Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Las Vegas

The Vegas trip was a very nice and looked forward to break. Since it was my first trip to Vegas I didn't fully know what to expect. Everybody's seen the Strip on TV, everybody's aware of its reputation, but that is always different then your own experience.

The trip was three weeks ago and I must say I kinda like the town. Yes, it's full of glitter and glamour, dazzeling displays of neon and other lights, rows and rows of Casinos and advertisements for whatever you can think of. Pure capatalism. Is that a bad thing? Not always. It seems to work pretty good for Vegas. Of course there are the run-down areas of the town, but overall it has a pretty low crime-rate (for a city of nearly two million people). It is also one of the fastest growing cities in the States.

But what everyone knows best about Vegas is still the Strip (and maybe downtown Vegas - Fremont Street). That was the part of Vegas we visited. We arrived at the airport only a few minutes late. We got a cab - number 10, which number will make an appearance a little later on in the blog - to the Luxor Hotel and Casino. Most hotels in Vegas have a theme, the Luxor of course being an Egyptian theme. The main building is shaped as a pyramid with a big Sphinx in front of it. After check-in we hit the casino floor and one of my co-workers after losing a bit in black-jack decided to play some roulette. He played one hand, a bet of $10 and placed it on ... number 10. Guess what... it came back as number 10!! A nice $175 pay-out. Thanks to the cabbie.

For the rest of the trip we mostly played at the Flamingo opposite Caesars Palace. I didn't gamble, but took a nice number of photos along the way. They are posted on the album site.

What impressed me most about Vegas? I guess it was the overwhelming display of lights on the Strip. I liked the themes of the buildings. Pretty diverse, but of course pretty fake as well. I've never seen crystal clear azure blue watet flowing in the canals of Venice...;-) We also went to see a Cirque du Soleil-show in New York, New York; Zumanity. A combo of a normal Cirque-show with a cabarat-theme. It was an 18+ show, but it was very nicely done. Most impressive was the water-sequence with two female acrobats in a half-bowl. Unbelievable how flexible they are... That can't be good for their bodies in the long run, but it does make for one pretty amazing act. However, you might be better off paying a little more and go see the show 'O' in the Mirage. It seems to be the better show overall. I very much liked the way they kept the downtown area. Vegas is not really known for preserving anything for the sake of its history, so it's nice to see that they 'upgraded' the Fremont-street area and covered it with a big LED-covered (for lack of a better word)'cover'. Every hour they will have a free audio and visual display on the roof of the street. Very much worth the cab-ride from the Strip.

Also the decadence.... It's amazing. Everything is over-the-top. From the buildings, both outside as insid to the use of water and electricity, it is just staggering. Being in the middle of a drought period you could clearly see the low water levels in Lake Powell and the other basins. I'm curious as to how they are going to solve the short-supply of resources in the near future. Being in the middle of the desert does mean that you have to somehow transport the resources to Vegas. With the demand for both water and electricty rising and the supply dwindeling that might be the biggest challenge Vegas will encouter in the next two decades. However, since numerous challenges have been overcome in the past to even create Vegas, I'm sure they will think of a way to keep it where it is and as it is.

Viva Las Vegas!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Longing for Vegas

With only 3 working days left before we fly to Vegas, everybody is feeling the urge to leave. Its gonna be a well-deserved break for most of us and nice change from every day life. Oh yeah, it is a guys-only trip (he, we're going to Vegas...come on...)

Can't wait!!!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ohio State game on DVD

For those interested I have the Ohio State game available on DVD. It's recorded from the ESPN Classic re-broadcast in 4:3 format (non-HD). Let me know if you like a copy. Please note that this is for personal use only!!

French Riots

With the riots in France over the last couple of weeks it was made painfully obvious that the current ways the West handles its integration of immigrants isn't working. We are saying we welcome them and that we give them all the same opportunities as the rest of the nation, but the reality is that we much rather ignore them and have them live together in run-down parts of towns and nicely separated from the rest. I think it was about 15 years ago that a Dutch comedian had a bit about a white South African visiting the West and saying that the apparent separation resembled the apartheid strategy back in the days. She took a lot of heat for that bit, but after a number of years it appears she was right. We let them in and then leave them to themselves. Without any help a vast majority of immigrants will remain in the lowest regions of society and in the highest regions of crime and violence.

Whenever there is a violent outbreak sparked by an apparent small act, the reality is that the real reason is due to the lack of opportunities for those groups. The extreme right always tries to capatalize on those periods of unrest by showing off the result as proof that immigrants are violent. The real cause remains suspisiously under-rated.

We now have a number of examples in the last couple years. In the US we had the Rodney King riots, in Paris and the rest of France it was a nation-wide spree of unrest, in Holland it was after the assasination of Pim Fortyn and quite frankly with the 4 million Turks in Germany I'm predicting a similar outcry somewhere in the next few years, maybe even preceded by the former Eastern Germans.

We need to get those people more involved in our society, raise there wealth-level, lower crime and offer them better oppertunities to integrate in our Western societies. If we don't do that and only react on the symptoms we will never solve the real issue.

Are you ready for some Football?!?!

The last couple weekends were big football weekends here in the US. Last weekend it was the time for the biggest rivalry in US sports, the Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines. It truely is one of (if not the) biggest sporting events here in the Mid-west. It has been going on for over a 100 years. This year the game was in Ann Arbor, MI with an attendance of over 110.000 people. People from Europe will have to read that number twice since there isn't even a stadium big enough to house that many people... The good thing was that the Buckeyes won it this year. That made Ohio State bowl-eligable as an at-large team since Penn State won the Big Ten conference this year.

After the Ohio State win, the Cleveland Browns won vs. the Dolphins, the Cavs won, so it was a good Thanksgiving weekend sports-wise. The other noticeble game was the Indianapolis Colts vs. the Cinncinati Bengals. A score of 35-20 at halftime is unbelieveble. The Colts hung un to win it 45-37. It triggered a quote from one of the ESPN announcers: '..the first one to 50 wins..'. It sure looked like it. Fun to watch, but it must have been a horrible night for the defensive coordinators.

This weekend was the Canadian version of the Super Bowl, the 'Grey Cup' as the championship game of the CFL. This year it was in Vancouver featuring the Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouttes. Edmonton won it after a thrilling game that had to be decided in over-time. To be honest to all friends north of the border, it would be more accurate to call the Super Bowl the US version of the Grey Cup since it was being held for the 93th time... This years Super Bowl will only be number 40.

Just before the Grey Cup I was able to watch the Seatlle Seahawks battle the NY Giants. It was memorable since NY had 11 false starts (5 in one drive...) and the 3 missed field goals by NY. Seattle capitalized on those errors and was able to win it in OT by a well-aimed field goal.

At the moment of writing this I'm watching the final game of these two weekends, The Colts vs. the Steelers. At the start of the 4th quarter it looks like the Colts will win number 11 as well and stay undefeated this year.

My prediction for Super Bowl 40: Colts vs. the ... (you fill in your favorite) with a win for the Colts. Easy choice maybe, but I think it is the right one...

Show to see: MI-5 (in the UK: Spooks)

If you have a decent cable provider that carries A&E you can see an excellent BBC show called MI-5. In the UK it is named Spooks. Its about an anti-terrorist team inside the English agency MI-5. The action is high-paced, the quality is - as ususal for a BBC show - excellent and due to the single-epsiode cases with a couple of season-long story-lines it is easy to follow, but in my opinion better than FOX's '24' which features a similar counter-terrorist unit as the main characters.

If you don't have A&E there is an ever better way of watching the show; on DVD. The main advantage is (short of the absence of commercials) that it features the entire 60 minutes per episode and not the abreviated 43mins episodes aired in the US in order to fit it in the usual 1-hour time-slot. The first two seasons are available for rent on Netflix or for purchase on the regular websites (Amazon, B&N, etc..) If you have the luxery of owning a Region-code free DVD player you can already buy the third season of MI-5 / Spooks on DVD from Amazon UK for about $20 less than the pre-order price (released in the US on Jan 30, 2006).

Gotta love the world-wide part of the web...

Rob Thomas concert

Last friday I went to a Rob Thomas concert at the Palace Theather here in Cleveland. Short version: best concert I've seen as far as I can remember. Thight show, stunning performance from Rob Thomas and a good support act (Anna Nalick).

Anna kicked off the show and lived up to my expectations as a good live act. I first heared of her on a radio interview during my drive to work and read a good review of her album in Rolling Stone before I picked it up back in April. She was relaxed (maybe a bit too much) but showed off her quality as a singer-songwriter. Yep, she wrote all lyrics and music on her album (Wreck of the Day) herself.

After Anna it was time for Rob Thomas. When the curtains rose, so did the crowd noise. The show was on ... and it never let up. Good mix of his own songs, some of the Matchbox 20 songs and a few covers thrown in to top it all off. During the unplugged part of the show he showed off his quality as a musician and kept the audience very well entertained. One thing I was suprised about was the bass coming out of speakers. Not deafening, but so low it litteraly rolled through the theater down to my guts. Amazing!!

After a show of about 2 hours (Springsteen-territory) the shows finale was the big hit 'This is how a heart breaks' and it was a perfect ending to a perfect concert. If Rob Thomas is coming to your town I highly recommend you go see it. He may not have the worlds greatest singing voice, but - due to his great songwriting, professionalism and sheer quality - that goes completey unnoticed.

All kinds of things to come

Man, did I ever suffer from writers block, lazyness or anything else that kept me from updating my blog. It kinda defeats having one almost. Ah well, it is what it is. Stay tuned since a few updates are coming...

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Just found an interesting little add-on to make your Blog life a little easier. It’s called ‘Blogger-for-Word’. It lets you upload a word-document to your blog with the click of a mouse. The main advantage is the availability of a spell-checker. Besides me, God only knows how may re-posts I’ve done after I found a few spelling-errors. Give it a go, I like it and I used it to upload this post.

The DutchCanuck Hotel

I’ve done a lot of traveling over the last few years, for business as well as personal. If you fly a lot there is this interesting thing called ‘Airmiles’. Over the years I flew mostly with the airlines in the Skyteam Alliance, thus I was able to collect airmiles on carriers like Continental, Delta, NorthWest, Air France and also KLM. Interesting thing is that as a Dutch native I’ve flown with all the mentioned airlines, except KLM. Which is the Royal Dutch Airlines. The reason for it was however a true Dutch one; they are usually a bit more expensive. Still a cloggie at hart…

Back to the Airmiles. Since I was able to collect miles on all those carriers and combine them all I had collected well over a 100.000 airmiles. For a free round-trip in the US and Canada you only need 25.000 and you can find a round-trip to Europe for about 50.000 miles. Since I’ve been over to the Netherlands quite frequently in the last two years I was looking for a good reason to spent some of those miles. Well, I found one: I’m having my parents come over in October soley on airmiles. Lordwilling, they should arrive on October 5, stay for a forth night and go back to the Netherlands on October 19.

I’m planning on showing them the great city of Cleveland (some will disagree on the ‘great city’-part..) where I set up camp a little over two years ago. I’ve come to learn quite a bit about the city and hope to explore some more before they get here. Unfortunately I won’t be able to take the entire period off work, but I’m sure they want some time for themselves as well to visit a few sights on their own.

With them coming over in October, and one of my best friends Pascal and his wife Climmy coming in two weeks, coupled with a vist of my European collegue and friend Mat I’m glad to play the role of host for a change after all my travels. Since ‘The DutchCanuck Hotel’ still has quite some openings, I’m inviting all my friends and family from all over Gods creation to come over to Cleveland!

You are al(l)(ways) more then welcome…

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sold my apartment in Belgium

Some big news: I just sold my apartment in Gellik, Belgium. I kept it when I moved to the States two years ago since my assignment here was initially only for two years and if it ended like that I still wanted to have my house there. However, now that I'm staying in the US and the fact that the office in downtown Maastricht is closed as well, there was no real reason for me to keep the apartment.

The last two years it was rented out to a young couple (he was Dutch, she was Belgian) and after they moved out in April it was sitting there empty. This last week there was a serious potential buyer and I was able to sell it.

Thanks Dad for willing to act as the executor on my behalf, I'll make it up to you when you and mom are coming over in October.

St. Pierre et Miquelon

I was and still am a bit of a map-nut. I somehow like maps, but more importantly I like to find out about certain places on a map. Sometimes big (like Canada), sometimes small like the small island group of 'St. Pierre et Miquelon' a few miles off the southern coast of Newfoundland. The interesting part is that these islands are the sole remnents of the once vast French territories in North America.

St. Pierre et Miquelon is now an oversees department of the French Republic after it exchanged hands a few times in the 19th century between the French and the British. It's an eclectic mix of French and Gaelic influences. The geography resembles that of Bretagne in France and that is where most of the people on the islands can trace their heritage to.

You can only access it by boat from Fortune, Nfld or by air with Air St Pierre. This remoteness catagorizes the islands as a location 'off-the-beaten-path'. You need to go a bit out of your way to get there. That makes it all the more interesting for the exploring traveller.

Below are a few links for more info on these French North American Islands...
- - listen to the music on this site....

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The London attacks

Over the last month London, UK got hit by various terrorist attacks. The first one being the hardest hit with over 50 people needlessly dying in horrific circumstances. A week or two later London got his again, this time the police was prepared and was able to prevent another catastrophy.

The worrysome tactic of the attacks in London is that the recurrance of the attacks was really designed to spread fear more than to go for high casulty numbers. This has the potential of becoming a trend since a string of smaller attacks gives a bigger sence of insecurity than the 9/11 and that insecurity seems to be the goal of the terrorists. In New York the terrorists delivered a major blow, but due to the sheer size of the attack the New Yorkers came more together, a result the terrorrists did not expect. The turn towards the string of smaller attacks is therefore all the more worrysome.

I'm very glad to see that the police in the UK made great strides in capturing the guys (somehow they are guys 95% of the time...) who carried out the 2nd wave of attacks. They even managed to stop a 3rd wave.

That, and the announcement of the IRA that they will now only persue their matter through politics, is the good news that hopefully will get the people of London and the rest of the UK to come together as well and regain their sense of security.

Now, if we can only find a proper way to stop the root-cause of it all...

Company Picknick @ Geauga Lake

This year on Aug 6 our company picknick was held at Geauga Lake. The weather was beautiful and nothing seemed to prevent it from being a great success. That was untill a park employee decided to carry hydrochloric acid through the park. Nothing wrong with that, except that the container was leaking. This lead to a good part of the park being closed, a parking lot closed, rescue crews on the scene and long traffic jams to the park. Obviously the story made the press and news shows (WKYC Ch.3 News).

The good news was that only 1 ride was closed, but going from one part of the park to the next required a detour outside the park. Turned-out to be nothing more than an inconvenience and the picknick/lunch was a success. We had a good turn-out and after lunch me and Ben took in some of the rides.

There was one that was kinda funky; X-flight. You get in, you are lowered onto your back and the ride goes out head-first going up to the highest point. Than as it accellerates you are turned back onto your stomach and ride starts... Wow!! Hang on!! That was one heck of good ride, but you need to have the stomach for it. This one is not for the faint-of-heart!!

All-in-all a good day and because I parked at the shopping center across from the parking lot on Hgw 43 it was - in good Dutch fashion - a very cheap day as well.

Killbear Provincial Park, ON

After months of planning the time was there to go meet-up with my cousin Chad and our buddy Rob. Originally we had a few more friends coming, but eventough planning ahead seemed to work there are always those last-minute scheduling conflicts that pop-up. No biggie. On Thurdsay-afternoon I left Cleveland at about 4.15pm and after a quick and easy drive I was in Brampton a little after 8.30pm. I made such good time that I had to wait before Chad, his lovely wife Lisa and Rob showed up. Gave me an oppertunity to doze-off a bit. We started sorting out the camping stuff, did the groceries pre-loaded the cars with everything but the coolers.

The next morning we made a last-minute stop at the Pro Bass Shop before driving north towards Barrie. A fuel and ATM stop later we continued towards Killbear Provincial Park. Very nice drive after Barrie to end-up at a beautiful park. You really get the 'up north' feeling eventhough you only barely left Southern Ontario.

We registered at the park and checked out our campsite. At least Chad and I did, somewhere between the park entrance and the site we managed to loose Rob... Since cellphone coverage is spotty at best it took us some time to hook-up. It turned out okay since the first time we checked the campsite the previous guest were still pakcing up and it was nice and empty now with the guys from the park cleaning it up for us.

Next item: pitching tents. I had my light-weight tent with me and got everything setup in under 5 minutes. Rob had his done shortly after before we both helped out Chad setting up his 'Palace'. Jeez, that thing was big. After that it was time for the tarp and with finished we had our home for the next few days ready..... Beach time!!

We didn't actually go to beach, but rather to the Cliffs. It's one of the most popular spots in the parks with various cliffs you can use to jump off into Geogrian Bay (off Lake Huron). They vary from 10 to 45ft in height and all kinds of people where doing lots of jumping. You saw young first-timers, experienced 'thrill seekers' and the slightly older crowd (everything over 25 to 75). I made a few jumps, but Chad found his inner child and must have made 10 or more jumps. The water was nice and clear. Althought the latter part was a bit weird since you could see the bottom, but it was soo deep you'll never hit it. Just doesn't look like that if you look down from the top of that cliff...

The first night at the campfire. Well, like kids in the candy store. The beer came out followed by the Captain Morgan which found its way plentifully into the cans of Coke and Lime. We had a blast. All of us needed this R&R for various reasons and it was much appreciated.

We did some fishing on this trip, or better said a lot of fishing. It's not my biggest hobby, but watching your friends actually catch something (after a lot tries...) makes it interesting. I always had my book with me, but I never did read much...

On the Sunday the guys had their biggest fish-success. I very big one got away before, but this time in the first 15 minutes they had 3 catches. The biggest catch of the day was reserved for the guys from Barrie. We lent them our fish-net and they caught a big su**er of a lake trout. I took the picture (see here for that shot and more) and without our net they would have never been able to get it, so... ah well, we caught some pike and some bass, but not big enough for the BBQ.

After a quick visit to Parry Sound (or for the hockey-fans among us: Borry Or town) and a good lunch at Don Cherry Sports and Grill the trip was winding down. The next morning we started to pack eveything up and went for some final jumps of the Cliffs and with a fuel-stop in Nobel we left again for Brampton. For me that was only part of the trip since I had my Brampton to Cleveland leg still ahead of me, which was another 4 to 5 hours.

After picking up some furniture for Chad and watching him putting it together it was time for me to leave and commence the last leg of this mini-break. 5 hours later I was home and rolled into bed and slept like a baby.

New York City

I recently had the oppertunity to visit my friend Ryan in Stamford, CT. One of the things on the agenda was to revisit NYC. But first we checked out Stamford a bit. Nice small-town feeling with inner-city Barcelona like traffic. Very strange, but very funny and even familiar being from Europe... Ended-up in a very nice Spanish restaurant sampling some of the tapas and the obvious Sangria. Good food, good drinks, good company. For some weird reason we thought it would be a good idea to go see 'Fantastic Four'. Well, lets just say that you don't go for the story-line...

The next day we left for NYC by train. Perfect way to get to NYC, you're dropped off at Grand Central station and you're in the middle of Manhattan without any hassle whatsoever. Great. We took the Subway to Ground Zero since I wanted to see that place again. The last time I was in NYC I stood on top of the WTC. We took the elevator of the Millenium Hotel to try and get a good aerial view, but the look-out was of the East river and Brooklyn. It made for an interesting shot of NYC (for that and other shots of NYC, see NYC Photos). Later we did find some decent photo-oppertunities and continued our stawl through Battery Park towards Wall Street. Found a Gaudi in the process. Just go two blocks north on Nassau Street and look towards your right into a small side-street.

From there we wanted to see the Intrepid Sea-and-Air museum, but somehow ended up taking the Subway the wrong way and almost ended up at Kennedy Airport. After a quick change of lines we were on our way again, but lost too much time (and dodged a nifty thunderstorm in the process). We decided it was time to get some grub and walked towards the Jeckyll and Hide restaurant on 57th and 6th. Made some interesting BW shots of the NBC studios at Rockefeller Plaza. The restaurant is geared towards kids, but it holds enough to be a very interesting place for 'older' kids as well. If you catch yourself there, I had the Pasta Jambalaya. Excellent.

The main event of the day was a show on 42th Street called 'Rain' by 'Cirque Eloise' out of Montreal. It is what is called 'Modern Circus', in the line of Cirque du Soleil. This 'troupe' did away with the fancy decors and costumes and replaced it with a bit more humor. Too bad it was the final weekend, otherwise I would STRONLY recommend it. Very intriguing and absolutely hilarious. I'm watching their website for encore presentations, so stay tuned. After the show we took the train back to Stamford for some drinks and reflections on the past day, with the show easily taking the most reflections.

The Sunday was a more relaxed day with a tour of the EdgeLab offices on the UCONN campus in downtown Stamford. After a tour of Old Greenwich looking at what old money can buy we decided to get some R&R at the pool of the apartment building. Good idea, especially since my flight to Cleveland was on the schedule as well, so by 5pm I was back at the airport for a quick and uneventfull flight home.

You gotta love those short breaks. Thanks for the hospitality Ryan!!

An apology

I think I need to apologize to all my friends for not updating the blog for the last 4 weeks. Its been a bit crazy (and yes, I've been a bit lazy as well..;-), but watch for updates coming in the next few hours...


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The long weekend – Monday

My last day of the long weekend and since Chad hadn’t been biking much recently we decided to check-out some of Bramptons trails. We quickly found a very nice trail and were having a good time out in the woods. That was until somehow Chad lost the pully of his rear-derrailor. Since a pully is pretty much wedged-in it is a mystery how this happened, but after that ‘amazing discovery’ we headed back to the pavement and back to Chad’s place. After a shower and some grub we decided to drop the bike off at the bike shop, but Chad got a visit from Bell Canada for his spotty phone service. After checking the outside and inside of the house the conclusion was that a combination of multiple lines used in a - let’s say - peculiar way by a previous owner and a sub-par alarm wiring (without effecting the working of the latter…) made for quite a mess. Fortunately "Troy – the phoneguy" fixed it all and we were on our way. Since it was getting close to 4pm and given the fact I had 2 more stops and a 5 hour drive ahead of me it was time to say goodbye and be on my way.

The first stop was a quick drop-off at Chads parents in Mount Hope (Hamilton) and the second stop was at my great-aunt (and Chads Grandma) Truus in her new apartement on the corner of Wellington and Stonechurch, also in Hamilton. She now has a very nice apartment with a very nice view. When everyting is finished that is, since quite a bit still needs to be done. We had some talks and laughs on the balcony before I had to depart for Cleveland. The border was reached at a little after 8pm so all the holiday traffic had already passed and I was – again, surprisingly for the second time this long weekend – able to drive-up straight to the booth and back in the US in 30 seconds flat. Very nice. The rest of the 3 hour drive was pretty uneventful apart from the fact that since it was the 4th of July I had some nice fireworks to look at on the sides of I-90 and at around 11.30 after a good 700 miles I found myself back in Cleveland.

It was a very good weekend, but a bed sounded very appealing and after dismounting the bike I was glad to be home, ready for bed and grateful for spending the long weekend in such good company. Goodnight.

The long weekend – Sunday

After Jason left the rest of us slowly awakened as well to the smell of breakfast. I can think off worse things… Feeding the body was much appreciated in preparation of the spiritual feeding that followed. Since Joel and Carolyn both live outside of Guelph now it took a fair bit of time before they were able to shake loose from the crowd after church ended, but we had lunch waiting so back to house we went. Not quite the standard, but Chinese for lunch was a very nice idea. The afternoon was scheduled for some down-time so we went to Silver Creek park off Gordon street for some challenging rounds of …yep…bocce-ball again. A great game and with some challenging grounds it made for a nice few hours of play-time. All good things come to an end and since Carolyn had yet to pick-up her car at Guelph Line off the 401 before driving to Strathroy (with a stop at her place in Brampton) we said goodbye to Jason and Faye and headed to Guelph Line.

Once on the 401 it turned out that 1 exit past Guelph Line the OPP closed the highway for an investigation and since there are no exits for about 16km (10 miles) between Highway 6 in Guelph and Guelph Line we reached the jam pretty quickly. With some frustration it took us about 2 hours to reach the Guelph Line exit. After saying goodbye Carolyn quickly got in to her car and Joel and I headed to Burlington. Joel wanted to water his garden since it hadn’t rained in three days. Somehow watering a garden seems to make you hungry , so the all-you-can-eat ribs at Montana’s seemed a good way to obey our stomachs. After some good fellowship we decided to pay a visit to my cousin Chad and his wife in Brampton, so a good 40 minutes later we were having some beers and good laugh. I decided to stay since Joel had to work on Monday and with Chad and Lisa both being teachers they had the day (and a few more…) off. Some more beer and conversation brought the day to a good end.

The long weekend – Saturday – A taste of the Fifties

The evening was reserved for a little time-travel; back to the Fifties and the glory days of the… drive-in movie theaters. For me personally it was a first and for most of the group this wasn’t a typical night-out either. After picking-up some grub at one of the local pizza-places we drove up around 7pm. There were about 30 cars ahead of us, so we were doing alright. We parked and brought out the pizza; grub-time folks! About 30 minutes later the gates opened and we got ourselves the best spot in the house. I guess it helped that the other half of the group was first in line… We parked the cars, finished off (most of) the pizza and brought out the games. One part opted for bocce-ball (or jeu-de-boules on steroids for the Europeans among us…), the other made it into a card-night. Unfortunately about 30 minutes after Faye got paged. She is a mid-wife and was on-call for the weekend. The good thing was that they refunded her ticket and while she attended to the page we played some more until the first movie started.

At about 9.30pm the Longest Yard was the first movie of the 4-movie-all-night-line-up; the Longest Yard, War of the Worlds, Sahara and the Honeymooners. We knew we were not staying for the latter two and with the temparature gradually getting down to about 14 C (or 54 F) we were glad we made that decision. During the two movies everybody gradually turned from a summer butterfly to a winter cocoon, but we stayed out and had a blast. The Longest Yard was definetly a pleseant surprise, while War of the Worlds was a bit of a dissapointment. This was a general feeling among the entire group. At about 2am we made our way back because- after some shut-eye - Jason was expected to be at chuch the next morning at 9.30am since he was on Usher duty.

The long weekend – Saturday – Wedding blues

Since Joel and his fiancee Carolyn are in the middle of planning the wedding, they had a follow-up visit planned at a hall somewhere in/around Guelph (exact location will not be mentioned…). We ran a little late, but while coming up with some questions to ask we made it in time. The good thing was that the hall was about ready to host a wedding reception that evening so we had a good look at how they dressed-up the hall. It looked really nice and after getting most of the answers we headed back out before the guest of the wedding arrived. This hall will be the location for Joel and Carolyn’s wedding reception but the name and location of the hall (and the location of the photos...) remains a closely guarded secret…at least untill the invitations are sent out.

The long weekend – Saturday - Biking

Saturday was bike-day for Joel and me. The girls went Garage-saling and Jason had to drop off some hamocks up north. If it was that simple it wouldn’t warrant a story, but it wasn’t. I brought my bike and Joel was to borrow a bike from Jason and Faye. Faye asked us if we could pump-up the rear tire and get a valve adapter since the paretta valve on the tire didn’t fit their pump. We should be able to get it done at the bike-shop at the corner of Gordon and Nottingham (in Guelph). It was 9am and off we went to the bike shop. Bike shop closed. Didn’t open until 10am. Okay, two options; wait an hour or see if we could get either a valve-adapter or a pump at Canadian Tire. We opted for the latter and came back with a pump.

The pump worked and we were pumping away when disaster struck; a piece of the valve fell off. Given the small size of the paretta valve a small part of that is really small and its brass colour gave it perfect camouflage in the grass… After 10mins of painstackingly crawling through a small section of grass we found it only to conclude that the part didn’t fall off, but broke off. Great. It was now about 10am so a second trip to the bike shop was planned. We quickly found out that we needed a new inner tube and for a small fee the shop was willing to install it as well. That gave us some more time to kill and we put that to good use to stawl around the Farmers Market across from the bike shop (you gotta love small towns…). We found some good cherries and after another 30 minute wait at the bike shop we went back to the house with a bike ready for some biking. However, in the meantime it was 11.30am and we hadn’t done a single bit of biking. Back at the house the girls were already back from their shopping spree and we didn’t leave yet. Anyway, after sharing the story and some laughs we loaded up the bikes and drove to the Guelph Lake conservation area to do some biking.

We parked the car at the trail-head on Victoria Road and biked on some nice trails. After a while the trail narrowed quite a bit and became very poorly maintained. We apparently missed a turn-off or something since the trail we were on now looked as if nobody in the last two years followed a similar route we did. When we hit the part where a machetti was more appropriate than a mountain bike we took the adjecent road and turned on to Jordan baseline and ended-up biking all around the lake without another trail entry point. Too bad, but we still got a good work-out. After stopping for some directions (I know, two guys mountain biking that are stopping for directions must either be really lost or just fed up with the pavement since they apparently missed all the trail entry points). For us it was the latter and 10 minutes later we were indeed back on the trails. By now we were coming close to our 1pm deadline so after a few more minutes on the trails we drove back to the car, loaded the bikes back up and headed back to the house for a much appreciated shower. Not quite the biking trip we wanted, but we still had a good time.

The long weekend - Friday

This year we had the good fortune that both the Canadian and US independence days where in the same weekend. It gave me another opportunity to visit my friends and family north of the 49th.

I left Friday after work having already loaded up the car with my bike and all the gear in the morning and headed for the Buffalo – Fort Erie border expecting a bridge full of holiday traffic. I was wrong. There were some lines on the way, but they were for the tolls on I-(1)90 and for that I have EasyPass…;-). At the border I was able to drive straight up to the booth and was cleared in under 30 seconds. I arrived in Guelph at my predicted time of 9pm. Not bad for what the AAA proclaimed the busiest driving day in years.

I met up with Joel, Carlolyn and their friends Jason and Faye to watch the fireworks at Riverview Park. It was a bit breezy and a little colder than expected, but some of the fireworks were pretty amazing. At Jason and Faye’s we played some carts and snacked up a bit before switching the lights off…

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A flat tire

On my way home from work I had a little mishab; a flat tire at the right-front of the car. I was driving on I-90 behind a truck waiting for the left lane to clear when out from under the truck an object appeared in the middle of where my tire was gonna go... I think it was a piece of an exhaust since it looked round and black with some sharp endings. Since there were cars left and right of me I had nowhere to go but over it. A sharp 'clunk' and it was done. The tire held on for a little while, but I felt the car pull to the right and after about 30 seconds I heared the noise and the 'Low tire pressure' light came on. Fortunately I was just ahead of the E152th Street exit on I-90 West so I could immediatly pull off the Interstate onto the off-ramp. Parked the car on the shoulder (so I could mount the jack...) and went to work. An off-duty police officer just happend to drive by and offered some well received assistance. Eventhough you know how to do it, some help and advice from people who see and do this almost daily is never a bad thing. After about 20 minutes the deflated tire was in the trunk and the emergency tire (one of those pathetic small, but much appreciated bicycle tires) was mounted. Tommorrow we'll have it fixed properly. Good night, folks.

2005 ChampCar Grand Prix of Cleveland

Last weekend the 24th annual Grand Prix of Cleveland was held at the Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland. This is a three-day event starting on the Friday before the race with various activities all leading to the ChampCar race on Sunday. Besides the ChampCar race also the Toyota Atlantic division is racing along with other race classes. However, first and foremost, this was the ChampCar Grand Prix of Cleveland. I went to the Sunday driver presentation and the race itself. It was a hot and humid day. Temperatures well into the Ninties for the spectators and close to 130 degrees for the drivers inside their cars. Nevertheless it was an impressive race ending with a win for the pole-sitter and now also points-leader Paul Tracy (CAN) from Forsythe Racing. Congratulations to Paul Tracy.

You can see pictures of Paul before and during the race on the photopages of the race my website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

AERO Expo 2005 - Akron, OH

Last weekend I visited the AERO Expo 2005 at Akron Fulton Aiport. It is an annual airshow organized by the MAPS Air Museum located at the Akron-Canton International Airport. It was a very nice mix of persent day and vintage WOII planes from both the United States as well as from Europe (e.g. the Spitfire and a German Junkers Ju-52). Of course the US workhorses of WOII, the B17 and the B25 were present as well. I've uploaded a few photo's on my own website, Playing around with the digital camera and my zoomlens generated some very nice in-flight shots. Just have a look (and feel free to browse any of the other albums.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Congratulations Joel and Carolyn

My 'brother' Joel is getting married to his girlfriend Carolyn. Congratulations to you both!!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

NFL Europe: Amsterdam Admirals win World Bowl XIII

The Amsterdam Admirals beat the Berlin Thunder 27 to 21 in World Bowl XIII. Berlin Thunder - who won 3 of the 5 last World Bowls - had a good run in the 3rd and 4th quarter, but the Amsterdam defense held on to win the first World Bowl in franchise history. Look for QB Kurt Kittner and RB Jarred Payton in the coming 2005-2006 NFL season.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A 'cool' car: AC or open windows?

How to get a dash of cold and/or fresh air in your car?

With the temperature rising you see a lot of windows being lowered. Surprisingly, the best way AND the most economic way is to actually leave your windows rolled up and to turn on your AC. Due to the advancements in technology it is now more energy-efficient to use your cars AC than to lower your windows. The latter distorts the airflow around the car and increases the drag. This additional drag leads to about a 4 to 6% rise in your fuel consumption. Turning on the AC also increases fuel consumption, but with modern cars it only adds about 2 to 4%. It also gives you cool air in your morning and afternoon traffic jams whereas open windows don't just not give you cool air at that moment, but do let the exhaust fumes of your fellow commuters come in freely...

So, the next time you are in your car, use the AC. Oh, one last thing: for an efficient use of the AC in a car that's been out in the sun for a while, roll down your windows for the first 30secs to let the hot air out. It saves you from using the AC on 'full-blast' to feel comfortable.

Happy summer driving, folks.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Cleveland Rocks!

Its one of the official slogans of Cleveland and this last (and the upcoming) weekends will qualify as such. I had the pleasure of entertaining a few Canadians over the weekend. The main reason for their trip south of the border was to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (short: Rockhall).

On Saturday the weather was nice and after having an outdoor lunch at the Riverwalk Cafe I took them on a small tour of Cleveland. After starting on the westbank of the Flats (I always start there since I live there... hehe) we drove through downtown via MLK boulevard to University Circle, then to Little Italy, Coventry (CLE Heigts), Fairmount and ending in Beachwood to show 'm where I work. They were utterly impressed with the houses along Fairmount and now think of Cleveland in a better way than the 'mistake-by-the-lake'.

After Beachwood it was off to the Metroparks, but we started with a quick detour through Gates Mills and the Chagrin River Valley to end-up in Chagrin Falls for some ice-cream. Well deserved on an 85 F day. We continued our 'nature-drive' through the South Chagrin Reservation ending in the Bedford Reservation with a quick hike around the Bridal Veil Falls area. With one more stop at the Tinker Gorge lookout it was time to head back into town.

We decided to check out the music scene and found two interesting concerts: one at the Grog Shop in Coventry and one at the Fat Fish Blue right downtown on the corner of Ontario (the Canadians liked that one...) and Prospect. First things first, so it was dinner at Shooters. What better place to be then at the waterfront on a day like that. Next stop: Grog Shop. We walked in around 9pm and the place was apparently not open yet. Go figure, 9pm on a Saturday night, concert planned and not open yet... Anyway, since we felt like dinosaurs around there, we decided that we would feel more at ease (at least age-wise) at the Fish and headed back downtown.

Good choice. The band playing at Fat Fish Blue was the 'Eugene Ross Band'. Well known in the Cleveland music scene, but for all others: Eugene Ross was a vocalist with 'The Platters' and the 'Commodores'. It was a great mix of Funk, Blues, Soul and Rock. When it was time for the requests we asked for 'Brick House' (a Commodores song) and when they started playing it, the house responded. People started dancing on the floor, moving their feet on the bar stools, the works. And the band was jammin'...

All good things come to an end, but that means more oppurtunities for other good things, and getting some shut-eye was one of them since on Sunday the main part of the tour was on: the Rockhall.

After breakfast at Nicks on Lorain Ave in Ohio City we headed for the Rockhall. Its one of the highlights of every music-loving visitor to the Cleveland area. This time one of the visitors had his own band and we were bugging him when he was going to be inducted. Ah well, visiting it is just as much fun and interesting. One highlight: the Jimmy Hendrix exhibit. The concert video, the memoriabilia and , surprisingly, his art-work. Yep, in his younger years he was an aspiring artist in more ways than playing a guitar. Too bad the drugs got the better of him, but it probably also gave us the songs as his legacy. Just listen to the rif of Voodoo Child. Thank you Jimmy!!

All trips have 3 parts; the part to the destination, the destination itself and the return-part. It was unfortunately already time for the Canadians to head back up. Always sad to see friends leave, but greatful for the memories we made during the weekend. Thanks Joel and Chris. We'll do it again sometime.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holland rejects EU Constitution

It is official, besides France Holland has now rejected the European Constitution. Due to the high voter turn-out and the considerable margin the Dutch govenment will honour the outcome of the non-binding referendum and not ratify the proposed European Constitution in its current form. The main reasons why the Dutch voters have rejected the proposal are:
  • The lack of involvement in the European decision-making process
  • The cost of the extension of the Union with a number of former Eastern European, since Holland pays the most to Brussels per capita
  • The possible joining of Turkey while most of Holland is stronlgly against it
  • A possilbe loss of sovereignty on issues like the liberal stance on gay-rights, abortion, drug policy, etc
  • A general resentment towards politics in Holland
  • The effect of the Euro on the everyday life (read: prices)
  • Benefits the international companies rather than the everyday worker
Fortunately the high turn-out is a sign towards the current administration that things need to change and that the current direction is not in line with the expectations of the Dutch people.

On the other hand, quite a few of the arguments against the constitution are not really valid since the consititution does not govern those items (like the lack of sovereignty issue and the effect of the Euro), but this referendum was the first option for Dutch voters to effectivly voice their opinion on European policy. Besides the real issue (discussed below) this referendum has also been used as kind of a popularity question or general approval of Dutch policy towards Europe in the last decade.

Another major reason why Dutch voters said 'No' was the non-clearity of the true effect of the constitution. What would it really do, what would be the day-to-day effects? That did not come across with most voters. In fairness, the answer is not easy, otherwise everybody would know it. But in general the consitution would (among others) re-design the following items:
  • the day-to-day governing of the Union
  • the abandonment of the veto-rights on certain issues
  • a move towards an elected governing body rather than the rotating chairmanship of a country each 6 months
  • the appointment of an EU secretary of state to administer a common foreign policy
Sure, there will be other impacts and some will be felt by the voter, but it is mainly proposing a different, hopefully more effective way of 'running Europe'. That fact has been seriously underexposed in Holland however, to be honest, a lot people simply didn't care about that fact; they were more seseptable to the arguments against it.

In the end, the arguments against outweighed the arguments in favour for the majority of the Dutch voters. If some groups feel the Dutch used false reasons to make their decisions, that would reflect more on the capacity of those groups to explain their points rather than on the actual outcome. Or maybe the pros really didn't outweigh the cons. Anyway, it's democracy in action and I'm curious whats going to happen next.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Contoversial topic: Stem cell Research

Last week Congress approved a controversial spending bill (the 109th Congress) for Stem cell Research. The president already released a statement he will veto this bill, but if I'm well informed a 2/3 majority in the Senate can overrule a Presindential veto. That's the straight forward part of the discussion. It's the Ethics and Religious part that is creating the polarization on this topic. Currently my opinion is favourable towards expanding the research. Eventhough you can claim a stem cell is considered life, it is debatable if it is human at that stage. I know a few of my friends will disagree with me here, but the potential goods (the human lives we can save, the illnesses we can cure) outweigh the ethical and religious opposition. One thing that we will need is a stable set of legislation around it. That will be another round of heavy debates. I am in favour of strict regulations, but how strict is strict is a very grey and potentially dangerous area. We'll see how it plays out. Next one up to the plate on this matter: President Bush. For more info on this topic, just Google it.

NFL Europe league

In a few weeks the NFL Europe League will have its champions game called the World Bowl. This year the teams will be Berlin Thunder and the Amsterdam Admirals. The main star of the Admirals this year is running back Jarret Payton, son of Walter Payton. He is leading the league with 7 touch-downs and has good hopes of being a starter on the Tennessee Titans for the 2005-2006 NFL season. The Admirals have been to the World Bowl before with another well known name; Quaterback Kurt Warner played an excellent season before he made headlines the next year with St Louis. Let's see what Jarret Payton can do. If you like football and want a headstart on some of the NFL's up and comers check out the World Bowl on June 11th on Fox.

Since I'm from Holland my favourite (yeah, I know it is the English spelling) is easy: Go Admirals!!!

And the winner is: Dan Wheldon

What a crazy race at the Brickyard. You had all the fuzz about Danica Patrick, the Penske Perfect thing and just plain old Indy-stuff. At the end the win went across the pond to Dan Wheldon of the UK. But I'm sure this race will be remembered by the performance of Danica Patrick. She came in 4th, as a rookie, as a woman and while stalling it in the pits and a spin near the end placing her in 16th place she came through big time. She also became the first woman to lead the race. Not just for a lap, but for quite a number of laps. She's now not just a woman-driver, but a driver. And a good one at it. We will hear a lot of her in the coming years.

But, before we forget, I have to congratulate Dan Wheldon and Andretti Racing for winning the 2005 Indy 500. Let the milk flow...

Memorial Day: Race Day

It's that day of the year. Memorial Day. The un-official start of Summer and... the Indy 500. This year we also have a Formula 1 race on this day, so today is Race Day. Earlier this morning Kimi Raikonen seemed to take an easy victory, but a catastrophic front suspension failure due to a flat-spot on his tire in the LAST lap showed that it truely isn't over until the fat lady sings or in this case when the flagger swings... For the record: the F1 race was won by Fernando Alonso from Spain.

Now on to the Indy 500. I work for Penske so I'm rooting for Helio and Sam, but I and everybody cannot escape the rookie sweetie Danica Patrick of the Rahal and Letterman team. So far I'm impressed with her driving and, he, she's easy on the eyes as well. Let's hope for a very interesting race and if neither Helio or Sam can win I guess Danica isn't a bad driver to root for.

Happy Race Day...

Movie to see: Downfall (Der Untergang)

In Holland I bought a movie that currently is not out on DVD in either the States or Canada; Downfall (Der Untergang). It's a German-made movie about the last days of Hitler in his bunker underneath the 'Reichskansel' (his parlement building).

It gives you an inside look at Hitler and his henchman from the perspective of his personal secretary. The only fight-scenes in the movie are from the Allied air raids over Berlin and some of the Russian advancements on the ground. There is nothing about the mass-murder of Jews other than a few lines spoken by Hitler, but there is a reason for it, to be revealed in the very last seconds of the movie.

Don't get me wrong, this is a VERY controversial film, but it has an Academy Award nomination for best forgein movie. It is also a good movie, since it shows the madness of the man in question.

I found it a very imformative, disturbing but also an interesting movie, but do a little research on it on the web before you go see it. A good spot to do so is on IMDB. It is not a movie for everyone.


In on of the last posts I mentioned the Privium program. What is Privium? On their website they say "Privium offers its members priority services, speed and comfort. With exclusive and efficient facilities such as priority parking in P2 or P3, check in at business class desks of participating airlines and fast-track border passage with the irisscan."

It is indeed all that and I can recommend it to all travellers holding an EU passport that depart regularly from Schiphol. You can apply for it on-line and you are to make an appointment for collecting the card. At the appointment you are screened by a border-control officer (called the 'Marechaussee', the Dutch Military Police). Once they figured-out you do not seem to belong in a correctional facility, you proceed to get an iris-scan and to get your fingerprints taken. That is all being transferred to a type of credit-card. That's pretty much the procedure.

Once at the passport control lines at Schiphol, locate the Privium lane. Very easy to find, it is usually the right-most lane and even more apparent, the lane with nobody in it... You look place your card in the reader, wait 5secs and proceed to the iris-scan. Look into the square and you will hear 'Identity confimred'. That's it, you're through.

The Privium-program has an annual fee of about EUR 100, depending on the facilities you require. I say it's worth it, since you gain priority parking, lounge access, check-in at business class desks, no-wait passport control without the need for your passport and they are now talking to US Homeland Security to implement this program as a pilot at JFK airport in New York.

Unfortunately, Schiphol is currently the only airport that has this program. I believe London Heathrow has a similar program, but that's it. It also is only open for EU passport holders only. If you are not a holder of such a passport or if you don't visit Schiphol Airport much, the program is not for you, but now with the talks to Homeland Security it just might become something to watch-out for at US airports in the future.

Oh, Ryan, I'm curious about the ACLU-stand on this program...

Newark to Cleveland

The entry into the USA was the first on the extended visa, but there was no difference from any other entry so it was a quick fingerprint and headshot action and I was back in the States. Since there is no flight transfer from any international location, you have to go through baggage collection and Agriculture inspection before you can re-check any baggage (if you have any...). You also have to go through security again before your next connection. Once you've cleared that it's as easy as taking a bus again.

The flight to Cleveland was scheduled to leave from Gate C-93, but got changed to C-85, pretty much the last gate of the pier. I got myself a book and some ice-cream and thanks to the Elite-status I was one of the first ones on-board. That was the easy part...

Once we were on-board and started to push-back the captain informed us of some bad weather. We were to wait for a new route and he would get back to us in about 20mins. He did. With news that we were cleared and going to the runway. Well, there were about 10 planes ahead of us, but at least we were in-line to depart. The captain announced that we were 2nd in-line so flight attendants were to prepare for take-off.

Yeah, right.

About 10secs before take-off Air Traffic Control closed part of our route so we had to wait again. To make matters worse, the winds shifted so we were to depart from the other end of the airport... Great. The good thing was that the flight-deck kept us informed of the events as they happened so a 'thumbs-up' to the crew of flight 125.

Once we were on the other end of the runway we were cleared immediately so finally, after being somewhere on the tarmac for about 45mins we took off for Cleveland. Once in Cleveland it was a quick hop to the car park and I was on my way home.

The last days of the Holland-Trip

Thursday and Friday where some nice summer days with temperatures in the high-80s (29-31C), nice and sunny, but they were also work-days. Well, at least thursday was. I worked in Venlo on Thursday since there were a few people I wanted to see and it was only a 25min drive from my parents place. The downside of that choice became apparent a litter later in the day when we figured out that the A/C in the room I was sitting in did not work (...) but we still got our work done.

Thursday-night was the so-called 'koopavond' for my dads shop. In Holland, shops still close at 6pm, but on 1 night (either Thu or Fri) they remain open until 9pm. I drove over to the shop for some dinner and to help dad out with his laptop. We got a router and prepped his PC and laptop for networking. It all worked pretty much out-of-the-box.

Friday was packing and travel day. Since my flight to Newark didn't leave until 1.35pm I had plenty of time in the morning. After saying goodbye to Mom and Dad I left around 10am heading for Schiphol. A very uneventful drive without any traffic-jams (rare in Holland, but the 10am departure helped). The only thing was that I had to fuel up the car (a Renault Laguna Wagon) and I almost missed the exit for it while driving in the left (of the 3) lane. I got a few horns blaring... Ah well, it wasn't a nice move, but there was plenty of room to pull it off.

I was at Schiphol a little after 11.30am, so I dropped off the car and checked in. After check-in I decided to take it easy and visit the 'Privium' lounge. In another post I'll explain what that is. Got myself some fluids and read the paper before I proceeded to passport control. There was about a 30min line-up, but thanks to 'Privium' it only took me about 60secs. A quick walk to the G-pier (where 90% of the non-KLM/NorthWest flights to the US depart) and before 1pm I was on the plane. It left on-time and after another pretty boring flight we arrived in Detroit (I use the term 'we' a lot, comes from being a guy from Brabant...).

The line-up in Detroit was, well, long. It usually isn't anything over 5min but this time it was close to a 25min wait. On the other hand, I had plenty of time to catch my connection to Cleveland...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Visa-extension arrived

Today I received my passport with the extended visa. Very quick, about 2 days before I thought it would arrive. Well, better this way then the other way around...;-) This also means that the return-flight can remain on Fri May 27 arriving late afternoon.

Perfect timing for the long weekend...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Amsterdam - US Consulate and Anne Frank House

Yesterday I went to Amsterdam to drop-off my passport and visa documents at the American Consulate. My appointment was for 8.30am, so it was an early rise. I stayed over at a friends house in Zeist to knock-off an hour or so on the trip to Amsterdam. We left at 6.45am to arrive at the Arena Stadium, home of Ajax Amsterdam (soccer) and the Amsterdam Admirals (NFL Europe - Football). From their we used Hollands famous public transport (a day-pass is only EUR 6.30). We arrived at the Consulate at the desired time... The procedure is to get in line (there where about 20 people ahead of me) untill its your turn to identify yourself in front of a heavy gate. The guard will then let you in a few at a time followed by a bag-check and a first security-check. This clears you for entrance onto the Consulate grounds where you wait in line again. Another security-check together with a check of your documents gets you in. You go to the booth to present your case, pay any consulair fees and get (electronically) fingerprinted. The last step is to hand-over the return envelop for the passport and the new visa and you are done. It all took about 70 minutes. Not bad for a Consulate...

The Consulate is located right off the Mueseum-square with world-famous museums like the National Museum (Rijksmuseum) and the Van Gogh museum. It is a short tram-ride away from the city-center. My friends Pascal and Climmy came with me to Amsterdam and we visited the Anne Frank House. Coming from Holland it is almost a shame that both Pascal and myself had never been. It is a very impressive musuem since you walk through the rooms where the Frank family lived for the duration of their hiding. It goes without saying that this museum should be on everybodies list of things to do while in Amsterdam.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Safe and Sound in Holland

I've arrived safe and sound in Holland after a rather uneventful flight. No delays on the flight to Newark, just a small problem before leaving for Amsterdam, they let 2 people on-board without a seat on a fully-booked flight... Took awhile before they found their baggage, so we had an hour delay leaving Newark. Not a big issue since we arrived early morning anyway; 8 or 9am doesn't make a whole lot of difference for me. Went through customs (always pretty much a joke in Holland...) and pick-up my rental car. This time they gave me a Renault Laguna Station (or Break as the French like to call it). Nice looking car without a key. You insert a credit card in a slot and press a button to start. Exactly like the new 2006 Lexus GS in the US. I drove to the Roosendaal office, did some work and left for my parents place since both them and me are invited over for dinner at my sisters. Let's see what's on the menu...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Leaving for Holland

In a good 2 hours I'm leaving for Holland to pick-up the Visa. Just made sure I have all the required documents with me, since it would be a bit of a disaster if you were to appear at the US Consulate in Amsterdam and find out you missed document such-and-such. If all is going according to plan I'm dropping all the paperwork and my passport off at 8.30am Monday morning (May 23) and three days later I should have my passport back with the new Visa. The extension is granted until July 2008.

I just pray that everything is alright so I can make my return-flight on Friday May 27 to be back in time for the long weekend. So far, everything seems to fine. I have all the documents, all the travel arrangements have been made and I even have the boarding passes for both the flight to Newark and Amsterdam already in hand. Gotta love on-line check-in.

Going to wrap-up the things here and I'll update you when I'm in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bodyshop - 2-

I just picked-up my car again from the bodyshop. They fixed the damage and the car looks good again. It also gave me the oppertunity to test-drive the replacement vehicle; a Nissan Altima 2.5. A very nice looking car, both inside and out. Nice firm ride, very nice-fitting, small and thick steering wheel and lots of room in the back and for the golfclubs in the trunk. The thing I didn't like was that the automatic was very nervous at low speeds. Furthermore I noticed that the 4-Cyl engine was revving about 600 rpm higher than my Chevrolet Impala with the 6-Cyl engine. This will cancel out any savings on gas that a 4-Cyl normally has over an enigne with more cylinders. The bigger engine in the Impala just doesn't have to work as hard and is therefore just as efficient as the smaller 4-Cyl engine. Lots of city driving will be better in the Altima, but since 75% or more of my driving will be on the Highway I'm keeping the Impala...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Star Wars and the current US political arena

Over the course of the last few days a lot of movie reviews on the latest Star Wars movie 'Revenge of the Sith' mention similiarities between the politics of the Bush administration and the power-plays of the Emperor Palpatine.

Quotes of the movie are linked to quotes mentioned by Bush. The Washington Post mentions in their article 'The Empire Strikes Bush': 'At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, 'If you're not with me, you're my enemy.' Those comments are indeed a lot alike comments made by President Bush shortly after 9/11. Personally I like Obi-Wan's response in the movie, which according to the same article, is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.'.

It sure is an interesting point-of-view, but Lucas himself is quick to point out that the framework of Star Wars was written during the Nixon-era, but does acknowledge that there are a lot of similiarities between then and now. Not taking a political stand and knowing that it was never Lucas' intension to make a political statement with these movies I'm looking forward to some comments and views of other people on the subject.

Visit to the Netherlands

I'll be in the Netherlands from May 19 through May 27 to pick-up my L1b (intracompany-transfer) Visa-extension at the US Consulate in Amsterdam. It is a very strange and cumbersome process since I have to go outside of the US to pick it up eventhough I'm currently here and will be here afterwards. The reason they give for it is it not feasible to collect the biometric data in the US. The strange this is that at each border they have the means to enter that data and it is a very inexpensive set of equipment they use to collect it. Ah well, what am I complaining about; I'm getting a free trip to the Netherlands out of it...;-)

Movie to see: Hotel Rwanda

Over the weekend I watched a very interesting movie: Hotel Rwanda. Its about the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Its a very under-reported part of history and unfortunately we have not learned anything from it, since a similar genocide is currently going on in the Darfur-region in Sudan. Visit Amnesty International for information. In the meantime, go to your videostore or Netflix and watch this movie. Very powerful message and be sure to look at the extra features on the DVD after watching it.

Gas prices in the US

A lot of people are complaining about gas prices here in the US. The main reason for that is that the entire US economy is based on the ability of consumers to drive to their shopping locations. Now that the gas prices have doubled in about 1,5 years consumers are starting to feel the effect in their wallets. Maybe this will spark a trend to move towards smaller cars (in an effort to lower the demand of gas). There are some encouraging signs (the Big 3 - GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler) are now coming out with hybrid cars and diesel-engines.

However, to give everybody a bit of perspective: in the Netherlands the price of gas is EUR 1.29 p/L * 1.26 (price of a Euro vs. a US Dollar) * 3.785 (Liters in a US gallon) = $6.20 per gallon!!!. That's a bit more than the $2.00 were are currently seeing here in the Cleveland-area...

Let's see what is going to happen in the US for the next few years, but everybody now comes to terms with the fact that the buck-a-gallon days are history.


Today I dropped my car off at the body-shop to repair the minor damage on the passenger side after a GMC pick-up truck wanted my spot in the left of the two lanes leading to a traffic light. The good news is that since he's the one legally responsible, it doesn't cost me a penny. The car should be ready on Wednesday so I can drive my own car to the airport to leave for Holland (to go pick-up my Visa extension - see my post higher up this page). As a replacement vehicle I'm driving a nice Nissan Altima now. Let's see how that car handles. So far, so good. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Cleveland Metroparks

Yesterday, after stopping at the bikestore to see if my front wheel for my bike was ready, I decided to take a little drive along the 'Emerald Necklace'; the Cleveland Metroparks system. It is a string of parks that spans from the Rocky River lakeshore south to Strongsville, then east to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, east through Bedford to the Chagrin River and then north following the Chagrin River to it's mouth at Lake Erie. Driving the entire route will take you about 4 hours, but you should allow yourself another 4 hours for stopping at interesting places and taking in some hikes. You can find some pictures of the drive on my personal website at: Cleveland Metroparks Photos

The photo's were made with the Canon Powershot S70. A very nice digital camera that is a little easier to carry then my big Digital Rebel. I wanted to have a smaller camera that I could take with me when it is not 'handy' or just not possible to take the big one. For the people interested, I bought the S70 since I wanted a camera that used the same memory-cards as my Rebel (CF-cards), that fitted on my belt or in my pocket and still produced great quality pictures. For more info on the S70, see a review at

That's it for now. Talk l8r...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

So, what's happening with me...

Let's start in January of this year - 2005 - when I was working in the Netherlands on a work-related assignment. It allowed me to see my friends and family over in Europe. The assignment started in September 2004 as a 2 month deal, but got extended until the end of March. It was a period of very mixed feelings; close to my parents and family in Holland, but missing my own place in Cleveland and missing my friends and family here in the States and in Canada. Fortunately I was able to fly back-and-forward a few times to keep in touch with them. The assignment also allowed me to spend Christmas with my parents in Holland and New Years with my 'family' from Ontario and to spend some time with my cousin Chad and his wife Lisa, who just bought a new house in Brampton, Ont.

After the assignment was over it was a very nice feeling to be sleeping in my own bed again. It did not take long for me to re-adjust. The weekend after I got back one of my friends in the States (yep, that's you Ryan...) got a new job and it was moving time for him. That was one weekend booked...

Another major event happened in Canada just after I got back; my 'sister' Danielle got married to her 'Doctor Paul'. Weatherwise they could not have picked a colder day (outside of winter), but it was a beautiful wedding. Pictures can be found at Dan and Paul's wedding pix. They also have their own blog, called Friendlyfruits

That is in a very, very, very short time the events up until April this year. Now on to May...

The Start

Welcome to 'The Clog-files', a new and simple way for me to share my life with family and friends all over. Please feel free to browse around this site or my personal website (with lots o' pix) at:

Talk l8r