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