Mailbox versus Inbox by Gmail

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When Google launched Inbox by Gmail last week, they released a video for it. In it, “your friends at Gmail” claim they “love” e-mail. They show happy people using their phones and laptops, presumably e-mailing. But let’s face it, hardly anyone smiles when checking their inbox. I have some friends I e-mail with, but most of my personal inbox is filled with newsletters that I can’t really cancel because once in a blue moon they DO seem relevant (but often they’re not). And then there are the order and sign-up confirmations, social notifications and Google Alerts I’ve signed up for. And the personal messages I do get, I usually answer pretty quickly. They’re usually not the ones that get stuck in my inbox.

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I know we are supposed to hate Amsterdam, but…

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Blog / Music

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I have a love/hate relationship with Amsterdam. Because to be honest, I’ve been in very few places in Amsterdam where I felt at home. I love staying there, going to museums, gigs and plays, but I’ve not fallen in love with it as I have with some other cities (as I have explained here)… You can do so much fun and amazing stuff there, but I have yet to find evidence that I could make it my home. Of course, the only way to be sure is to actually try. But yeah, for now, I don’t mind not living there.

Still, Amsterdam SHOULD have something. After all, it’s the biggest city in The Netherlands. And it captivates the minds of hundreds of artists throughout history. For example, there’s this beautiful song by Gregory Alan Isakov. It has a beautiful video too with Dutch canals and windmills in paper-form, so I recommend you watch and listen to this several times:

Another great song about Amsterdam is Cayman Islands by Kings of Convenience, although you’d think it’s about the islands in the title, in fact the title refers to a bearded man in the song who looks as if he has come all the way from the Cayman Islands.

I know we’re supposed to hate Amsterdam, but… I said to friend while sending her the first song… Because the songs are both beautiful. In fact, they make me question whether I’ve just been unlucky with my experiences in the Dutch capital (and too influenced by the places I grew up and the way they view Amsterdam). It’s not that I never had a fun time there, quite the opposite. I want to give the city a fair chance at winning me over, I guess. Right now, Amsterdam is just a city I’ve not fallen in love with yet. Perhaps a prolonged stay will change that. Or maybe I should idealize it in a song?

Month of Music Madness

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Blog / Music

I’ve dubbed October as my Month of Music Madness. But it got off to a rocky start. In hindsight, starting your October Music Month on 29 September is cheating anyway, but I was so excited about First Aid Kit that I ignored my body protesting for most of the night. I had feeling less than well since the weekend before and despite a very busy Monday and Tuesday I tried to do it all anyway. I dragged myself to the First Aid Kit gig, hoping that the music would magically (madly) make me feel better. It did for a while – the gig was really excellent and I don’t regret going to it, but I had to leave before the encore to drag myself home, to a bed, and get a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t sure whether it was stress, a cold or something else but it didn’t feel good and I had resigned myself to calling in sick for work the next day.

Only, I felt better the next day and I saw out the week despite the initial symptoms of just feeling crappy evolving into a proper cold, which I’m nursing as we speak, over one week later. I’m hoping it will go away soon and I’ve been on a strict regime of early nights and mostly decent food hoping I’m recovered before the next stretch kicks off…

Continue reading at Ether Site (even though this technically isn’t a Turin Brakes blog)…

About loving a city, finding a home

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For a long time, London has been my favourite city. I can’t really explain why. And that made me wonder whether I just like it because I’ve been there many times and thus had a chance to fall in love with it, or whether I love it for something in it.

It’s true, I have never been to supposedly beautiful cities like Valencia, Barcelona, Roma, Madrid and various other Southern-European towns. I’ve never been to Istanbul, to Vienna or to Marseille and I last visited Paris when I was just a little too old to still be collecting all the signatures from the Disney characters in the amusement park next door. And I’ve never even left Europe, though I visited the relative outskirts of Reykjavik and Rhodos (which both aren’t really big cities, but yeah, you catch my drift).

I’ve also been to cities like Amsterdam (living in The Netherlands, that makes sense), Prague, Berlin, Porto, Verona and Glasgow. And many more… And all those cities have their ‘beautiful parts of town’. But that’s not the point. Because all these cities also have ugly parts. And London definitely has those. I’ve been in truly disgusting back alleys in cities in Belgium, dodgy streets in Berlin. While a city can be aesthetically pleasing, I wouldn’t say that’s any more important than the people living in it. If a town is beautiful but dead, you can still live a sorry life there…

Some people love Paris. I might love Paris. I definitely love the idea of Paris. The idea that this city full of little streets and old buildings, where romance itself is the most prominent habitant… But Paris is no more Midnight in Paris than any other city really. I recently walked down the riverside of Nijmegen with the sun going down and it was absolutely perfect. Absolutely perfect.

What matters is not just whether a city has a rich cultural life, or must-visit museums or nice restaurants. It’s not even the people, though knowing you have great friends nearby can be the greatest feeling in the world. It’s that thing about the sum being greater than its parts. For example I love Nijmegen too and it’s way smaller than London. Despite living in Nijmegen for many years, I feel I haven’t even tried half of the things that city has to offer me.

I guess I can fall in love with a place if it feels like home. It doesn’t have to be home, but it has to be a place that I could consider home. Because it’s making me feel safe yet challenged. Surroundings to thrive, so to speak. Not every city gives me this feeling anymore. But London does. And some other cities do too. Berlin did. Amsterdam didn’t. Gent did. Reykjavik didn’t. Verona did. Venice didn’t. I loved those cities, but I didn’t fall in love with them. And perhaps I can grow to love them, like I did with Nijmegen, but for now it’s simply not the same.

Still, Nijmegen is my home, and wherever my future will take me – Nijmegen, Amsterdam or elsewhere. I hope the feeling of coming home will always be there where I live.

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Writing on Medium

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This weekend I wrote my first article on Medium. Well, I say article, it’s more like an open question and some thoughts gathered in a couple of paragraphs. Still, I’ll be writing on there every now and again on topics that I’m involved with on a professional level… And perhaps some personal interests as well. Just to see whether I can reach a bigger audience that way… And because I quite like the writing editor on there.

Check out my first article here.


Live each day as if the next one is going to be pretty ordinary

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Yea, yea, people say “live each day like it’s your last”. But I can’t. Maybe I’m too uptight, maybe I’m too responsible, I just can’t. If I’m going to truly live each day like it’s my last, I would do some pretty irreversible damage to my life. And I don’t even think my life is bad (my job makes me happy sometimes and I have some truly great friends). If today, however, was my last day, I’d take up most of my savings – which isn’t that much – and spend it all with those great friends on a day and night to remember (which I then won’t remember because, you know, it was my last day).

Is it a bad thing that I don’t live that way? No, because everything in the society I’m currently firmly rooted in is designed to make us live like there are still MANY days to come. We work for salary and aren’t paid at the end of each day, but at the end of each month. We pay rent/mortgages per month, we pay taxes per year. And if we’re truly going to make process as a society we’re probably going to have think bigger than the next day. And this required, I guess, for individuals to think like that too.

And yes… Sometimes that frustrates me. I guess our lives would be “richer” if we lived completely in the moment, taking each moment at face value. I can understand being mind-full and worry-free is much more satisfying than worrying you have to do “this and this and this”. But that’s not the reality for most people I know. Most people I know are right now building a career or private life like they were told to do when they were growing up. And some are doing something completely different – and that’s okay too. But nobody’s living like each day is their last.

In fact, a lot of people I know have just started their working life and feel like it’s all planned out. From here on out it’s a straight road towards career, family and retirement (if ever…). And I guess that’s not good either. Especially if you let the stress and responsibilities that come with that take over. I’ve had that, I know at least two friends who’ve had that. And I guess most of us have that at times. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether you’re able or need to buy a bigger/smaller house, I agree that much with living life like today’s your last day… But it’s unrealistic to say that these things don’t matter. Not unless you live like a true recluse in the middle of nowhere. When surviving is your daily life THAT’s when you live like it’s your last.

It may not be inspiring but the truth, I feel, is somewhere in the middle. Make the most of life, but if everything goes to plan there will be a tomorrow where you want to get a decent return on your “investments” (meaning friendships, jobs, hobbies and things like that – not so much financial ones). So make sure you can get those as well.

So what about the moments when friends urge you to “live a little”? YES! it’s good to let go and live a little. Choose the moments to go all-in and also the moments to opt-out. If you want it all, you’ll either end up tired and bitter or dead. I believe that life gets better if you do things the right way. So whenever friends tell me to live a little… I live a little. I live as if the next couple of days are pretty ordinary. They might not be. They might be awesome as well. But I don’t get disappointed if they’re not and I’m able to handle them if they are. They don’t need to be a recovery period, nor do they have to be a series of ultimate highs that come days too soon. And depending on the state of me I can still have a pretty good time.

In my life I value – outside of my personal well-being – friendship, music, family and work. After years of trying too hard to achieve everything I’m now engineering my life around those values. So yes I might be uptight and stressed out about tomorrow and next week and next year. That’s the way I roll. But when I realise that those four values are still present in my life, in the end, it feels like my life is getting better. And it only gets better.