Saturday, November 26, 2011

One of the things that distinguishes The Netherlands from Iceland is Christmas. In the Netherlands they don't give presents on Christmas. They give presents in the beginning of December (5-6th) at Sinterklaas which is a winter festival. The character Sinterklaas is a bit like Santa Claus but is dressed like a pope and has little black helpers called black Petes (Zwarte Piet). The Christmases themselves are held in piece and quite with family. In Iceland there is no Sinterklaas. Everyone goes overboard buying expensive gifts that no one wants, at least not long. People stress themselves out doing preparations and trying to get into the holiday spirit. In Iceland the Christmas begins on December 24th, at six o clock when Christmas dinner is eaten, after which children open their presents. Then everyone sleeps for the rest of Christmas, exhausted after the preparations.

One possible explanation, of the jump start people in Iceland take on Christmas, is that in the old days it was traditional to give books at Christmas. If they packages are opened  up at the beginning of Christmas, everyone has something to read so no one is bored during the beginning of the holidays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One of the places I'm having difficulties in finding here in The Netherlands is a musical instrument store. I'm looking to buy a classical guitar. There are not many stores with musical instruments in Iceland either, but I know where they are. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

The reason we keep having more and more unwanted features thrust upon us in all our tools; phones, computers, cars and other thingies, is that a stupid highly educated person in charge of some design team is desperately thinking about extra features, to add to their thingamingies, to make their product stand out. Since this is all done by design teams and no one wants to object, for fear of losing their jobs we, the customers, end up paying shi,, well loads of money for features we don't want or need. I'm sure that soon we end up with phones that don't make voice calls and the sheeps public will praise them for their good looks and high quality sound the sms message beep plays in. They have to praise them because they spent so much money on them that to actually critisize them would be admitting that they made a mistake by buying them. Hey, maybe that is why Apple has such a fanatic following.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The most popular type of Rice in Iceland is Yasmin. It is not available in The Netherlands. The most popular tomato sauce in Iceland is made by Hunt's it is not available in The Netherlands.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In The Netherlands the average width of corridors is about 1 meter and the average lean angle of stairs is about 30° from vertical. In Iceland the corridors are 2-3 meters wide and the lean angle of stairs is 60° from vertical.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I've learned from the Italians on how to be manly. Leave the top 3 buttons on your shirt unbuttoned, the top 4 if you're feeling extremely sexy. Never leave the 5th one unbuttoned, it indicates that you have low standards. Women like uneven yellow teeth so if you're lucky enough to have them, flaunt them. Don't brush your teeth, be aware of showers and baths too. Be obnoxious and loud. Give women cheap gifts, as long as the gifts have thin layer of goldish looking metal they're happy.  Be browsing the internet on your Iphone when the plane lands, the air-hostesseses are strapped in and can't stop you. Use your hands while talking no matter if you hit something or someone. Use your hands while driving, one hand should be out the window, the other on the button for your horn. Feel free to abandon either location for short while while you make gestures at other drivers or people on or close to the road.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Dutch people are usually very polite and considerate but they could take a look at how the British behave in lines. There is no such thing as a line in the mind of The Dutch people. It's a battle of who can be first. And there are no prisoners taken. Cutting in front of someone is the normal way of life here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jasmin, my local Asian restaurant has small containers (about 1 teaspoon) of something they jokingly call "sauce" but in reality is pure pepper in liquid form.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I was told this morning that in Romenia they have no word for sneaker or sport shoe. Instead all sneakers are called Adidas.
"Sjonge jonge jonge". The most common sentence in Dutch that I don't understand yet. :)
Google translate says it means "Oh yes young" If I put "Tjonge jonge jonge" in Google translate it says it means "Wow young". Either way doesn't make much sense to me but the natives say that it has no real meaning, it's more of a shake your head while muttering "Oh, the young people's behaviour".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In The Netherlands you take a break from work, in Iceland you take a pause from work.
I finally have an internet connection here in the lower lands. In Iceland it generally takes 3-4 working days to get internet. Less if you request speedy handling. Here in The Netherlands it takes about one month.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In Iceland there is a special word for when there is no wind (logn). On the rare occasion that the weather forecast in Iceland is "logn", it is always wrong. Yesterday I was sitting on the balcony here in The Netherlands, drinking a cup of coffee, the rain was pouring down, but I was perfectly dry, because there was "logn".

Friday, August 26, 2011

This morning I took the bicycle to work like usual. It was dry outside when I started but I heard few thunders nearby, and getting closer. When I was about half way to work, it started raining and the thunders and lightnings were almost on top of me. When I got to work I was so wet I haven't dried out completely yet and it was so dark outside it was like the middle of the night. I understand this happens few times a year here, in Iceland thunderstorms are nearly unknown phenomenal. Weather like this would happen couple of times in a century there.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

India is fighting overcrowding so many Indians are moving to other countries. There are lot of them here in The Netherlands. There are also many in Norway. In one school in Norway, over 90% of the children are from India. India is still the country in the world that is growing at the largest rate. But it seems that they've found the solution. Export the people, preventing them from creating too much strain on the Indian economy and the nations infrastructure. Who cares about the problem it creates in other countries.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm back from Iceland. When I got back the mailbox was full like usual. Almost all the envelopes and papers were marked "to occupant". In Iceland they have not yet reached this stage. There it is still enough to mark the postbox "No unmarked mail".

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I'm going to Iceland tomorrow. I'll have the best ice cream in the world. Eat at few of the best restaurants in the world and I'll be able to speak my own language for a week. This will be a good time, but expensive.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I took a taxi to the airport in Portugal yesterday. The speed limit on the road was between 80 and 120. The taxi driver was so interested in talking to me, face to face, I didn't have the heart to mention the fact that he was driving at 180 most of the time. In fact the only time I saw 2 digits on the speedometer was when he drove through the toll gates, clearly marked 30, at 90.:)
If anyone is interested. I have the phone number of a very good taxi driver in Lisabon, Portugal, that will get you quickly to your destination, and that for an inexpensive prefixed price.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mohamed Ali once said. "I can't read, but that's OK because I have people working for me that can." On Monday I'll be signing a lot of papers and although I can read I have no idea what the text on those papers means. Therefore I've hired people to check them for me. Or in other words, on Monday I get the keys to my new apartment. The papers are for the 110% loan I get from the ING bank with just over 4% interest. In Iceland I think they have gone back to max 70% loan so the buyer has to get the 30% difference elsewhere. I'm told that in UK the max loan is 80% which has led to the average age of the first time home buyer to be over 40 years.

Monday, July 25, 2011

This evening I went to another Indian restaurant. I had the standard Chicken Tikka Masala. It was really good, I would highly recommend the restaurant if the service hadn't been so bad. I find it really strange how service differs between countries. I was in Slovenia the other day and the waiters, like most waiters in The Netherlands work hard to avoid eye contact with customers. Iceland is no better. Sweden has terrible waiters. Of the countries I've been to this year, I'd say Portugal has the best waiters/service.

Friday, July 22, 2011

During lunchtime I went with my coworkers to a restaurant I had not tried before. It was one of those Indian restaurants that does double duty as a store so you can get your food canned or on a plate. We choose the second option and told the smiling person behind the counter what we wanted. He put that on a plate and told us to sit down. He would bring us the food. Then he put the dishes in the microwave. It was delicious.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I sit here in the Privium lounge at Schiphol airport and think about traveling. Especially air travel. Now self check in is obligatory, so I went to the machine to check in. It told me to put in the first 3 letters of my next destination. Then it told me there were 2 options and asked to choose which. I had no idea and had to call the travel agency. I'm pretty sure that human at the check in could have prevented that. Then I went to the check in counter to check in the luggage, only to be told that my luggage was too heavy and I had to go to the excess baggage counter and pay extra. Then I had to take my luggage to the outsize baggage counter. So I've done four things and I'm not even at the search gates yet. Thankfully Privium membership gets me priority through that. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Women and leadership.
I recently watched a video on Ted.com, made by the Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Where she talkes about women in business. It is HERE. Her conclusion is that women tend not to rise to the top because they don't believe in themselves and are not pushy enough. My niece Sif and her friends believe that there is a conspiracy by men to keep woman down because they don't have penises. I would have thought that women their age would know more about the opposite sex.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The difference in service for apartment/house buyers in Iceland and The Netherlands is big. Yesterday I got a call from a company that works with the real estate agent. They went over the options of where to get the cheapest electricity, internet access, TV stations and so on. The financial adviser I contacted earlier went over the options I had for loans, insurance and so on. The real estate agent and the financial adviser will come with me when I get the apartment delivered. All of this advice and service is free (not the real estate agent himself). The advisers work on percentages, from all companies. In Iceland there is no such service agent. If you're in Iceland this would be great business idea for an independent person who wants to be their own boss. Be the middleman, put together packages, make agreements with all service providers so you can offer your service free to the customer. I claim 10% of profits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

If you need to go to Malmö for some reason, and are hungry, I recommend that you find Lilla Torg. It's a small town square (like the name says) that is surrounded by restaurants with tables outdoors. I can not recommend the service at the restaurants. The waiters seem to avoid looking at the customers and unlike Spain and Portugal it's almost as if they don't want you to enter the restaurant area. But the food, when they finally take your order, is very good. I also recommend the hotel Noble House, couple of hundred meters away, with friendly professional staff. The hotel has a small collection of books and DVDs in the lobby. By the book shelves there is a sign saying "Take a book. Leave a book." If I come back here, I will definitely bring some extra books.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It looks like I bought the apartment at the perfect time. Which is rare for me. The tax reduction that is saving me thousands of Euros has had the effect of more than third increase in prospective buyers.
The supermarketchains here in The Netherlands are interesting. In Iceland it doesn't matter to what supermarketchain you go to, they all have the same products. Here you sometimes have to go to all the supermarketchains to get what you want.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'm going to Sweden next week, Malmo to be exact. It will be interesting to go to another country where everyone is also named something-son and I can almost understand the language.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So, you wanna lose weight.

It is easy. All you need to do is consume (eat) fewer calories than your body burns (uses). There are few pitfalls to avoid. A. Don't starve yourself. B. Don't give up. C. That's it.

A famous body builder once said. "You control your weight with your diet. You control your shape with your training."
I was told today that The Netherland government is implementing tax cut for those who are buying apartments. It saves me about 6000 Euros. Not bad.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today I went to the Amstedam Arena, the home of the football club Ajax. Due to the difficult to understand Dutch train schedules the train didn't stop in the Arena, instead it took a long trip to Utrecht. I managed to get to the Arena about an hour later. It turns out it would've been better for me to switch trains at Schiphol instead of the Center Station in Amsterdam.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Well. I managed to find IKEA. Now that project is over. Next project will most likely be to find the dam in Amsterdam. The dam on the river Amstel that Amst(el)erdam takes its name from. Or to find Amsterdam Arena. I'm told that near Amsterdam Arena train station is the biggest cinema in Amsterdam and few sport-stores with good prices.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I had few coworkers over for celebration because of my apartment purchase. Together we managed to consume little bit of beer and pizza, and then more beer. We also discussed a little about some of life´s mysteries. Without getting to any solution I'm afraid.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today I signed a purchase agreement for the apartment at Horstermeerstraat 22 in Hoofddorp. http://www.funda.nl/koop/hoofddorp/appartement-47096768-horstermeerstraat-22/fotos/ I don't know if I should call this good news or bad news? It is a commitment, but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

There were thunder and lightnings last night. Really nice. Like any stupid Icelander I went out on the balcony to watch the lightnings and count until the thunder arrived. The thunders were strong enough to cause the balcony to shake. In Iceland we generally don't get thunderstorms, they are rarer than hens teeth over there.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People from Iceland melt at room temperature. The Dutch have higher melting point, but even they admit it's a bit hot now.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The heatwave has finally arrived. And my new roommate have also arrived. When the company decides that coworkers should share the company apartment you can't complain. Not that I would  have. This is really nice roommate.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

There are few planks of parket in the washing room. Really nice dark red wood pattern. This color is nowhere to be found in the apartment. The parket on the floor is a cheap yellow one. The red one must have been on the floor before. It´s amazing how people sometimes, usually through ignorance, downgrade their surroundings.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

These weather forecast people have no idea what the weather will be like in half an hour, let alone tomorrow. I sometimes think that they use dartboard to make the forecasts, or look at how the weather was on this day one year ago. Enough said.

Friday, June 24, 2011

After an almost monsoon like rain this week the forecast is good for the weekend with up to 35 degree heat expected. Try to top that in Iceland. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A coworker came walking into the warehouse today saying "kald, kald, kald." I understood him right away. Kalt is cold in Icelandic.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In the beginning I meant to use this blog to speak about differences between countries and how it is to be stranger in another land. Now I don't see so much difference anymore.
One of my coworkers was telling me today how difficult it was for him to drive in Spain. He had a car with manual gearbox and every time he had to start driving uphill the engine shut down. As someone who has been starting driving uphill since he was a teenager I found this funny. But it was not easy for The Netherlander.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I've been listening to Leonard Cohen the last few days. I bought the 2 live albums from his "recent" live tour. One has the concert in London (Live In London) in whole, while the other has the top performances from the tour (Songs From The Road). The first album has bigger selection of songs, and few mistakes, while the second has better performance and a DVD. On these albums he's covered material from almost all of his half a century long music career. I have been a fan of Leonard Cohen since late eighties when his album I'm Your Man came out. His older songs, like Hallelujah, have been popular last few years. It is still strange to think that he was 74 years old when on this tour in 2009-2010. Other famous performers who have been doing well in their old age are/were Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Elton John,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

While browsing through the books in the bookstore I found a book by Arnaldur Indriðason in Dutch. It looks like Icelands favorite author is making also making it big in The Netherlands.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Iceland celebrates it's independence day today. Like Silvia Night said "Congratulations Iceland". I encourage everyone to join in the celebrations. The weather should be nice in Iceland, it´s raining here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My trip to Iceland (yet again) has been delayed. It looks like my former employer has been complaining to my current employer, that I've been giving my former employers customers advice on how to do something themselves that my former employer has no intention of doing for them.
It's really, really, really hard not to write my opinions, on my former employers employees, down at the moment. But I believe that it makes me a better person in the end.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To quote J.R.R. Tolkien. "Not all those who wander are lost." It's fitting for last weekend.

I've made a verbal commitment to buy an apartment here so I'll have to find IKEA soon. Next weekend I'll take my TomTom with me. The apartment is a small one, 55-60m2 and the previous owner is an woman who has been moved to a retirement home so you can imagine what it looks like. But the layout isn't bad and I have some ideas for cheap modifications that go a long way towards making it a really nice apartment.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I decided to use the day and go to the nearest IKEA store. I´m back home now after being lost for 3 hours. At least I know where I was lost.
It´s not a bad idea to adjust the Android phone so that he can only get internet connection through the wireless network in your apartment. It´s not a good idea to expect the maps in the GPS unit to work far away from the apartment. Too bad that I only turned it on after I got lost. It worked so well in the apartment when I tested it. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I went to see a real estate agent today. We have a meeting next week to look at an apartment. It will be interesting.
In other news. It's almost as if it is old and disabled day here in Hoofddorp today. There are lot of old people, in wheelchairs and with oxygen mask, in the shopping center. There were also few kids with Downs syndrome walking with their parents. These are the people that rarely get out among the average public so one often kind of forgets that they still exist.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The weather here has been strange today. Sun and rain and sun and rain. The sun was just like usual, temperature in the higher part of the twenties but the rain was unusual. It was almost monsoon in it's intensity. I've never seen so much current in the canals here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The canals here in Hoofddorp are full of water, even overflowing. Few weeks ago I visited a pumping station (Hoofddorp is where the bottom of an old once was). They were letting water flow in, not pumping it out. This was because there have been little rains this summer and the farmer pump water from the canals into the fields.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When leaving Iceland I took with me couple of packages of hot dogs (sausages). When I'm in Iceland I put Ketchup, Remoulade, Mustard, Onions and fried Onions in the hot dog bread with the sausage. So after I came to The Netherlands I started looking for those ingredients. Not recalling having seen it in The Netherlands I cheated and brought Remoulade from Iceland. Finding ketchup was easy, the Dutch like ketchup almost as much as they like their mayonnaise. They like mayonnaise on bread, with their fries and basically everywhere you can imagine, quite often with Garlic taste. First I went to the Dirk supermarket. I found Ketchup and Onions there. In Hooglivet I found hot dog bread. In Albert Hein I found Fried Onions, interestingly enough, in the Indonesian food isle. The only Mustard I've found is Dijon which I already had in my fridge.
So, how does it taste? Just like usual. Was it worth it? Sure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A blind man could see the differences between the toilets in Iceland and The Netherlands. Even if it was in pitch black darkness. In The Netherlands the toilets are about 1 meter square, almost like an outhouse, usually without windows, often with the famous Dutch "shelf" toilet and always with some sort of sprayer for the smell. Where you have the famous Dutch "shelf" toilet the brush is always wet. The bathroom is independent from the toilet. In Iceland the toilets are always inside the bathrooms and if there is a smell, they can open up a window.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I´m back in The Netherlands after just over week in Iceland. The temperature is more than 10 degrees warmer here and there is sunshine. It is painful for my eyes after the greyness of Iceland.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My friend Elsa was complaining that her husband was keeping her up all night with his snoring. That is quite an accomplishment since shes been deaf since she was a little kid. My friend Bragi, her husband, was complaining of her kicking him while they were in bed. :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

I´m in Iceland now and like most people I decided to leave Reykjavík, the capital, over the weekend and go the "families summer cabin". Before I left the capital I wanted to purchase some things and visit a photography show where my friend had pictures on display. So I drove to the store at 10 o'clock in the morning. The door was open and some guy was standing by the register so I walked inside. It turned out that this guy was the owner and he told me that the store opened at he noon. It told them politely that by then I would've left town. He didn't care. Next I went to find the photography show only to find that it opened at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
There are so many people that leave Reykjavík at noon Saturday, to spend a night outside the city limits that there are usually traffic jams on the highways from the city. No one seems to want their business before they leave.
In The Nethelands people get up early on Saturday mornings to go to the store and most are home by lunchtime.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

While riding in the taxi to the airport I was once again amazed at how polite the Dutch are in traffic. The taxi rudely cut of an approaching car whose driver had to really stand on the brakes. He didn't even use the horn.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today Hoofddorp, tomorrow Reykjavik. They don't give me much notice at work before trips. I just hope that the volcano under Grímsvötn will stop erupting soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It is Monday here in The Netherlands and, as a matter of fact, in lot´s of other places as well. In The Netherlands weekdays don't start with capital letter so it would be monday according to local rules of writing. The fact that it is Monday means that almost all restaurants are closed. I was not in any mood to cook so I found an open restaurant. Tonight I ate Chinese, or Asian takeaway.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

According to certain Mr. Camping the world was supposed to end yesterday at 6 o'clock in the afternoon. Instead at about 6 o'clock in the afternoon Iceland's most active volcano started erupting. Mr. Camping must have made small miscalculation somewhere in his formula. The answer is still 42. But what does 42 mean and how is the formula you might ask. The volcanic eruption might escalate to become the end of the world instead of just closing down few airports, but that is unlikely.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It is starting to really annoy me how many webpages I visit suddenly start displaying all the text in Dutch. Even though I´m located in The Netherlands I don't speak Dutch and would like to use English as communications language. This goes for Blogspot.com, Paypal.com. MSN.com and all other webpages that think they know more about my preferences than I do.
In my job I'm working with so many British people that I hardly speak a word in Dutch. And, even worse, I'm starting to speak with British accent.

Friday, May 20, 2011

If you try you can always find some nice things around you. Tomorrow I'm going to a nice racetrack with my radio controlled toys and play a little. There is one track right at the edge of Hoofddorps city limits. There are few others in near towns. There is one racetrack in Iceland and it is off-road. My on-road car hasn't much purpose there.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've written many words about the differences between Reykjavík and Hoofddorp. Reykjavík has hills, and mountains in the distance. Hoofddorp is completely flat. I've recently been in Portugal, in Estoril, that is built on a mountainside by the sea and in Switzerland, in Lugano, that is built on a mountainside by a lake.
Of those places I feel safest, in traffic, in Hoofddorp, then Estoril, Lugano and Reykjavík. I feel safest, from being robbed, in Reykjavík, then Hoofddorp, Lugano and Estoril.
The weather was best in Lugano, then Estoril, Hoofddorp and worst in Reykjavík.
The place I´d most like to live in is Hoofddorp, Lugano, Reykjavík and Estoril.
As a interesting side note Casino Estoril is supposedly the inspiration for Ian Flemings Casino Royal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

As an Icelander in the big bad world outside of Iceland I of course try to follow the news from "home". Iceland has quite a few news-web-pages. mbl.is, visir.is, dv.is, ruv.is and so on. They all have one thing in common. They're "heavy", meaning that they have so many advertisements and take so long to load in my web-browser that I've practically given up on trying to use them. This of course means that the owners of the websites, who get paid from the advertisers, for every visit to the website, they actually make less money by putting so many advertisements on their sites.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Price-tags are compulsory in Iceland. If store owner doesn't display prices on the products in the window or on the shelves he can be fined. And if there is difference in prices between the window display and inside the store the customer has the right to demand the lower price. Here in The Netherlands about 70-80% of the products are marked with price and more than once I've seen the same product with 2 different prices in the same store. In Iceland the store has to display prices for whole kilos or liters and each item on the price ticket. This is to make sure that the customer can easily compare prices. In The Netherlands I've seen one product showing the price for 100 grams and another comparable product showing the price for 1 kilo.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It´s been raining today, on and off. Its making me homesick.

I´ve been having some problems with my computer and I went to the Microsoft webpage to ask some questions. A very nice person suggested a course of action for me and suggested that I go to the forum I asked the question on and ask the question there. I feel like Don Quixote, fighting many headed Dragons.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

After couple of months of remarkably good weather, the sun has gone to visit other countries, leaving The Netherlands in kind of Icelandic summer weather. What the English speaking people like to call balmy winds with occasional few minute or second appearance by the sun. Maybe I´m just especially sensitive since the weather was so good in Switzerland last week.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I´m back from Switzerland where I left my heart in a street restaurant near the lake in Lugano. Sitting in a wonderful company under an umbrella in the rain. The weather was wonderful, it was really nice. If I'm nice person I might get a job there. Then I could maybe order Iceland from this menu. I have to learn Italian to fully understand it though. I think this is Salmon with some side-dish.


I´m trying to convince myself that it is a bad idea to move to this place. 25 degree heat and when it rains the rain is warm.


There isn't much land by the sea so they build the houses on the mountainsides. Taxis don't take credit-cards, only cash. I mean it´s Switzerland, the banking capital of the world. People drive to fast. There is no flat land. There are a lot of super-cars, Ferrari's, Porches and Maserati's... All stuck in traffic. Lot´s of traffic lights.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another break tomorrow, I'm going to Switzerland for work. The Swiss are famous for their cheese, the one with the holes in it. The Netherlanders also like cheese a lot but not the holes. Cheese is one of the Dutch holy trinity. The others are wooden shoes and tulips.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Recently I got a package from USA. This was hobby stuff that I mail-ordered and had delivered. Like I've done quite a few times in Iceland. It was about 300 USD worth, including shipping. The shipping was similarly priced no matter if I specified Iceland or The Netherlands as destination. Which is interesting since Iceland is about midway between USA and The Netherlands. Even more interesting when you keep in mind that almost all mail from USA that goes to Iceland starts its journey by taking a detour through The Netherlands to Germany. At least that's how it was few years ago. But the shipping is not the important part. When the package arrived it came with a invoice for The Netherlands VAT charge, about 45 Euros. To pay on delivery. In Iceland I always have to pick up the package at Customs and show them an invoice from the company that sold the package, which they reserve the right to reject and charge me customs tax and VAT as if the package was worth much more. Iceland customs also charge over 20 Euros for handling of the package or more accurately, handling of paperwork and a sort of service fee for checking what your package contains. In this instance they would also have charged me 10% custom tax and 25.5% VAT. All together over 100 Euros. So shopping from USA is about twice as expensive in Iceland as it is in The Netherlands.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dutch architecture is an interesting thing. The Netherlanders have many good architects but the traditional Dutch house does not give much scope for creativity. The traditional Dutch house is narrow and tall and quite often leaning sideways.

Like this house in Hoofddorp.



The reason for this problem that The Netherlanders have with true vertical is the foundation of the buildings. Lot of buildings are built on old seabeds where there are up to 100 meters of clay between the building and solid rock. To get semi solid foundation for the buildings The Netherlanders need to drive poles into the ground. They use wood below water level and concrete above water level. Current thinking is that about 40 meters is enough foundation for regular building.
Of course many of the buildings are really old so they've had plenty of time to settle down and start leaning a bit. 
Todays wisdom, not that there has been much of it here, comes from Andrea who planes to teach her kids "carefullness but not fearfullness". Today's children are being smothered, robbed of their childhood and drugged out of this world, by parents who are blinded by fear that something will happen to their kids and don't have the knowledge to handle them. Andrea, I hope you succeed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I've just returned from Portugal where I was working for a week. It is interesting to notice the differences between the Netherlands and Portugal. The Portuguese are in much more of a hurry when driving, leaving less space between cars and more weaving around in traffic. The Netherlanders are, as I've pointed out few times, incredibly polite and tolerant. There are lots of mountains and hills in Portugal but The Netherlands are, as most people know, very flat. There are many similarities. People of both nations use scooters a lot, and most people speak English although The Netherlanders have slight edge there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Queensday went off without a hitch. The birthdaygirl did her official duties. Her subjects sold lot's of stuff on this taxfree day. Then they went and partied through the night. I went into Amsterdam and bought an orange hat. That is orange colored hat, not a hat made of oranges. I took couple of pictures, couple of hundred of pictures. I´m so glad for digital camera technology, it is much cheaper than the old film method. In fact I calculate that by now I have about 10 pictures for each dollar spent on the camera. Since 1 out of 100 is good, every good picture has only cost me about 10 dollars. Not everyone was wearing orange, but lot were.

This girl was playing the sax and she was pretty good for her age.

You see the most interesting things when you're lost.

People in Hoofddorp.Notice the large aluminum giant in the background. That's Gunnars ego.

This guy passed me and my bicycle, going uphill and as you can see, he is carrying luggage. 

People in Amsterdam.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tomorrow is the Queensday when the Queen of The Netherlands celebrates her birthday, on her mothers birthday. This is a national holiday and judging by the amount of alcohol I've seen people carrying today, they are determined to really celebrate tomorrow, and tomorrow evening, and tomorrow night. I'm told that Amsterdam is packed so full on Quennsday that people can hardly move. If I wake up early I'll go into Amsterdam otherwise I'll go to Haarlem which I'm told is a really nice place to be on Quennsday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The same guy was still painting the windows this morning, and if that wasn't enough my neighbor started to drill in the concrete wall that separates the apartments, right on the other side of my bedroom. I wonder why he does this between 8 and 9 in the mornings. Last weekend he was drilling at similar time. This is the same neighbor that had the elevator covered in white plastic for over 2 months while his apartment was rebuilt. He also refused to pay for extra cleaning or damages that the people he had working in the house caused.
People are interesting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Someone was busy painting the windows on the next building this morning, in a crane, that made "beeping" sounds whenever it was moved. And he moved it a lot. Understandingly I was not fully rested when my alarm clock started it's rise and shine song this morning.

The people here in The Netherlands use summertime where they add one hour to the time/clock during the summer. In Iceland they use the same time all year around. I don't understand why they add one hour to the clock. That means it'll be dark sooner in the evenings and the morning sun is wasted on people like me who would like nothing better than to imitate Bears and sleep form months or Sloths.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter in The Netherlands. It started differently than in Iceland because lots of stores were open on Friday and of course Saturday that is just a normal Saturday. And of course the Turkish stores were open all Easter. The Turks don't celebrate Easter and they're allowed to work here during Easter. In Iceland they're forced to close the shops. In Iceland the police will work really hard, even in overtime, to make sure that no one else works on Easter. But then it started to look similar with most stores closed on Saturday and Monday. After all it was really nice Easter, the warmest I can remember. My arms are still red after I was out in the sun on Friday and Saturday.

The Netherlanders like to go sailing on their dikes when the weather is nice.


The "big" windmill in Leiden. Judging by the smell it´s a popular pastime to sit by the dike on warm summer days and smoke hash.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In USA a mother allowed her 9 year old kid to take the subway home alone. She was called Americas worst mom. There are thousands of mom in USA that drug their kids, because they're active healthy kids that have trouble sitting still in boring classrooms while the boring teacher drones on about subject they don't like, usually in good weather. Not to mention the parents, moms and dads, that beat up their kids or subject them to mental torture by always talking down to and belittling them. This world we live in is so scared/frightened that otherwise intelligent and well meaning parents actually smother their kids and prevent them from growing up. Sure there are dangers in the world but they should not be hidden from the kids. The kids should be educated about the dangers of the world and then allowed to face them. Young trees bend and spring back from winds that break old trees. Kids, even down to 4 year old, are usually much more intelligent and independent than even the most adoring parents thinks.
In my opinion the mother that allows her 9 year old kid to take the subway home alone is much better parent than the mother who never spends time with her kids.

Few pictures from the park yesterday, showing kids and teenagers fooling around without hurting themselves.

Kid on a windsurfboard

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I figured out what the word "puntenell" means. It means Point-N-L or ".nl" It should've been obvious. It's always the last word they say in the ads on the radio.

As I was reading, in National Geographic, about a bicycle/barge trip of The Netherlands the following quotes caught my eyes "Dutch town names appear to be randomly arranged letters you'd swear could never be turned into words." "Drivers of motor vehicles share the road with cyclists rather than viewing them as targets."
This was in a nice article by Boyd Madson about a group of friends who cycled 300 miles about The Netherlands (in celebration of one friends 60th birthday) while their wives took the barge and met them in the evenings.

Few pictures from the trip to the lake in the park here in Hoofddorp.
Some people enjoying the weather.

Scootergirls on their way to the lake.

A family of 4 riding by the lake.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I cycle down to Leiden  today. Got lost on the way and took a shortcut on the way back with predictable consequences. With all the detours it was about 50 Km. trip. Here are some photos.

The Sundial in Leiden. Someone has been careless, it has not been adjusted for summer time. This photo was taken shortly after six o clock.

Another picture for Andrea. As you can see, here you can transport slightly older kids than in the other bicycle bus.

More pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Friday is tomorrow. The weather forecast for the weekend is like this week has been, 20-27 degrees Celsius during the day with slightly cooler evenings. I've never been so glad for air conditioning. My plan is to take the bicycle and take a road trip. This time I'm going to remember the camera. Maybe I'll start at Toolenburg, the park in Hoofddorp. It has a "big" lake in the middle. I'm still trying to decide where to go after that, I'd like to go back to Haarlem but Leiden would be fun too, it has nice big windmill and is very picturesque. Leiden is a bit too far for bicycle but the train ticket is not expensive, so maybe the road trip will become a train trip.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Soon there will be Queens Day. A national holiday in The Netherlands where everyone comes together and celebrates the birthday of the Queen. The funny thing is that Queen Beatrix's birthday is in January. For some reason she celebrates her birthday on her mothers birthday. Unless it's on Sunday in which case she celebrates her mothers birthday the day before her mothers birthday. On Queens Day The Netherlands become Orange, orange hats, orange scarfs, orange suits, orange dresses, orange ornaments on the houses, orange food, orange drinks. The Dutch even pour orange color dye into the canals. On Queens Day there is a "Freemarket". Basically everyone can sell whatever he, or she, wants without paying taxes of the sale. Even small kids are known to sell their old toys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The weather is amazing. Hot, hot, hot. It's nice to sit on the balcony with cold beverage in my hand, feeling the warm wind gently massage worries of the day away. 

I tried installing Firefox 4 in my PC, but it wasn't good so I installed 3.6 instead. And I wish Microsoft still sold Windows XP.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dutch have this snack called "Stroopwafels" (it might be know in other countries). This is a wafel about ten centimeters in diameter and a half centimeter thick. They cut apart in the middle and put caramel in between so you get sort of wafel, sugar, wafel sandwich. It's about forty grams, yet they manage to cram two hundred calories into it. Delicious.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I was thinking about the ride yesterday and realized that it was shorter than a Marathon yet it took me almost half as long to cycle the distance than it takes a marathon runner to run it. I was not racing but this is still interesting fact. Maybe we should just start running wherever we want to go? I know that I, and lot of other people, could use the exercise.

The traffic in the streets, around the market yesterday is incredible. Reminds me of a million birds on a small lake. I realised why birds never fly into each other although drivers in cars often do. The birds are traveling at speed they can handle, they're watching where they're going and they're prepared for unexpected behaviour from other birds. No one has the right of the way and they're not limited to narrow lanes. The overengineered streets and highways are causing drivers to crash into each others cars. Not to mention that the cars have way more power than the driver can handle.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

As good as the Dutch are in speaking English they are horrible in servicing people who don't speak Dutch. The banks as a rule don't have English information available. Restaurants don't have menus in English. Public transport don't have route descriptions in English. Products in supermarkets don't have English descriptions. I think The Netherlands are the worst country I've ever been in, in regard to written English.

Today I took the bicycle and went to Haarlem. In Haarlem I went to the market, bought a thin waffle and got calories for all my money. It was about 6 hour trip, I got lost twice and according to the speedometer cycled for just over 3 hours and traveled 39 Km. On the way back I stopped in Heemstede and spent an hour watching a RC car race at the MACH track. The trip was worthless in the sense that I didn't get what I went into Haarlem for, I even took a detour to Bloemingdaal to search for it, but it was still very nice just to be out in the warm weather, going to the market and watching the end of the race.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some of the machines I´ve been working on lately are themed with Dirty Dancing and Star Wars. Now I´m itching to see the movies. :)
A couple of guys from Iceland visited last week. They were here for training for their jobs. As a person who doesn't smoke, because it smells bad and is expensive, I'm always surprised at the eagerness with which people throw away their money. A lot of people in Iceland smoke but it seems that almost everyone in The Netherlands smoke and at the same time they're complaining about how expensive it is to smoke. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Straight in front of the pretty girl on the scooter (few posts down) is a restaurant named Revan Pera. At first glance it seems to be the standard Kebab restaurant, with meat and chicken on vertical sticks. It wasn't until Luigi, one of my coworkers went into town to buy lunch for bunch of us and came back with something called Kapsalon (Maurice laughed and told me that this place where Luigi bought the Kapsalon was right next to my apartment) that I discovered this tasteful dish. To make a Kapsalon they take a container, put French Fries (Chips if you're British. Freedom fries, if you're shallow minded American. Fries if you're lazy) in the bottom, add the standard Kebab meat of your choice, chicken or beef, sprinkle cheese on top and put it in the oven. After few minutes they take it out, add vegetables and sauces and you get delicious meal for 5.50 Euros. Here you see some of the nice and friendly staff. I'll miss this place when I move from the apartment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dinner at the restaurant Southern Cross with coworkers. Nice Australian-ish restaurant in Heemsted with kangaroo and Emo steaks along with Fosters beer. Livin la vida loca, eh. Like Joseph yesterday they could be more generous with their portions. Poor Johan, who's getting married on Monday, was "encouraged" to change his mind. His wife is from the Baska in Spain and I hope they have a good time there on their honeymoon. She will probably not blow him up like we suggested. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dinner at the restaurant Joseph. They don't have menus in English. The waitress didn't trust herself to translate. Not bad restaurant but they were a bit stingy with their portions. I can't fully recommend it, unless you speak Dutch. The Paddock just few meters away is much better, they are more generous with the food and have better waiters, not forgetting menus in English.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It amazes me, considering how frugal the Dutch are and how expensive energy is here, how little they do to save energy. On a hot day like today, the air conditioning is kept running at work. But there are ovens still heating up the place. In Iceland an building like that would have computer controlled air conditioning system that would either heat up the place or cool it down, depending on circumstances. Even using heat exchange systems as needed to heat the incoming air using the warmth from the outgoing air. In Iceland they would never do both, heat up using ovens and cool down using air conditioning, yet energy is so cheap there it's almost free.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I went to Haarlem yesterday morning with Gregory, my coworker. He was looking for advice on what RC car to buy. On the way back I showed him and his kid the MACH RC track in Heemstede. They walked away from the track with light shining in their eyes.
I went "down" to Nieuw Vennep yesterday for pleasurable evening. There I saw for the first time the famous Dutch "shelf" toilet, the best way to describe it is to say that with this toilet you'll never get "splasback" but it takes more cleaning than normal shaped toilets.
I took lot of pictures of Nieuw Vennep that I will be publising here, I must have cycled close to 20 kilometers and my knees are killing me. I really like the place and I'm going to include it in future searches for apartment here. I'll hear from the financial adviser on Monday and he was going to recommend an honest real estate agent to me.

More pictures from the beginning of the week:
The clouds are always crisscrossed with jet trails .

And I found this house, with beautiful fountain, buried between tall buildings.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I was woken up this morning by twittering birds. There are lot more birds here in The Netherlands than in Iceland. Maybe because the Dutch don't have nearly as many cats as people in Iceland. When I went to Iceland last time the average number of cats in each place I visited was 2. Here the preferred pet is a smallish dog, almost like a 3/4 size Icelandic sheep dog without the wagging tail and perky ears. In the mornings I cycle past large area where there are always 3-4 people walking their dogs. They are not kept on leash and in spite of possible 1000 Euro fine I've never seen owner pick up their dogs droppings.

Here is a picture of marching ducks from couple of days ago.

Friday, April 8, 2011

This week has been very busy at work. And since I now know mostly what I'm doing, great fun. The weather has been really nice. All in all life is good.
When I started this blog I planned to talk about the differences between the Icelandic and the Dutch cultures. Now I don't seem to see so much difference. The Dutch are more relaxed than Icelanders. Few of my Dutch coworkers, like Johan, have gone out of their way to make my stay here more pleasant. He's getting married and will go on his honeymoon the week after next. My Italian coworker, Luigi, has also worked hard to allow me to fit into the group. I'm invited to his house tomorrow night for dinner along with few of my colleagues. Tomorrow morning I'm going with Gregory, one of my Brithish coworkers into next town. My French coworker, Sergei, loaned me his old bike so I wouldn't have to walk to work when I just arrived here. There are many others that I don't name that have also been very nice. Geert, Jos, Tom, Maurice, Marcel, Marian, Sibren, Craig and Michael just to name a few. I thank them all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Here are couple of more pictures from yesterday. First a couple of quacks that were walking on the road like they didn't have a care in the world. Maybe they didn't. 5-10 cars drove past while Quackie and Quacker walked across the road quacking to each other. Not a single driver used the horn.



Here is another shot of the unmissable windmill. This one was used to mill corn and can sometimes be seen rotating on visiting hours on weekends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Busy day at work and this really, really great weather outside. I did the mistake of cycling around before going home and pick up the camera. Then I went out and got some nice pictures.

I've written about the pretty young women on scooters. Here you can see what I'm talking about. Notice her purse, these scooters are well equipped :).Also notice the blue license plate, it means that she´s allowed to drive on bicycle roads.

And of course there is no picture from The Netherlands unless it has a windmill.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I spoke with the mortgage adjuster this morning and it was decided that we meet on Friday to discuss things. He said that I should be able to borrow enough to buy that apartment I was looking at. This mortgage adjuster will drive to Hoofddorp to meet me on Friday morning and he doesn't charge anything. All his costs are covered by his percentage, that the bank that I will finally get the mortgage from, will pay to him. He contacts few banks and loan sharks to get good loans for me and they pay him.
My coworker Johan has offered to give me his old broken bike, I think I'll end up accepting that. All real Dutch people have more than one bike. :D

Monday, April 4, 2011

I got a phone-call from a mortgage advisor today. Unfortunately I missed it and when I tried to call back I ended up trying to speak to a person that didn't speak English. I thought that that types of persons didn't exist anymore. My boss is threatening to send me back to Iceland next week. I cried and begged not to be sent back so soon (not really). This will be discussed better tomorrow.
I did some checking into frequent flyer clubs today. Icelandairs club sucks so much, its almost pure vacuum. And it's not a frequent flyers club as such. It's a creditcard bonus club that you can use to purchase airfare tickets, but you'll have to pay landing fees and airport taxes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The hot water here in Hoofddorp is cold water heated by gas. Maybe that is why sinks in most WCs only have one tap, a cold one. I had trained my self not to turn on the hot water tap unless I really wanted hot water but since I came from Iceland I find my self using the hot water tap by the kitchen sink without realizing until the water turns hot. This is of course waste of energy, energy costs money, and good Netherlanders don't spend money unless absolutely necessary.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's been one of the days that people in Iceland can only dream about. Or experience when traveling abroad. The wind is blowing softly and it's warm !?!. I did what I could never do in Iceland, left the jacket at home and went out for a walk. I got my hair cut, shopped a bit and, since I picked up my camera when I left Iceland last week, took some pictures.

This one is for Andrea. The little pink bicycle belongs to girl, who looked about 5-6 year old, traveling with the woman riding the bicycle bus. When kids in The Netherlands get about 4-5 years old they're expected to cycle on their own.



Here is the skislope in Hoofddorp as seen from my door.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What a nice weather in Hoofddorp. The sun is setting, my french windows are open and it's very warm in here. If this continues tomorrow I'll go on a long tour on my bicycle.
10 year old car in Iceland is usually worn out and not all cars make it to their tenth year. In The Netherlands a 10 year old car is worn and has been driven more than in Iceland but it has few years of usable life left. There is a difference in how the cars are driven and the roads. It never ceases to amaze me that no one here is ever in a hurry. You see almost nothing of the me, me, me attitude that is so common in Iceland. If someone pulls into the road in front of you, you just stop and let him go, you weren't going too fast so you didn't have to brake hard. This is one of the reasons I almost never see cars here that need cosmetic repairs and it's also one of the reasons that there are so few accidents here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm back in The Netherlands.Weirdly enough I feel like I've returned home. Maybe because it was raining this morning and the wind is high enough to slow me down on my way home on my new Batavus Mambo 8 speed Fiets (Dutch for bicycle). The letters "ie" in Dutch are pronounced as "ee" (meet) in english. It shows the sly Dutch humor that they call their bicycles "feets".
I figured out today why the companys phone number was always so familiar. My coworker John Cunningham and the broadcasting studio at radio channel 2 in Iceland have the same phone number (23-5687123 and 5687123 respectively), mine ends in 109.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm leaving tomorrow. My luggage is too heavy. I have no idea what the time is. My watch says19:35, my Blackberry says 21:35 and my LG phone says 20:35. I have to leave for my flight at around 05:00.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I feel that I'm in a time machine with a nasty sense of humor. The Netherlands changed into summer time this morning and of course my cell phone/alarm clock decided to ring an hour early. Not good, I've caught some sort of flu and was tossing and turning and sweating all through the night. I could have used this hour for more rest. Because of the flue I had to cancel dinner with friends. I didn't want to carry the flu to them and they have cats which would've made the flu worse.
My time in Iceland is coming to an end. It was good to be back but it will be good to be back at work.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I've kept on unpacking the crates I packed in preparation for moving to The Netherlands. I kept on asking myself why on earth* did I pack this? I have some stuff that I plan to bring with me when I fly back. I'll have to pay a little bit when the check in person says "your luggage is too heavy sir".



* on earth is used in place of what I actually kept asking myself.
One should never go home. When one has moved, he has no home anymore. I spent the morning working, most of the day unpacking the crates I had packed for The Netherlands and the evening visiting an old friend. I'm trying to decide what to take back with me.
The last few months I've been living sparingly. About the only thing I've bought apart from books (and the bicycle) is food. Now every fiber in my body is crying out to me to buy stuff. I've most likely been paid by now and I'd like to buy the nice Canon 550 camera on offer in Schiphol airport. I'd like to buy the JBL Ipod dock with alarm clock. I'd like to buy the apartment I've been looking at. Then again I'd like to be allowed on board the plane without paying arm and a leg for overweight suitcases.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The cars in The Netherlands are nearly all small cars with small engines and manual transmission. Cars are taxed, taxed and taxed. Fuel efficient cars have lower taxes, smaller cars have lower taxes, lighter cars have lower taxes. And finding a parking space is a constant battle. The apartment building I live in has no parking spaces. There is parking building next door but that costs money, and The Dutch don't believe in spending money unnecessarily.
In Iceland most cars are medium sized with large engines and automatic transmission. Even when faced with the highest fuel prices in the history of the country The Icelanders want power and comfort.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I really don't like the snow and the cold here in Reykjavík, Iceland.
I was looking through my Flickr page. Of the 50 or so pictures maybe 5 are good.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No post today. Or does this count as a post?
I got new room at the 1919 hotel today. The other one had too much noise from the air conditioning. Now I have less air conditioning noise but more street noise. Perhaps I'll try staying at the Hilton next time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In news here in Reykjavík is that today it's one year since the volcanic eruption started in Fimmvörðuháls and moved from there to Eyjafjallajökull with results that most of the world can remember.

Iceland is covered in snow, quite a difference from The Netherlands where I didn't see a single snowflake the whole time I was there. But it's early spring and the snow is melting fast, I can see difference from this morning.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reykjavik-Hoofddorp is now Hoofddorp-Reykjavik.
Taxis. In The Netherlands the taxis are usually a couple of years old Mercedes sedan. The driver sometimes speak English and they often like to take the beautiful way. To combat that I've confined my taxi travels to one company, Verkuyl. My employer has charge account with them. They are (the taxi driver informed me of this on the way to the airport this morning) a business taxi company. A small company with only 40 drivers and they prefer to serve business men. Verkuyl does not charge too much, they do not take the interesting route, unless you ask for it. You can call them and they come and pick you up. Their cars are clean and the drivers polite and nice.

Edit. May 2014. Verkuyls quality of service has dropped steadily since I wrote this so I don't use them much anymore. Sometimes I use Marcus, another local company, but mostly I use the buses and trains these days.

When I landed in Iceland I took a taxi to the hotel. It (car nr. 115 from taxi company BBS) was a VW bus, it looked like it was from before the crash, it was dirty and there were pieces missing from the interior. But the driver was quiet and took the short route. Then I took another taxi to my mothers house (car nr. 30 from Hreyfill). That was nearly brand new Mercedes sedan, cleaner than I am after long shower and the driver was really nice. I took his business card (Eiríkur +354 8923440) and I'm going to call him the day before I leave, so he can drive me to the airport.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tomorrow I fly to Iceland. The purpose of the trip is to upgrade the software in our machines in Iceland. The person in charge of maintainance there is not happy. I understand that they were demanding updates to fix problems until they found out that the memory of the machines will have to be reset. Setting up the machines is a lot of work. Now suddenly their problems are not problems and they are sure that they can work around them. So, what do I do? Do I give the customer what he asks for, what he wants or what he needs?
The toolcase I need to take with me is 25 kilos. And I took lots of tools out of it because I planned to take some stuff with me when I return. I need to seriously look at what tools to take on flights in the future.
Next post will be from snowy Iceland.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Old houses in The Nethelands are usually narrow, deep and tall, often 2-3 stories tall. And the buildings are often wider at the top than at the bottom. Yet another brilliant way of the Dutch people to save money. In the old days they paid taxes based on how wide the building is at its base. No tax collector could make them pay extra if the walls were not exactly straight and sloped gently outwards at the top. The fact that the rain that falls on the walls is more likely to flow down than leak into a wall that slopes outwards is the "official" explanation of the leaning walls of the Dutch. In my opinion the Dutch have executed a flawless tax evasion method. Another common feature, in the houses here, is that the front door is often on the side of the building and in few cases the backdoor is on the front. Stairways are narrow and steep and often the place where the Dutch keep their bicycles. Another feature is that the windows are large and tall, often from floor to ceiling (and clean). Glass is cheaper than brick so there you have still another way of saving money when building houses.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On my old mountain-bike almost every item on the bike was fastened using "quick release" levers. I could take it almost completely apart in 2 minutes, without any tools. My new everyday bicycle has no "quick release" levers. Because of bicycle theft and theft of accessories "quick release" levers and other hardware are not even available here in The Netherlands, except for special order. Many unfortunate bicycle owners have come out of a building to find that the only thing left of their bicycle was the front wheel, still firmly locked to the stand (I guess the lock was left too). I was told to buy 2 heavy duty chains and always fasten the frame of the bicycle to solid object. I'm told that bicycle theft is not a big problem here in Hoofddorp but if you live in Amsterdam better beware. Don't buy expensive bike if you live there. One of my coworkers had over 20 bicycles stolen from him, in five years, while living there. In the end he never left his bicycle anywhere. He carried it up two narrow stairs at home and it stood in the hallway, when he was home, and besides his desk, when he was at work. I will adopt similar method with my bicycle.
Both my old mountain bike and my new everyday bike, have top of the line, made in Japan, Shimano hubs and gears. The only difference being that on my almost 20 year old mountain bike the hubs and gears are almost 20 years old. Because they were top of the line items when new, they are not rusted or corroded and show nearly no wear. My mountain bike saw lots of use but I did the maintenance that was needed and I tried not to misuse it. Bicycles are one of few items where it pays to pay more and buy high quality products (unless it's stolen from you). You can buy the most expensive and well made phone. It'll be outdated in six months and the battery most likely gone bad in one year. Same with a laptop.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I went and bought the bicycle. I guess that makes me officially 1/4th Dutch. I need Cloggies (wooden shoes), tulips on my balcony (where I'm writing this on my laptop) and to learn the language (1/4th for each).
As I said I'm writing this on my balcony, after lovely meal, courtesy of the turkish family restaurant in the building. Like usual the old turk took the cash and put it in his pocket without punching anything in the register. There is also a jewish restaurant in the building. I must go there soon to try it out. I'm pretty tired after long day at work so I sit here watching the sun set over the old church by the roundabout. There are literally dozens of jet-trails in the air. Light wind, the temperature has dropped down to 12-15° so I'm going inside soon. I understand it is freezing in Reykjavík and everything is covered in snow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Dutch name for Thursday (Day of Thor (god of thunder)) is Donderdag (Day of Thunder). On Mondays (Day of the Moon, maandag) most restaurants and many shops are closed. Most trains and buses stop running/driving around midnight, the first buses start again at around seven. The bar at De Beurs closes at one o'clock on Friday (Day of Freya) evening. Super Fly, the "coffeshop" next to De Beurs, that sells hash and is second home to some ladies of negotiable affection is open somewhat longer.

The window cleaning last weekend earned me unexpected points from my neighbour. :)
I've decided to buy this Batavus Mambo bicycle on sale at the friendly neighbourhood bicycle shop. Until I change my mind. Bicycles are the main method of transportation in The Netherlands. I've seen bicycles with child-seats for 2 kids, one in front of the rider and other in the back. I've seen cargo bicycles with 2 child-seats in the "cargo area" and a clear cover to keep the rain out. I've seen bicycles with baskets big enough for couple of cases of bottled beer. I've seen (lot) of bicycles with locks that cost more than the bike they're used on. When the Dutch carry a passenger on their bike the passenger usually sits side-saddle so it's easier for him to see where they're going. The owner of the bike is almost always the one that pedals so it's not uncommon to see women pedalling, sometimes in high heels, and guys sitting in the back. No one uses helmets and there seem to be nearly no bicycle related accidents.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yet another day in paradise. The weather is good, but the skies are cloudy. I'm going to stay at home and read some books on my Kindle.
I don't know if it's my imagination or has the number of books featuring female detectives, or heroines, multiplied in the last few years. Saras Paretskys detective/heroine, W.I. Warshawski, from the late eighties, early nineties, is the first I remember. Maybe because in the movie Warshawski was played by Kathleen Turner, who was one of my favorite actresses. (Her appearance on the TV show "Friends", as Joeys gay father, had me laughing so hard I cried, especially since the woman I was watching that episode with commented "What an ugly guy".) Around or shortly before the Millennium Janet Evanovich wrote her first "Plum" stories. The first "Stephanie Plum" story "One for the money" will come to the silver-screen next winter, starring Katherine Heigl. Maybe I'm just noticing all these stories because Amazon pushes them at me. Amazon thinks I'm interested in those storied because I've bought the "Plum" novels. If you remember earlier stories please comment.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I was cleaning the windows in the apartment. It makes me feel so proud, and so Dutch. And it has the added benefit that now I can see out the windows. The windows go all the way to the ceiling so I needed a chair to reach the top. That's when I noticed that there is no regular chair in the apartment. There are bar-stools, sofas and balcony-chairs but no regular height chairs. The only thing I found to stand on was a footrest from one of the sofas.
The weather was really good today so I took the bicycle and cycled to Haarlem to look at the Model Auto Cluc Haarlem Radio Control Racing Track in person. There were about 10 people practicing there. 2 with electric cars, the rest with nitro. The electric cars have become faster than the nitro cars. The limiting factor for speed today seems to be grip. The MACH track is a simple track, very fast with long back-straight that ends in a U turn and couple of corners which make the only tricky part of the circuit. The asphalt is very fine and high grip. I'm definately going to bring my RC car with me, when I come back from Iceland. I'll go for a visit in a week.
After the trip to Haarlem I visited a bicycle shop and I think I've found a bike to buy. This is a Bavarius 8 speed bike for 800 Euros but I get 20% off if I buy now. 
I think I remember correctly that tradionally, in Iceland, doors always open into a room and towards the nearest wall. Living rooms never have doors. Here in The Netherlands it seems to be traditon that doors open into all bedrooms and into the living room that usually has doors. Toilet, bathroom, storage and other rooms open out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An earthquake hit Japan this morning, followed by a tsunami who continues to cause destruction to coastal areas around the world. My most sincere sympathies to all those who've lost loved ones in this tragedy. I selfishly hope those few people I know in Japan are safe and for everyone that things will return to normal as soon as possible after this disaster.

In other news. Today was yet another sunny day in the Head Village (Hoofddorp). The last I heard from Iceland is that everything is covered in snow and the wind is in unusual hurry. A gourmet meal is warming up in the microwave. The weather forecast is good for the weekend. I'm definitely going to take the bike and travel around a bit, maybe to the MACH RC track. On my way home from work today I went sightseeing and looked at a building where there are couple of apartments I'm interested in purchasing. Pretty nice.
I'd like to call home to Iceland, but no-one is on Skype. I wonder if old fashioned telephone still works? And I wonder if I remember how it works and if I can remember or find a phone-number to call.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Netherlanders of necessity usually use their bikes to go to work, shop or visit neighbor, but if it was as hilly and windy here, as in Iceland, everyone would drive. And while on the subject of driving. On frosty mornings both nations make small clear window in the front windshield and then drive on, trusting the defroster to finish the work before they hit something.
I've noticed that peoples use of bicycles, scooters and cars is defined by sex, age and the time of day. Those who use bicycles during the day are mostly teenagers and middle age people on their way to work (the middle aged people are going to work, not the teenagers). Young men, who work, drive cars no matter what time of day it is. Those who use bicycles in the evenings are almost exclusively young women. The young women who go around in the evenings and don't ride on bicycles are driving scooters. It is a sort of fashion statement and one of my favorite sights here. A trim young women in dark-blue or black jacket, zipped up to her scarf, sitting with her nose five centimeters (2 inches for those few who don't use the metric system) from the windshield on her scooter wearing an open helmet. The young women are the only ones who use helmets here. No one uses helmet on a bicycle and the guys who drive scooters don't bother either. Most scooter drivers drive on the red bicycle roads that are parallel to most streets here. For bicycle and scooter riders a red light on the traffic lights is used for occasional guidance, not as rule, but since no driver here seems to be in a hurry it all works out in the end without accidents.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

There is a saying that "The devil is in the details". And it is in the details that all the difficult and the strange things lie, when you move from one country to another.

Everywhere I go there are obstacles because I don't understand much of Dutch yet. In the supermarket, in the bank, in the restaurant. In the restaurants, even in the English menus, the description or the name of the course is meant for someone who knows the name of all the spices and meats here. I bought minced meat in the supermarket few days ago. When I used Google Translate to translate the label into English the result was "mostly meat". I was wondering if it was pork, lamb or beef. I guess I find out when I cook it. I know it's not chicken, chicken is Kip. I also know its not any kind of fish.
Many sinks here have only one tap. In other words, when washing your hands after going to the toilet you often have only two options, cold water or dirty hands. Good thing I don't care if the water is cold. 
I've borrowed a bicycle to go on to work. It had no air in its tires when I got it. After pumping up the tires I found out that other thing it doesn't have is brakes. It hasn't got any lights either so I'd be illegal if I rode on it after dark. It doesn't have any gears either and the gearing is tall so starting is often slow. When I buy a bicycle it'll have gears.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oh, what a great day. The sun's been shining all day long with temperature in the teens. As I bicycled home from work the birds were swimming in the canals. No, the fishes were not singing in the trees. They might have been singing underwater but, fortunately for them, the water is so dirty in the canals that there is no hope in seeing if there are any fishes left. I wonder if natural selection will soon create fishes that use radar, or maybe sonar, to see where they're going.
My NL Credit-card arrived in the mail the other day. I was activating it and I must say few words about internet banking here in The Netherlands. First, only one of the large banks in NL offers the option of internet banking in English. I would've thought all the banks did that, they all do in Iceland, but it seems the Dutch banks don't consider it worth the cost. ABN Amro is the only bank that offers the English internet banking option so naturally that's where my business goes. I must admit they could do it better. When I was activating my credit-card online, the web-page changed from English without warning. I had 3 options, in Dutch. If not for the confirmation E-mail (still in Dutch, but thank god for Google translate) I still wouldn't know if I'd activated the card or closed all my accounts. Logging into my internet bank is neat. When I opened the account I got a little gadget that I connect to my computer using USB cable. Then I browse to my banks web-page and press login. There I'm asked to put my Debet-card into the gadget and punch in my pin number. If the number and card are correct I'm logged in without further involvement and must try to understand how the internet bank works.
The Dutch are clever. I have 2 bank accounts. One is savings account, it has interest but is not connected  to a debet-card. The other is regular account, it has debet-card but the money in it bears no interest. I can move money between them without charge but then I'll have to go online. The debet-card also has "wallet", a seperate account for small amounts of money that can be withdrawn without pin number. Ideal for busfares and similar but if I lose the card this money is lost.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sergei, one of my coworkers, has offered to loan me his old bike. He is a good guy and feels sorry for me when he drives past me walking, every morning, on his way to work. This is a traditional Dutch bike, often called granny bikes and it probably belonged to his grandmother. It's been standing outside (in a shed) for more than a year so it needs a little tender care, some cleaning, some adjustments, some oil and as a priority, some air in it's tires. The condition of the tires is such that I'm a bit afraid to put air into them. There are lots of crack in the rubber. But I'll pump them up tomorrow at lunchtime, little at a time. Checking frequently if looks like they're about to explode.
Brian, another coworker, has offered to sell me his apartment. It's a nice, bright and roomy apartment by the sea, on the eight floor so it's above sea level. I can even get his wife's car with it (they're moving to Germany) but he's keeping his tuned sport car. The apartment has two reserved parking spaces. It's right next to a racetrack where there are track-days for bikes or cars. The only problem is that it's priced at 230 thousand Euros which is a bit more than I've been planning for. But it's really nice apartment and the view is incredible.
I don't remember if I've mentioned that there is 6% tax that buyers have to pay when they buy apartment. Plus 2% for the service of real estate agents. Then there is 2-3% in other associated costs. Even knowing this I found it surprising that some banks loan 112% of the purchase price of an apartment or house.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What a nice weather we're having here today. The sun is shining and there is little wind. The temperature might go into two digits and I might go out on the balcony for the first time since I moved into the company apartment.
I noticed yesterday, on my way out, that I can see "The Skislope in Hoofddorp" from my front doors. The really nice Japanese restaurant, where the cooks cook in front you, is right next to it so I now know almost exactly where the Japanese restaurant is from my apartment. There is another Japanese restaurant almost straight across the street from my apartment building. I've tried to go there, but I was at six thirty and their next open table was at nine (I understand it is a really, really good restaurant). So I went to the Jasmin, another nice place just few steps from my apartment. I can count at least five good restaurants within one hundred meters and ten within two hundred meters. There are at least ten more that are more of a fast food restaurants, Pizza and/or Kebab.
I've located an apartment that I'm interested in. 75 m2, for 175.000 Euros. According to the pictures on Funda.nl (the largest real estate web-page in The Netherlands) it is ugly, and it is too expensive for me, unless the 30% ruling comes through. I'm not kidding, it is really ugly, the colors, the doors, the tiles in the bathroom, the shower in the bathroom, the toilet in the bathroom, the kitchen cabinets, the kitchen sink gas heater, the carpet. But it is close to work, has extra bedroom for guests, is not too small, is not too big, it has nice view over a canal (so I'll get plenty of mosquitoes in the summer), and it has a small garage. It is on the Harleem side of Hoofddorp so the MACH RC track is not too far away. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I can get the price down by fifteen or twenty thousand Euros. The downside is that there are no good restaurants next door.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

There are few things here that are more expensive than in Iceland.
No I can't remember anything. :)

Just kidding. I remember one thing. When you're in the supermarket and need a bag for your purchases. The plastic bags are more expensive here but people here can also buy reusable bag that is even more expensive but, as the name suggests, can be used again and agin.
Gasoline is almost exactly the same price, it might be 10 cents higher or lower from day to day.
The refund for plastic bottles is higher here. If I buy 1.5 liter bottle of water I pay 52 cents for the water and 25 cents for refund.
To buy a house has much more costs included ,which I will come to again at a later time.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Since snow and ice rarely gets the chance to visit The Netherlands, it's perfectly natural for a thrifty nation like The Dutch not to spend much money on winter-tires for their cars. This can cause traffic to be stuck for miles whenever a little snow appears on the ground. That the traffic stops so easily is especially interesting since The Netherlands are almost perfectly flat and I know from firsthand experience that it is extremely hard to get stuck on flat ground. Back in mountainous Iceland we laugh at the snow. In the first winter, that we have our drivers licenses, we learn to drive up hills covered with snow and ice without getting stuck. The trick is to use little throttle and carry speed over snowdrifts and ice. Cleaning the tires with turpentine can also help a lot. Of course the standard family car in Iceland gets shod with studded winter-tires in celebration of the cold and when the weather gets warmer again, it gets the quieter, longer wearing and less fuel consuming summer tires on it's rims. The largest downside is that the otherwise really nice people at the Icelandic tires-shops absolutely refuse to put the old tires back under the car if the thread is less than 3mm. Therefore you almost never see cars in Iceland with visibly worn tires. The thrifty Dutch on the other hand seem to consider it an insult to replace tires on a cars if they still have visible treads.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's been a very cold here since I arrived. That is the opinion of the natives that have quite often voiced their concerns about me, because I usually leave my jacket open and I don't have a scarf. No matter that I'm wearing thick zippered fleece jacket underneath the outer jacket. They still think I'm freezing. My opinion is that it's quite warm for the last months of winter.
I might have mentioned that lot of people here wear a sort of black and white scarf over their jacket. Quite often the scarf is the only article of clothing that is not black. Since most of the clothes I took with me are black I fit in quite nicely, apart from the scarf.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

According to some neighbour of mine, he's all out of love, so lost without you and doesn't know what he's supposed to do without you either. At least that's the gist of the song he's playing at full volume. People are the same everywhere but in this "tiny little village", I live in, I don't hear much of this kind of expression. By expression, I'm talking about people playing songs loudly. This village, as I've been repeatedly warned and although HoofdDorp directly translated to English is HeadVillage, is distinctly low profile kind of town where people stay at home during the evenings.

The days are getting longer here. As it was still daylight as I was walking home I took the beautiful way and walked some of the paths I'd not walked before. What I noticed this time was that the pavement slabs on the sidewalks are terribly uneven and often covered with sand and/or clay and every 20 meters or so there are few loose ones. I also saw this nice little house for sale that I need to check closer at a later date.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I found a bookstore last weekend, where I found and bought Tom and Janry graphic novel. For those that do not know who Tom and Jamry are. They are the cartoonists that have been responsible for "Robbedoes en Kwabbernoot" (or "Svalur og Valur" and later "Svalur og félagar" as it is known in Iceland) for the last few years.
In the english pocketbook novels section I also spotted between Stephen King and Dean Koonts, well, in the next shelf above, a couple of novels by by the icelandic author Arnald Indriðason.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Things seem to be going well. I'm starting to know where things are around here. Today, at work, I was asked if I would be ready to train some technicians in the future. I take that as huge compliment. Tomorrow I'll go to Rotterdam for my first field assignment. Even my coworker Chris (the longest working technician in my department) was not his unusual British self today, he smiled couple of times and at the end of the day offered me a ride to my apartment. I've known him for few years now. He is usually a happy guy, but since I moved here he has looked really depressed and practically barked at all people who've approached him. I was starting to think that he was either Jekyll or Hide depending on whether he was home in The Netherlands or working in Iceland. Or that my presence here was dragging him down. :)
I'm starting to feel at home in shorter time than I thought it would take me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It struck me as I was shopping yesterday how over processed all the food is here. And you can't get "standard" food anywhere.
If I want milk I can get half skimmed milk, I can get thick milk, I can get vanilla milk, I can get chocolate milk, I can get strawberry milk but regular milk is not so common. Same with cream, all kinds of tastes and versions except for standard cream. You can even buy cream in a pressurized container. I don't think there is much cream in the container but it's perfect topping for the baked-in-store-Apple-cake (with pieces of real apples in it) I've acquired a taste for. :)
Meat is not quite so bad if you buy the cuts, just avoid the ground beef, you don't know what's in it. I tried ground beef and I don't think there was much beef in it. Burgers are especially bad. Chicken breasts are ok but when I cook them they shrink a LOT. If I put them in a lightly oiled pan and put a lid over it, soon there is enough water in the pan to sink a ship.
Potatoes or "earth apples", as they're known here, are available somewhat fresh in a shadowy corner in the supermarket but they're actually more expensive than the cooked, spiced and sliced  potatoes you can buy neatly packaged for heating and consuming. That makes me scratch my head.
Vegetables and fruits are about the only things you can buy here unprocessed. They're fresh and good. I wonder why I've not become a vegetarian. Onions are about the only thing from the fruit and vegetable section you can buy processed. You can buy onions that have been cut for you, either into onion rings or sliced into little bits.
The milk will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. The bread will not mold for more than a week, when I throw the rest away. The cream in a can will stay fresh for half a year in the can. I confess that I'm not specialist on food preservation but I don't believe that this is done without adding some chemicals to the raw product.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yet another gorgeous day has dawned. With fog and rain. The day might be gorgeous somewhere else but here it's kind of gray and wet. Since it's a Saturday lots of people are shopping and walking about, not nearly as many as when the weather is good but a lot nonetheless. I was going to take a walk to the RC track that is nearby, but changed my mind because of the weather. This seems to be typical spring weather here in Hoofddorp.

I'm getting kind of settled in here. I know now where to go for most things. I starting to know my way around the supermarkets. I'm starting to know what to buy.
When I went shopping I saw frozen pizza in the supermarket that was nearly as expensive as the frozen supermarket pizzas in Iceland. I bought one and cooked it. It was nearly twice as thick as the pizzas back home so I guess I could say it was half the price.

Friday, February 25, 2011

One thing The Dutch are really famous for, apart from wooden shoes, tulips, bicycles, canals, windmills,,,. Lets say that one of many things The Dutch are famous for is architecture. In The Netherlands there are many really famous architect firms. It's true, just Google it :). Some of the examples of old buildings converted for modern use are breathtaking. Therefore it is surprising how bland and badly designed many of the newer buildings here are. Lot of them are nothing but boxes filled with square rooms, designed without any kind of ambition or taste. Lot of extensions are similarly designed, without any regards of what the original building looks like. In many ways it reminds me of buildings in Iceland.

Links to few web pages that sometimes showcase Dutch architects.
http://www.archdaily.com/
http://www.contemporist.com/
http://www.dezeen.com/
http://www.designboom.com/eng/