On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.



Dad, who clearly needs a byline on my blog these days, pointed me to this tidbit on Slashdot yesterday:
Mouse Rage Syndrome. Study finds that bad Web design can cause extreme stress and anxiety for Web users.

At first I thought I'd never been afflicted by what I'm going to call iRageTM (it's not the mouse's fault). As a Web designer, I tend to make fun of badly designed Web sites rather than get mad at them. But the longer I thought about it, I came to realize that I got pissed off at a couple of Web sites just yesterday.

Granted, I know what it's like to work with clients. And truth be told, I've actually been pretty lucky, with the notable exception of one small bookshop owner. But it takes impressive powers of persuasion and the patience of Job to keep many clients on track.

But, there's no excuse for design-oriented Web sites veering off the usability track. These are the ones that drive me the craziest. Rather than showcasing beautiful, smart and usable design, they often tend to shun standards all together in the name of art, experimentation, blah blah blah. That's a load of crap. It's just ego and pretension, and you're not kidding me. You can take your design "magazine" that only your newly-graduated art school friends read and... Know what you are? You're a bunch of art fags! Choke on this you dance-a-teria types!

iRage is real, my friends.



Sky High in a Puff of Smoke

Good ole Dad, ever the planespotter, sent this one in:

Smoke and enjoy the flight
German wacko seeks funding for a new air carrier, Smoker's International Airline - Smintair.

I know next to nothing about the airline industry other than most companies seem to be losing money. Yet, even I can't see how this guy's plan will take off. Here are the highlights:

  • operate a fleet of 747 jets, with the ablity to carry between 300-500 passengers per flight
  • only business-class and first-class tickets offered, with prices starting at 10,000EUR
  • services 1 route: Duesseldorf, Germany and Tokyo, Japan
  • will offer cavier and other luxury items on board

I wonder how many health-unconcous, rich people are keen to fly back and forth between Deusseldorf and Tokyo with 300 other chain smokers. You could throw down that kinda cash on British Airways or Emirates and fully recline the whole way.

It's true that Germans and Japanese are big smokers, but I'm not convinced that enough of them would be willing to blow ten grand for the right to puff away for 12 hours. Figuring that sucking down two packs a day is considered a big smoking habit, at best we're talking about a whopping 250EUR per cigarette. Wow.

Update: I noticed that the Tribune article indicates that the jets will be retooled to hold just 147 passengers. I imagine he's gotta run those flights at max. capacity to afford the jet juel, let alone crew salaries, gate rental fees, ticketing costs, catering, and also those keen luxury items. Good luck, man.



Desperation Shopping

Christmas is a bit hit or miss with me. Some years, I rock and I make a list in November, and I get really into it. Other years, it sneaks up on me like moldy leftovers hiding in the back of the fridge. In spite of the fact that we went to Vienna a week ago, browsed several Christmas markets and could have bought presents for everyone we know, somehow we just didn't do it. We were too busy stealing our mulled wine mugs.

Now it's exactly one week until Christmas. Nothing we buy in Holland will make it to the U.S. or Australia in time, so I've been desperately scouring the internet for gifts. For those of you in the same boat, I offer up these choice finds:

For Mom:
Red Envelope
National Museum of Women in the Arts Shop

For Dad, Husband, Manly Types:
Leatherman Tool

For Coworkers:
Abusive Stamps
Despair 2007 Calendar
Staple Free Stapler
StealthSwitch Foot Pedal

For Travelers:
Luggage Tags with Attitude
Orikaso Flatworld Tableware

For Geeks:
9-volt Circuit Board Desk Lamp
Designer Gadget Charger
Cassette and Vinyl Ripper

For Our Furry Friends:
Pet Bunk

For Conservationists:
TerraPass: Car Emission Offsets
Kill-A-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

P.S. I was able to switch to Blogger Beta today, but now the spellcheck doesn't work. So, pardon my bad spelling.



It's Blowing You and Me

Though the Netherlands is experiencing the warmest winter on record (they've been keeping records for 300 years) it doesn't mean that it isn't cold. The wind howls and howls all day and night. At times I feel cozy holed up in my apartment, and other times I feel super restless.

I feel the same way about my blog lately. A year on, focusing just on living in Holland is restrictive. While living here is doing a good job of influencing many, if not most, aspects of my life, it's not all I've got. I was just out walking Nigel, who's windy look is a lot like the flying nun, thinking that my blog needs some fresh air too.

What I really need is the ability to sort posts by topic. Don't get me wrong, I love Blogger, but how's about some topic sorting? So simple. So easy. That's CMS 101. While I don't wanna leave Blogger -- it's easy, customizable, and free -- I wonder if I've outgrown totally free blogging software. I have a bit of space over on Vox, but that's mainly so I can post comments to my friends' blogs. It's neither fully customizable, nor do they offer topic sorting.

So, I'm fretting over the blog software research I fear I'm going to have to do, when I decided to revisit Blogger Beta. A couple of days ago, they prompted me to switch my blog to the new beta, but I ignored it and now the option is gone. :( Turns out, "labeling" (and it's cousin "topic sorting") are just around the corner. That's what I get for being too cautious. I didn't realize that it was just a select group invited to beta. Waaah!

So, as soon as the new Blogger comes out of beta "My New Dutch Life" will get a facelift and will expand to other topics that interest me. What those topics are, remains to be seen - naturally, I haven't thought it through that much. In the meantime, I'll keep blogging and you go and rent "A Mighty Wind." Hi-larious.



Say Yes & Go

A lot of people questioned why B- and I decided not to get married in the Netherlands. We seriously looked into it, and even visited several ceremony and reception venues. However, there was certain something that turned us off to the idea of a wedding in Holland- something we couldn't quite put our finger on until now.

Behold the newest concept in package weddings: Get married at the airport!

I'll give it to their marketing team, Schiphol Airport does a decent job of trying to make it less lame than it is. Their Web site details a handful of interesting packages, one of which includes a short flight in a vintage plane. Add to that expedited service through passport control and security screening, and the deal starts to sound a little sweeter.

However, it falls a bit short when you realize that your reception will be catered by an airport restaurant. Schiphol doesn't have a good culinary selection. No Legal Seafood in their departure lounge.



Hot Holiday Trends

B- and I were in Vienna this past weekend. What a great city! High, high, high on my list of recommendations. We're coffee junkies and since Vienna is the birthplace of the coffee house, we were on cloud nine.

One of the wonderful things about the German-speaking world is their love for Christmas. They really go all out in a way that is not cheap and commercial. Back in the 70s my parents spent four years in Nuremberg -- ground zero for German Christmas. They talk about it to this day. Vienna isn't quite into it as Bavaria, but we did visit about half a dozen Christmas markets complete with stands selling mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.

Browner than Pete

Back in Holland, most of the gift-giving happens on Sinterklaas Day, so starting in November our mailbox fills up with the same paper-wasting circulars we get back home. This holiday season Kruidvat (the Dutch version of CVS) offers these great gift ideas:

The Philips 15-watt face browner with a 60 minute timer. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the gift of skin cancer.

For those loved ones that are aware of the dangers of skin cancer, Nivea offers a fake tanner gift set. Kruidvat suggests that you'll be browner than Pete, you know Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas' slave/friend.

The back story is that the Dutch are sun worshippers. When we learned that electricity would be included in our rent, I asked if there was a usage threshold where they would suddenly want us to kick in an extra few bucks (not so strange, this happened to me in college). The property manager said no, no problem unless we installed a tanning bed. We thought that was an odd thing to say until we realized that they were easily available in most appliance stores.

Indeed, preternaturally brown people abound all times of year, though mostly women. Add excessive smoking and intensely dry radiator heating to all the tanning and one finds that many Dutch women look much, much older than they are. It's a bit sad, really.

No Wii for Me

My quest for a Nintendo Wii has hit a snag. We got a call from our neighborhood video game shop where we'd put our name on the reserve list. The shop explained that Nintendo was only supplying them with 35 consoles for all of their three locations. Their supplier couldn't say when they'd be getting anymore. So instead of toughing it out like the rest of the shops in the world, this one decided that they're not going to stock Wiis at all - in protest or something.

We were somewhere in the range of 250th on the list, so we had no hope of getting a Wii anytime soon. I wonder how the first 35 people feel.



That's German for Six

I started seriously collecting airline miles a few years ago when I traveled to South Africa for work. I've since traveled to South America twice and once to Australia on BA affiliates. But my massive accumulation of airlines miles really got going when I applied for the BA Visa last year.

This, my friends, is the golden ticket. If you don't have a miles-earning credit card, you are, well, you're nuts. My trusty BA Visa has been the payment method of choice for my year of life changes. Just imagine what two new floors, airfare and honeymoon expenses can do for your frequent flyability.

A wise Economist article pointed out to me that frequent flier miles are not for saving, especially given the volatile nature of the airline industry. So, now I'm ready to cash in. To date, I have enough miles to afford B- and I three round trip tickets to any European destination. This begets the question: Where to?

So dust off your old photo albums and scrapbooks and lend a girl a hand. Where should we go?

The parameters:
  • Places we've already been together: Belgium, Paris, London, and (soon) Vienna
  • Much of Germany and Northern France are within easy reach by train/car, so no point wasting free airfare to get there.
  • Think lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path destinations since it is easy to get cheap tix to Europe's major cities.
  • We're definitely up for one winter sports spot.



Holiday Spirit

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to indulge in a bit of olie bollen and drink mass quantities of mulled wine.

You'll remember from my account last year that the holiday season in the Netherlands officially kicks off in November with the arrival of Sinterklaas. For a particularly entertaining take on Dutch Santa, check out the David Sedaris bit, "Six to Eight Black Men," set to scenes of a Sinterklaas parade, courtesy of YouTube.

Today, in fact, is Sinterklaas Day, when many Dutch people exchange holiday gifts. I know what I won't be getting, a Nintendo Wii. It's sad, I know, but the Wii has rekindled my enthusiasm for Christmas. I want one really, really bad. Like I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid really, really bad. Like I wanted the first Nintendo system really, really bad. And the really, really sad thing is that there's no chance I'll get one before January. Waaah! It's 1986 all over again.

I know that many of you trip over my blog by way of unusual Google searches, but most of you know me. Because you know me, you also know that I LOVE video games. So, you know that sitting on my hands until January is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment.

Perhaps not as cruel as this: