Greek and Roman Ruins

Living in Europe, I've thought about whether I would actually like to see Greek and Roman ruins. I finally concluded that I really don't think I would.

It's different from seeing crumbling buildings in modern-day cities in that it's not a significant part of people's lived experiences. It's not contributing to exploitation of people who live in them in the same way. People aren't living in poverty in the Coliseum of Rome or squatting in the palace of Knossos. It would be a lot more like seeing Palenque, as I did on an undergraduate trip to Mexico.

At the time, I loved Palenque, despite it's part in a colonially-based tourist system that is also exploitive. But at this point in my life, I just don't really want to see things in ruins. I'd much rather read a book about the engineering and functioning of the aqueducts (here's a nifty one with full text available via Hathi Trust! https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015032881370 ) than see them falling down and clogged with debris.

This is another way that thinking deeply about human geography in grad school fundamentally changed a number of things about myself. I don't want to see dead things anymore. I want to see life.

Living in Europe in the Time of Covid

At this point, it seems entirely possible, even likely, that Miriam's term as a post-doc will end and we'll leave the country before getting vaccinated. The Netherlands' Covid response has been one of the worst in Europe. Still far better than the US overall, though vaccination rollout is something of an exception to that. At least here, the percentage of conspiracy theorists who are far enough disconnected from reality to not want the vaccine is far lower, though there are still plenty of people who can't seem to figure out how masks work or whey they are important.

But we are worried about being on an 8 hour flight without being vaccinated.

Runner up to that worry is the annoyance that during what may well be the only extended span of time I'll live in Europe in my life, I have seen essentially *nothing*. I haven't looked into visiting [profile] cmcmk in England. No Eiffel Tower or Neuschwanstein Castle. No Classical Greek or Roman architecture. Not even the damn Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank house right here in Amsterdam.

I suppose that's life sometimes.
Tawas dog

Recursive Recyling?

Me: I took out all the recycling!
Danae: Yay!

--A little bit later
Danae: Where did you put the box for the recycling?
Me: Umm...I may have recycled it.
Us: Oops.

Netherlands Canals and Polders

I put this on Facebook a few hours ago. Since I did, 7 people have "wow" reacted which is a lot more interest than I usually get on posts! I hope that means people found it surprising and interesting!


The Netherlands is synonymous with canals, but I didn't have a good understanding of how and why before I started reading as I planned my move.

An elevation map of the area around Amsterdam

Here's an elevation map of the area around Amsterdam. Greater Amsterdam itself is mostly above sea level, but notice the huge swaths of darker blue representing land below sea level. That was basically all part of the ocean bay called the Zuiderzee (southern sea) before the Dutch decided they needed more places to grow things.

Engineers isolated large chunks of ocean by surrounding them with earthen dikes. Once that was done, they set up pumping stations, traditionally windmills since this began as early as 1533. Many of the classic Dutch windmills weren't milling grain: they were pumping water. Running through the mid-20th century, the later projects dried areas as large as 40,000 to 50,000 hectares (apx. 100,000 to 123,000 acres). The dewatering could take a year or more. Once it was done, the already low-lying ocean bottom dried out and compressed down, lowering the elevation further. The area of new land is called a polder.

As you see in this image, a great portion of the northwestern Netherlands is comprised of these polders. The reason canals seem to be *everywhere* is that the polders must have constant drainage toward a pumping station that lifts the collected water up to sea level to be returned to the North Sea: otherwise, they would all gradually flood up to ocean level again. In fact, during World War II, Nazi sabotage and attacks flooded some of the polders.

It's like the basement of a building. Often there's a sump to collect groundwater that would otherwise start filling the basement, and a pump to discharge it at ground level. Except on a rather larger scale.

Cat Drama

Our cat is the biggest drama queen of any pet I've had. He starts crying sometimes an hour or more before meal time. We have a timer on my phone for his meal times, and he knows this and knows when those times are. But he seems convinced if he sounds sad and hopeless enough, we'll feed him early. We were even tracking his nutrition data on a spreadsheet for a while to ensure his weight is constant and he eats enough. It is, and he does.

ALA Statement on Intellectual Freedom

Something I wrote in a class forum as we go through a week focusing on ethics.
On the ALA's professional ethics page that was in the readings for this week, the authors quote the 7th edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual in part as follows:

"Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate..."

This statement has been bothering me for a while now and I want to know if other folks are similarly troubled.

The ALA seems to be saying that intellectual freedom means I can believe whatever I want to believe, and I can express that belief in whatever way is appropriate to me. I agree with the first part of that. And even if I didn't, it wouldn't matter. I can't make anyone think or stop thinking something. But I don't know how that second part should be applied to the context of a library or similar. Patrons should *not* be able to express their beliefs in whatever way they feel is appropriate or we'll have an environment that encourages and protects hate speech. I don't think it is possible to create an environment that is welcoming to everyone, because the very presence of some groups is going to make other groups feel unwelcome.

The ethics question from the expanded list this week regarding white supremacists reserving library space is, of course, an example of this. Twenty years ago, I probably would have argued for their right to use the space just like any other group. At this point in my life and in history, as racists and bigots feel emboldened and normalized by a social atmosphere in which people are unwilling to call these kinds of cancerous growths on the body of culture what they are, I would not argue for that right. I would argue against it. I think the ALA should too.
Tawas dog

Fruit and Vegetable Crackers?

Sometimes Albert Heijn (the grocery store we get deliveries from) includes an opt-out freebie. This last delivery, it was these.

I tried them. I am grateful that, should I return to North America, I will be 4000 miles away from these abominations.

The Dutch are not above putting English on stuff to look cool. English here, though, is much more likely to make sense than the random English you see in Japan or China for instance.
Some of the Dutch I recognize:

Bosvruchten: forest fruits
Groente: vegetables

Sultana Crackers