my living room in good company of signed CD’s by Ellen ten Damme, Candy Dulfer, Katie Melua, Tony Springer (guitarist of Toto) and more.

I have to be honest, the CD of Vonder and Bloom moved by now to the second position of the CD’s in the picture above, but because of the picture they moved in front again :-).

So yesterday they were with their “Tiny Little Theatre Tour” in the city of Almere at “De Nieuwe Bibliotheek”. A small nice theatre hall. As said already so many times before, I prefer these above those big massive halls.

The show was great. The two ladies played not only songs from their CD “Simple Peace of Mind” (the one we “own” three times), but also songs from the new CD they are working on. And yes, I liked what I heard. So when the new single will be released in three weeks I will buy it (and most likely Marion will too). And the same can be said for when the new CD will released.

Anyway, it was great to see them live again and hear them sing their wonderful ballads again. Very nice were their little talks between the songs, explaining how the two of them met and started to play together and the things they saw through together at the different tours they did.
The atmosphere was very good and I must be very wrong if not everyone enjoyed the performance very much. And as always, time flies when you are enjoying yourself. And so it went for the performance of Vonder and Bloom.

After the performance I felt a lot better again. My bad mood was gone. I really enjoyed the evening and was ready to have a good weekend. Thanks to Vonder & Bloom (and Marion’s advice to go anyway to their performance). See what good music can do for you!

And oh, I read on their Facebook Wall that they will come to Beverwijk (which is really just around the corner for me). Okay, it will be in a year… but by then they will have released the new CD. Let’s see if we can get that one signed as well :-).

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Uriah Heep

by Rob on

Yesterday I have been to another awesome concert… Uriah Heep. And this all unexpected. So what happened?

Simon, a colleague of mine, won two free tickets for this concert. But sadly he could not make it to the concert. So he gave the tickets to another colleague who is really interested in good music. Hans, the colleague who got tickets from Simon, remembered that we talked about Uriah Heep and that I really liked them. And so he asked me if wanted to come along. And of course I accepted!

The concert was at the “Patronaat” in the city of Haarlem. The “Patronaat” is a location that reminds me a lot of the old Metropool (Hengelo). The halls not too big (300 people at most I think) and a very good acoustic.
The concert was the try-out of the Dutch/European tour of Uriah Heep. So imagine, a band that normally plays for 30.000 people or more, I saw playing for around 300 people. Pretty cool I would say.

The concert was awesome. I loved it that they played also some of their older songs as “Travelling in time”, “Sunrise” and “Tales”. And I am very happy that they played also “Lady in Black”, which is a very meaningful song for me (except the last few lines not completely, but who cares…:) ).
As they played, time passed very fast. And before I realized they were already playing their bonus. Two songs… “Overload” and of course their so well known “Easy living”.

Remember that these are not the youngest anymore, but they still play with passion and you can see that they still love to make music. They are a true example of people who live for there music. And I am very happy that I could be there at one of their concerts. Really I am!

Oh. And of course I got the T-shirt. One of the album “Demons and Wizards”. As far as I can remember the first vinyl record that I owned of Uriah Heep. And we are talking some time ago here. “Demons and Wizards” was published in 1972. Same year as “The Magician’s Birthday. (I own of both the original version). Much later I bought these two albums (among others) through iTunes for my iPod.

As said, what a wonderful night it was!

Lady in Black

She came to me one morning
One lonely Sunday morning
Her long hair flowing
In the midwinter wind
I know not how she found me
For in darkness I was walking
And destruction lay around me
From a fight I could not win

She asked me name my foe then
I said the need within some men
To fight and kill their brothers
Without thought of love or God
And I begged her give me horses
To trample down my enemy
So eager was my passion
To devour this waste of life

But she would not think of battle that
REDUCES men to animals
So easy to begin
And then impossible to end
For she, the mother of all men
had counselled me so wisely then
I feared to walk alone again
And asked if she would stay

Oh lady lend your hand I cried
And let me rest here at your side
Have faith and trust
In me she said
And filled my heart with life
There is no strength in numbers
Have no such misconception
But when you need me
Be assured I won’t be far away

Thus having spoke she turned away
And though I found no words to say
I stood and watched until I saw
Her black form disappear
My labor is no easier
But now I know I’m not alone
I find new heart each time
I think upon that windy day
And if one day she comes to you
Drink deeply from her words so wise
Take courage from her
As your prize
And say hello for me

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Herbs on the balcony

by Rob on

As the last two years I also want this year to grow herbs that I can use with my recipes. I already bought last Sunday a nice planter. Today I bought the first herbs: Mint [Dutch: Munt], parsley [Dutch: Peterselie], chive [Dutch: Bieslook] and coriander [Dutch: Koriander]. They may now first grow stronger before I start using them. Not much can beat fresh herbs.

What else I would love to have in the planter are basil [Dutch: Basilicum] and thyme [Dutch: Tijm]. Should not be very hard to get those as well.

A little frost will not be a problem, but I hope we will get no real strong frost again. Anyway, it feels good to be working on my balcony again *SMILE*

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Spiced rolled roast

by Rob on

Today I made not a too big thing of dinner. Simple but good it had to be.

So I baked a rolled roast (pork) [Dutch: Varkens rollade]….

I rubbed on the rolled roast some salt and pepper. For 5 minutes I baked the rolled roast in hot butter (a lot, half a package). I added ginger, nutmeg, foeli, laurel and cardamom to give the rolled roast a nice spiced taste.
After that I placed the rolled roast (in the gravy it was baked in) for 1 hour in the oven on the temperature of 120 degrees. Every 15 minutes pouring the gravy over the rolled roast, so it would not become to dry).

As vegetables I cooked snow peas [Dutch: Peultjes] with carrots. Added a little parsley to it.

To make it complete a nice Bastmati rice with fried mushrooms with a little ketjap asin.

It all rolled roast tasted extreme well. With the three of us, we finished the complete rolled roast.

Sanne will leave in a little. She has obligations tomorrow at home. It was a very nice weekend that I think we all enjoyed a lot. Marion will leave tomorrow to Schiphol to catch a plane to France again (I believe). So tonight we will watch a movie and make it a cozy evening. Tomorrow work calls again…

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Deer steak with red wine sauce

by Rob on

Yesterday I made for Sanne, Marion and me deer steak with red win sauce. Served chicory with cheese and baked potatoes with bacon, union and egg.

At first I rubbed in the steaks with some salt (no pepper yet). Baked them first in olive oil so all sides were friend. After that I added butter and baked them for 4 minutes more, which is nice to have them medium (luckily all wanted them medium done). Added some salt and pepper. At last I wrapped them in aluminum foil and let them rest for about 7 or 8 minutes.

For the red wine sauce I cut 2 shallots in very small pieces and fried them in butter. Mixed some garlic, thyme and laurel to it. Add about 4 dl beef fond and 4 dl red wine (never use expensive wine for sauces!). Kook it for 15 to 20 minutes on a medium fire. The sauce will get thicker. Sieve it all, so only the liquid part is left.
Bring it all to a cooking temperature again. Add salt and pepper. Take the pan from the fire and mix slowly 100 gr dairy butter (Dutch: “Roombotter”) through it and the sauce is ready. Keep the sauce au bain marie on temperature.

I cleaned the chicory. Cooked it with some salt. Placed the chicory in a baking dish and covered it with grated cheese (“Beemsterkaas”). In a oven with a temperature of 180 degrees until the cheese was nicely melted.

Sliced some cooked potatoes. Fried some bacon and union is olive oil. Added the potatoes and when the potatoes were nicely baked I mixed an egg through it. Left for a few minutes on the fire (for the egg).

The tricky part was to get the steaks done in the right way. Specially because I had to make them for 3 persons. But it all worked out quite well and I was satisfied with the result. It tasted very nice. Sanne and Marion both told that they liked it also. And I believe them, because everything was gone in no time :P

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