On a nice summer's night like yesterday you'll always see a couple of hot air balloons in the sky. It must be a great feeling to get a good view of the land around here.

Since Holland, and especially the province I live in, is very flat, there's no way to get a good view of the lands. No mountain to climb to get a high viewpoint.

So apparently, the world is running out of helium..

Posted in Dutch , Photography | Tagged ,

The lake

I've lived near this lake (called the Zuidlaardermeer) for my whole life, until I went to Japan. I used to have a tiny motorboat when I was around twelve years old. I explored the whole lake with it, and had a lot of fun.

When I had the little motorboat we used to live farther from the lake, and we'd come here in weekends and on holidays. These days we live right next to the lake. My boat was sold many years ago. My sister has a boat now. She also explored the lake with it.

These photos were made last week. It was the first time in a couple of years that I've been on the lake. I never go there anymore. It's actually a rather boring place after you've grown up. Still, my fondest childhood memories happened around this lake. It's a very nostalgic place for me.

Posted in Dutch , Photography | Tagged

Oval racing

I went to an oval racing track with my dad last week. It was very different from what I'd expected, and not at all bad. The track was pretty small and the general mood was for from the professional racing atmosphere that I expected, but the action was plenty and there were always things to see. I've added some photos here, and you can find more on Picasa.

Rolling start
Speedy speed boy
First corner
For great justice
Funky cars
A bit of an accident

It was an entertaining day. Right after a group of cars finishes a race, which usually lasts less than 10 minutes, a new group of cars lines up and before the next 10 minutes are over they're on their way again. There's all kinds of cars, as you can see from the photos, ranging from normal street cars that have been modified to dedicated race cars.

Photography note: I took over 500 photos with my 50D+70-300mm IS, and threw away more than half of them because they were blurry, duplicate, badly framed or just boring. The shots that I didn't delete aren't very good either, but it's my first time taking photos at such an event, so I might as well keep them for reference. For the moving car shots I used either ISO100 at f/11 or higher to create a sense of speed (the cars weren't really going that fast.. >_<;), or ISO400/800 at a lower f value to get sharp images.

After seeing this I was giddy like a little boy and wanted to play racing games on my PC, only to find out that the old PC that I'm using at home doesn't have the power... T_T Since my graphics card is now confirmed to be sprinkling red flashy pixels on every screen that I use, I'd better get some new hardware when I get back from my holiday.

Posted in Dutch , Photography

Daily life

Stupid things I've done since being back from Japan:

  • At a crossing with my bicycle, crossing the road, then realizing that I'm driving on the left side.
  • At the supermarket, waiting at the conveyor belt and wondering why they don't give me a plastic bag.
  • At night getting hungry, thinking "I'll just go to conbini and pick up some food", then realizing that I'm in Holland.
  • Almost (many times): after paying at a store, getting a sudden urge to say "Doumo" or "Arigato".
  • Almost: meeting a person I haven't seen in a while and greeting them with "hisashiburi".
  • Expecting to find public toilets during a long cycling trip.
  • Ordering a book at and expecting it to arrive within a week.
  • Expecting good customer service (see previous post)

Besides the 'incidents' mentioned above it's been life as usual. I'm still frustrated that my quest for knowledge is not proceeding as fast as I'd like. The longer I have to wait, the more I think about worst-case scenarios, which is not helping my mood. But as long as I'm making a little progress every day I don't feel too bad.

Here's some photos I made at my desk with the S90. Sepia coloring at ISO 3200.

Posted in Daily Life , Dutch , Japan , Photography

Customer (mis)treatment

At the risk of sounding like the guy who's been to a foreign country once and can't stop talking about it, there is something that's been annoying the hell out of me today, and I really wanted to write it down. I had three unfortunate run-ins today where store attendants simply proved to be assholes.

My LCD screen broke. It's an Acer 24 inch LCD display. There's nothing special about it, and it was pretty much the cheapest of the cheapest when I bought it. Now, almost 4 weeks later it's suddenly showing a lot of near-dead pixels (red flickering pixels). I packed it in and took it to the store, the Saturn in Groningen. I'm kind of regretting buying this thing, as the screen is really low quality, but that's my own fault. In any case, I asked for it to be repaired, and the guy who helped me told me that it would take several weeks to be repaired, and that they didn't have a replacement screen for me. Apparently they offer a replacement product only after the repairs have taken four weeks. So I have to wait four weeks for Acer to fuck up the repair of my screen, and then I will get a replacement screen from Saturn that I have to bring back eventually once I get my real screen back. What I really wanted was to just pay some extra money and buy a better screen, but even 10 days outside of the get-your-money-back period is too late, and the salesman wouldn't even consider it. I'm pissed off at this because 1. the only replacement monitor I have is an old CRT screen that is super heavy and I have to carry it a long way, 2. I really wanted to exhange it for a better LCD screen and I'm amazed that Saturn is so inflexible about it, and 3. I found out after I got home that it was actually my graphics card that was broken, and the LCD was actually fine. ARGH

Ok, so I'm an idiot for not properly checking to see that it was really the screen that was broken, but I'm still appalled at the service. Here's a stupid cliché from me that you will probably see more often: everything in Japan was much better! If I had went to Yodobashi it would probably take the same amount of time to repair the screen, and I might not get a replacement screen either, but at least I would be treated like a customer instead of a piece of dirt.

Two more occasions, this time inconviencing my sister, who I was shopping with today. She had bought an external DVD player yesterday (at the Dixons chain store in case you're wondering) but found out that she didn't need one after all (yeah, I know...). Today she went back to the store, only to hear from the saleswoman that she couldn't get her money back, but they would give her gift certificates instead. If that happens to be the store policy, then that's understandable, but my sister worked in that store about a year ago, and she happens to know for a fact that it's never been a problem to give customer their money back when they return a product. I'm not too sure about Dutch law, but I believe there is also an article that states that you can get your money back within a week if you return the product in its original state. All rules conveniently ignored and the consumer mistreated all because a shitty store wanted to get some extra profit. Where's the service?

Lastly, a very Dutch anecdote, we were at a supermarket buying cheese at a discount price. At the counter the lady ticket the cheese not for the discount price but for the original price. My sister said "Huh?", and was about to tell the counterlady that the cheese was discounted, but before she could do that the lady looked at us with a nasty look on her face, said nothing and proceeded to change the price to the discounted one. All without any extra prodding on our side, meaning she already knew it was discounted and just tried to rip us off. It's the little things, but days like these really do make me feel that all [Dutch people,salesmen,Groningers,Europeans,humans] are assholes.

I'm typing this on a 19 inch CRT that barely fits on my desk. I feel stupid for not checking the LCD on a different PC before sending it off to be repaired. I've been trying to call the Saturn but they're not answering their phone. I'm not expecting them to. The standard here seems to be that the consumer can expect the worst, and anything above that is considered a lucky break. What kind of a society is that?

Yes, it's really 2010
Posted in Daily Life , Dutch

Nothing but the rain

It's been hot here, really hot. I've had hotter times in Japan, but that's a country where every apartment has air-conditioning. Not something I can say of the neighborhood I live in. I've got a small movable unit in my room, but it's not really strong enough to dissipate all the heat. The coolest place to be is an air conditioned car.

It can't stay hot like this forever though, and yesterday the bubble broke. Dark clouds appeared and a huge thunderstorm washed over us last night. It started at about 1AM and is actually still going, with worse weather on the way. The worst part happened at 3-4AM. Despite the immense heat hail stones fell out of the sky and woke me up. I took a look outside and took a video of all the flashing.

I generally like this kind of extreme weather, but not this time. My hard drive broke yesterday, and I've been recovering my data from it, which took hours and hours, so I left it on during the night. The lightning caused a power outage, meaning I have to start all over again today... (Tech note: it's a RAID-1 array in an external case, and the external case decided to rebuild the entire array for some reason. It doesn't allow me access until it's completely rebuilt, so I have to wait for 1.5TB to be rebuilt, which takes hours and hours and hours...)

Oh, and Holland lost in the world cup final from Spain, and everybody seems to agree that Holland deserves to lose because of the dirty way they played. I can't really argue with that. I'm glad that Holland made it to the finals, but I guess that Spain deserved the win. Congrats to Spain!

Posted in Daily Life , Dutch


I'm living a very contradictory life lately. On the one side I try to stay positive, fit and genki. On some days I cycle around the lake, sort out my personal belongings, arrange for my pension money to be transferred, find information on universities, apply for jobs and do other useful activities. On other days I wake up at 1 in the afternoon and watch Battlestar Galactica all day until 4 in the morning while eating various unhealthy snacks. I can't quite find the resolve to keep up a healthy lifestyle all the time. Need more DISCIPRIN!

That being said, my to-do list is shrinking, and I'm happy about that. I'm getting things done and creating time for myself to enjoy the finer pleasures of life (procrastinate). Before I came back to Holland I made a huge list of things that I wanted to do when I got back. In fact, every time I take the plane back from Japan to Holland I take a look at my life and make a list of things that I want to change or improve. I don't know why, but being a plane from one side of the world to the other suddenly puts my life in perspective, whether I like it or not. Unfortunately for me I lose that perspective rather quickly, and I barely spent time on the top two items on my to-do list. Back on the ground my priorities shift back, it would seem.

Progress report: sorted and threw away most of my old computer hardware. No need for old PCI graphics cards or 128MB PC100 memory modules. I threw away about 8 old hard disks, either too small or too broken/unreliable to be used anymore. I've got my desk set up, using an old PC my dad thought was broken but is in fact not broken, new and quite fast. This example quite illustrates the difference between the computer literate and illiterate: people who know their stuff still keep their 6.4GB hard disks even though they're worthless. People who don't know anything about PCs throw away a 2.4GHz PC with 2Gb of RAM thinking it's broken and worthless. Well, good for me.

I found an old printer/scanner in the attic of which the printing part no longer works, but the scanner works great. I'm using it to scan Japanese documents and then OCR them with a program called OmniPage Pro 17. So far it's a brilliant program. Ironically it's made by Nuance, the competitor of my former company.

You'll notice the airconditioning at the left of the picture. It's 32C here today, probably hotter than it ever was  in Japan during my trip.

Mickey, our evil overlord.

Side note: I've been thinking about digitizing the family photo archive. Any suggestion for film scanners or photo management software?

Posted in Daily Life , Dutch , Thoughts


No worries, they all survived the attack.

Posted in Dutch , Photography

Summer in Holland

Great weather for cycling!

Scenic cycling routes
'The future'
(Former) farms and farm-related land
Lots of cyclists on a day like this
Bunch of cows near my home
Steak, very rare

The cows you usually see in Holland are always white with black spots (or black with white spots, whatever you prefer), but these cows are a bit different. They're not used for farming. They live in a small natural area close to our house. This 'natural' area is being preserved and left alone to let nature run its course.

Good things about cycling in Holland:

  • It's very flat. There are no hills.
  • The roads are long and straight and easy to cycle on.
  • The nature is very pretty.
  • There's many roads that lead to the same place, so I can take a different one each time. (Unlike Japan, which usually only has space for one road)

Bad things about cycling in Holland:

  • It's very flat. There are no hills.
  • The roads are long and straight and very boring.
  • The nature is very pretty, but I grew up here and have seen the same sights a million times already.
  • There's many roads that lead to the same place. Unfortunately they all look the same, and it doesn't matter which one I take.

Oh well, at least I got some exercise.

(Go Japan! Hope you can kick some Paraguay ass tonight!)

Posted in Cycling , Dutch , Photography

Coming to terms

I've been here almost two weeks now, and I'm starting to come to terms with the idea that I'm going to be here for quite some time. In my mind I'm already thinking ahead to the next step, wanting to move on as quickly as possible, but the truth of the real world is that things just don't move that quickly. Even if I manage to find and enter a uni before September, I'll still have a lot of free time on my hands. Time that I'll be spending in Holland.

I admit that I very much disliked Holland when I first came back. I didn't like the food, the weather, the countryside-ness of the place I live, but most of all I didn't like the people. Coming from Japan I've gotten used to everyone being friendly, positive people. Holland is pretty much the opposite. A shining example of this was my encounter with an old man in the train. I was bringing my bicycle in the train on the way home, and when the train arrived at a station I moved my bicycle out of the way to let a woman and her pram get out of the train. In doing so, I temporarily blocked an exit. An old man was waiting to get out, and rather than simply waiting for the woman to get out of the train and me to move back, he shouted at me in Dutch, in a rather rude way: "Hey, you'd better move that bicycle, or else!". I, freshly back in Holland, immediately thought that no Japanese person would ever do that.

Ok, it's only one encounter, but for me it immediately drove home the point that Holland and Japan are two very different countries, with very different people and very different lifestyles. I think I dislike Holland more than it deserves, and I can't really explain why. I don't have a lot of rational reasons to dislike this place, it's just a general feeling that I'd rather be somewhere else. Despite that, I cheer loudly for the Dutch team at the world championship football :D I've come to realize that it's not really Holland that I dislike, it's the feeling of standing still in life and not making the most of things, of not proceeding in the direction that I want to go. Every time I'm back in Holland I get this feeling, but it really has nothing to do with the culture or the people. I just take it out on them because I'm not feeling as happy here as I want to be.

I'm Dutch. I live in Holland. I have to take care of bothersome Dutch matters that I don't really want to think about. Mandatory health care insurance. Care allowance refunds for unemployed people. Receiving money from the government to study. Using a digital passport called 'DigiD', which is supposed to be safe and secure but really isn't. Having to think about all these matters is only impressing on me more the fact that I'll be here in Holland for a while, even though I'm already making plans to leave again.

In the end though, no hard feelings towards Holland. It's the place I was born and the place I've lived for most of my life. I treasure it as I would treasure my first PC, my first car, and a lot of other firsts that were great at the time but now a little bit outdated. It was fun while it lasted, but it has to end somewhere. I'm the kind of person who would rather admire (observe) things from a distance, rather than be a part of it. That way I'll be able to leave a good memory in my head, remembering only the good parts and forgetting all the bad parts.

(On a practical note: I've been extremely lazy and have only been watching Battlestar Galactica the past few days. I promised myself that I'll be more productive next week... >_<; )

Posted in Dutch , Japan , Thoughts