Tuesday, December 18, 2007

European Customer Service (or Why I still don't have a couch)

I often say how much I am glad I came back to Europe and how the lifestyle here is more to my liking. While this is still the case, there are moments where I dearly miss Canada. Most of these relate to the outdoors, the Dutch nature in particular is quite lame compared to Canada's. However there are other moments too.

One of these moments arose after I spoke with customer service of the place I bought my couch, Sanders http://www.sanders-meubelstad.nl/ (I hope they rot in hell). I had been waiting a good 5 months for the couch as this is how long it normally takes to get a couch in Holland. I guess they have to wait for the cows to grow before they can shoot them for the leather.... I finally got a phone call recently saying the delivery guys would show up with my couch. I was rather looking forward to getting this thing, so I took the morning off work and waited. They showed up, did some head-shaking, some measuring and told me there was no way they could get the couch into my apartment through the front door or through the balcony (using the dutch rope moving system). So they apologized and left. I have a standard size door btw, those who have visited my place can vouch for this. Back to the store I went since I had already paid them €300 as a deposit. The store told me to go to hell in words a bit more polite than that. I got a phone number for customer service. I called these folks three times and they never really knew what could be done and promised that a supervisor would call me back - guess how that turned out. So today I call back one final time and am told (after much fruitless arguing) that my options are as follows:

1) Schedule another appointment where the delivery guys will do their best to 'shove' the couch into my apartment. If any damage occurs this will be my problem. Lovely
2) Pay only half the price of the couch as a restocking fee. WTF?? €600 restocking fee?

Safe to say this is not over yet. All I know is that they are not seeing another penny from me. Time to seek out the BBB equivalent here in the Netherlands and see what can be done. If I do end up not getting my money back, I will start a business selling people false promises and see how far I can get.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Motorbike exam 1

I took my first exam for having a motorbike license and I passed. This one was the theory exam so I didn't get to show off my (lack of) riding skills yet, but I am quite pleased that I passed it in one go. The questions on the theory exams here are hard and to top that off the exam was in Dutch. Next exam - special maneuvers in the parking lot. In some way I think this one will be the hardest.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Another one done

Another cool website that I helped to bring into existence has come online today. Check out www.de.nl . This is the first version of the site and we still have some features to add, etc. It has been an interesting project, lots of hard work and lots of dedication from talented people. Kind of neat to be able to show off the work I did to the whole world. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Unacceptable

Way too long since I have posted anything and I have no excuse for it. My life has been following a routine for the last few months, not a bad one but it's time for a change. I've been working quite a bit lately, we are almost ready to release a new version of a website for a big Dutch company. Maybe as soon as tomorrow, I'll post about that. We built it using MOSS 2k7. The Web Content Management portion of MOSS still has a way to go before it is a breeze to get a professional site up using it, but it can be done and there are some cool features to the product. Some headaches too. :) I am hoping my client lets me post a case-study like document since I think there are a few things we did that can really help others out.

My weekends have been pleasantly spent with Melissa. We had said we wouldn't be one of those couples that does everything together. Nice theory but we don't like being apart for any longer than necessary. It works for us so why fight it?

I am still doing well with having quit smoking and although there are moments I feel like having a cigarette, I have learned to ignore them and I barely notice them anymore. Having a non-smoker gf is great motivation.

I am super pumped about a ski 'n snowboard trip I am planning with Mel, Syd and Astrid. Looks like we will be going to Soelden in Austria at the end of February. Two words: freeride, powder. Yeah baby!

I'm still learning how to (properly) ride a motorbike. I feel relativelly comfortable riding around Amsterdam at this point, it's the special manoevers that are tough. Doing a slalom at walking speed through cones 3m apart is tough on a 600cc honda. I am not a natural on the bike but I am making good progress and I am having fun so I don't really care if it takes a while before I have my license.

That's a brief excerpt of my life at the moment, I'll try to post more often.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Canada Trip

Going to be in the Toronto area (perhaps Ottawa and Windsor too) in the next two weeks. Fly into TO Wednesday 3rd Oct and fly out of TO Sunday 14th Oct. Want to catch up? Drop me an email or leave a comment here (email is better).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Update

The last few weeks have flown by at warp speed. I have neglected this blog and think it's time for a short update.

It was a good summer even though I didn't get to go on vacation anywhere. Amsterdam can be a fun place in the summer, lots to do and many friends to entertain. I think the visiting season is over for now and I will have a bit more time for myself.

Mostly I've been keeping busy with work, motorbike lessons and various guests. I've also met a really great girl when out skating one night (thanks Friday night skate), and for the last month we've happily been monopolizing each other's time. Funny thing is that I move to Holland and end up having an American girlfriend.

I'm off to Canada for 10 days on Wednesday to see Stack get married and to check out Oktoberfest. Looking forward to seeing old friends.

That's all from A'dam today, till next time.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thanks XP

Windows can really piss me off sometimes. I was about to leave work today and made the mistake of clicking the 'install updates and shut down' button. 15 minutes late my laptop finally turned off. Thanks....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mmm Valium

Last Wednesday I experienced an hour of pure adrenaline. I went to my motorbike lesson only to find out it was time to leave the parking lot and head out onto the streets. I was given 20 minutes of on-paper instruction on how not to get killed and then got the keys to a bike. It was pretty intense suddenly being in the middle of Amsterdam and having to take traffic into account. I made plenty of small mistakes (forgetting to check mirrors, forgetting to signal) but those I could live with. I made one big mistake and that was using my front brake in a turn. I wasn't going fast at all but I felt I couldn't make the turn and did the dumbest thing one can do - pull the front brake. The bike got sucked down to the pavement and me with it. I walked away with a slightly sprained ankle and had no problems finishing the ride.

Later that evening I realized my back was stiff as hell and getting quite painful, while the adrenaline had worn off so I was feeling the ankle. After a relatively sleepless night I went to the doctor in the morning. I told him of my adventures so he gave me some painkillers as well as something to relax my muscles the next night. I'm not too well versed in drugs so I looked them up before I took them, and the muscle relaxant happened to be diazepam which I figured out was actually Valium. That took me a bit by surprise, I didn't realize Valium could be used for this type of thing. Well I tried one last night and it worked. At this point I can sleep without it though, so I have a few spare ones. I wonder if I can feed them to the birds outside my window, maybe they'll shut up before 10 am.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The funniest TechNet article

I can't believe that TechNet posted this. It is by far the funniest TechNet article I have ever read and I am glad to see that MS has a sense of humor.

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/tools/admatic.mspx

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Motorbike lesson #2

My second motorcycle lesson can be summed up in two words: Much better. It's good to know that I am not motorcycle-challenged and that I am making progress. Next lesson will involve some speed, so that should be fun.

In other news, Ryan and Alex arrived yesterday. Due to the courtesy of BA, they showed up sans luggage so we sat at my place chillin and waiting for Ryan's bag to show up most of last night. When it did show at 00:30 we decided to try and catch one last beer at the bar but found that the only place open was comparable to a sardine can. Not fun. So tame night overall. I have a feeling that might not be the case tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

moss forms auth with commerce server provider error

I have been struggling with getting MOSS to use Commerce Server 2007 as the authentication provider and just finally made it work today. The last hurdle I had to get over was one that I solved by luck as much as anything else.

If you follow the Microsoft white paper at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=2AEB1A5E-43B8-483B-8CB2-86C0E82BF0AB&displaylang=en it explains how to get this integration done. For the most part it is a good guide except that it uses the typical developer security simplifications where many security accounts are grouped into a few uber-accounts. This can create some security headaches if you actually create all the accounts that are recommended in the official MS installation docs for MOSS and CS.

Once I got all these issues figured out though, I managed to get my portal to show me a login screen. When I logged in with a bad password, I got the expected behavior - a nice error message. When I logged in with a correct user/password combo I got something strange. The page just posted back to itself with no message. Fiddler and the IIS logs were showing that the browser tried to go to the homepage but the server returned a 302. Weird.

After some blind stumbling I fond the solution. The white paper comes with a number of handy snippets for the web.config file that you need to create. One of these snippets is for forms authentication, replacing the windows authentication your portal likely uses. Very handy. The problem lies in the line:

<forms loginUrl="/_layouts/login.aspx" domain="hwdom.net" name=".ASPXFORMSAUTH" />

Notice the domain attribute? That is the domain that is stuck into the cookie your server sends out. So unless you change this, the user authenticates against some other domain and is not seen as authenticated against your domain. Nice huh? Once I changed this to my test domain, my portal worked again.

Motorbike lesson #1



Yesterday I went for my first motorcycle riding lesson. It was fun and ended well, but due to some miscommunication on how I should be riding I did wipe out three times. I took what the instructor said too literally. I was supposed to be making slow narrow turns and he said "just use your hips and lean the bike". OK. Dumbass me at that point says "So I can't turn the handlebars?" He told me no, and so I proceeded to attempt slow and narrow turns with the handlebars completely straight. Almost-wipeout, wipeout, almost-wipeout, wipeout, etc. You get the picture. He kept trying to explain to me what he thought I was doing wrong, but only after he put me on the back of the bike and showed me did I understand my mistake. I told him he WAS using the handlebars to turn where he said it wasn't him, the bike causes them to turn that way. Duh. I felt like a retard for a bit but after that small fiasco I was driving circles around the guy (literally). Looking forward to the next lesson.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

MOSS Debugging Tip

I found a very useful change in the web.config file of SharePoint when you need to debug something. If an exception occurs in your code, SharePoint will normally display a nice page with a generic “An error occurred” message. This is fine for end users but awful for debugging. To turn this off, change:

<safemode maxcontrols="200" callstack="false" DirectFileDependencies="10" TotalFileDependencies="50" AllowPageLevelTrace="false">

To

<safemode maxcontrols="200" callstack="true" DirectFileDependencies="10" TotalFileDependencies="50" AllowPageLevelTrace="false">

You will then get the typical ASP.NET error page with the exception and call stack.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hotel Joe Grand Opening



Today will be the first time Hotel Joe is in operation. My cousin and 4 or 5 (I don't remember) of his friends are coming to Amsterdam for a few days and will be the first guests at the hotel. It should be good fun. Next week the hotel is closed since the owner is going to WOA but the week after that it reopens to welcome Tim who will be making a pit stop here on his way to the old country. There is a bit of vacancy after that, but not too many days pass between Tim's departure and the arrival of Ryan and Alex. For now that seems to be the extent of reservations at the hotel, but Boris has ensured me that he will be making an appearance sometime this summer. The fall may see the arrival of Syd plus a few. As you can see the place gets booked rather quickly so make your reservations now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Creating an empty page in MOSS 2007

A few days ago as part of a new project building a publishing web site in MOSS 2007, I struggled to create a page that renders as empty as possible. This means I didn’t want any of the sharepoint-ness to be seen on the page. One suggestion I got was to place an empty aspx in the _layouts directory, but this wasn’t satisfactory since I wasn’t looking for an empty page just for the sake of being empty, I was rather looking for a minimal set of features on a page still enabled with MOSS functionality. I could then add features as needed, but wouldn’t have to worry about residual MOSS junk on the page.

There are a number of resources on the web that helped me to ultimately achieve this, but I couldn’t find any step-by-step walkthrough so here is my attempt at such a thing.

Start with a master page. There are two ways to go creating a master page in MOSS. One is to create the master page from scratch and trying to ensure the minimal set of MOSS controls is on it. The other method is to hack up one of the master pages that you get with MOSS. Neither of these methods is simple or fun, so I did some digging to see if someone had been kind enough to do this work already and share. I found that MSDN has a minimal master page http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa660698.aspx that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. After some reading though it seemed that this master page didn’t work for everyone and there were hints that Heather Solomon’s was better. http://www.heathersolomon.com/blog/archive/2007/01/26/6153.aspx I ended up trying both and both seem to work. I ended up using Heather’s for no particular reason I can remember.

Once you pick a master page to use, how do you get it into MOSS? Fire up SharePoint Designer, point it at your site, and go to the _catalogs/masterpage folder. Use File>New>SharePoint Content>Page Tab>Master Page to create a new master page. Delete the contents and paste in the master page code of choice. Save it, and set it as the default master page for the site by right clicking on it and choosing Set as Custom Master Page. Do NOT pick Set as Default Master Page. The reason for this is that the custom master page is used for any pages you create in the site. The default master page is used for any SharePoint specific pages in your site, like the site settings page. Perhaps there is a good reason to mess with this but it’s not in the scope of this document.

You should now be able to open up a page in your site and see the effects of changing the master page. Most likely the effect will be that a bunch of the MOSS features are still on the page, but they are ugly since the styling has been ripped out. They are ‘bare’ so to speak. No fear, you are on the right path. The next step is to move all the MOSS controls to a hidden panel. Heather Solomon’s page includes a panel with visible=false set on it just for this purpose, so after some experimenting I realized you want to take everything out of the form tag except the web part manager and the asp content placeholder for main content, and move it to the hidden panel. Save the master page like this and see what a page looks like. It should have lost a LOT of the MOSS stuff.

Now it is time to create a new page layout that also doesn’t have any MOSS junk on it, so that combining this with the new master page will result in the empty page we are striving for. I struggled for quite some time with this part, only to find out that you need to publish page layouts before they work. If you do not publish a page layout, you get strange behavior when you try to look at the page as an anonymous user. If you are using IE7, somehow it remembers who you are (even when I pushed all the buttons to forget passwords and any other history) and it logs you in. Not cool, since a public user will not have a username / password cashed. Firefox pops up a login box. More acceptable but still uncool since we want the page to just show up. If you check the IIS logs, you’ll see that you are getting a 401.5 HTTP error. Bottom line – publish the thing.

For sake of completeness I will briefly list the steps you need to do in order to create a page layout, the resources that helped me get there was a blog posting by Scot Hillier http://ablog.apress.com/?p=1248.

Define any site columns and then the content type that you will need. This is done using the web interface of MOSS. Next use SharePoint designer to create a page layout in the _catalogs/masterpage folder of the root site of the site collection. Use File>New>SharePoint content>SharePoint Content Tab>Page Layout and if all is well you should be able to pick the content type you created in the dropdown in this dialog. At this point you can add whatever controls you want to the page layout, if you are going for a minimal (empty) page though, you should have a asp:content placeholder for the page title and another for the main content – and that’s it. If you now save the page layout, right click it and choose publish, you should be able to get the page layout published and approved.

You are now ready to create a new page using the standard MOSS web interface based on your new page layout and new master page. This page will render as an empty page, so do remember that you will not be able to run the WCM functionality from it and will therefore need to approve it using the ‘show all site content’ page in your site. If you do want the editing console, take it out of the hidden panel in the master page and move it back into the form.

Monday, July 16, 2007

MS Commerce Server 2007 SP1 error

I've been building a VPC which includes MS Commerce Server 2007 as one of the components, and I ran into a bit of an issue today. I tried to install the Business User applications and got the following error:

Microsoft Commerce Server 2007 Business User Applications requires version 6.0.3724.0 of Microsoft Commerce Server 2007 Client Tools. Please uninstall any other version of the Client Tools and retry.

It didn't take me too long to figure out that this was because I had already installed SP1, and SP1 upgrades the client tools component. Lesson to learn here: Don't install SP1 until AFTER you've installed the Business User apps.

It seems that uninstalling SP1, installing the BU apps and re-installing SP1 seems to fix my issue for now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Canadian beer commercials



I finally got my apartment online today and so I thought I'd take advantage of my new broadband connection while I made dinner. I used to enjoy Toronto's Q107 radio so I put it on while making dinner. I have to say that Canadian radio is still much better than anything here in Holland by FAR.

So there I am enjoying listening to the Q when a beer commercial comes on. I realize a few things as the commercial progresses. You can advertise the shit out of Bud light and it will never touch the likes of any dutch beer. And, $20.99 or whatever the case of 18 beers is going for is soooo much more than the €8 case of 24 Grolsch or Heineken.

I'd say this moment summed up how I feel when someone asks 'Where do you like it better?'. Everywhere has it's upside and downside. Today I feel like I am cheating though since I am listening to Toronto radio AND having a cold Grolsch for dirt cheap.

Groetjes uit Amsterdam!

Friday, June 29, 2007

I love the internet

I found a site the other day that I am quite intrigued by. It's a money lending site (wait there's more) where P2P loans are agreed upon. Basically it's a marketplace where individuals can borrow and lend money. Borrowers create a loan request and lenders can fulfill parts of the request if they like the conditions (interest rate and borrower's credit rating). The dutch site is only a few months old and has already seen 1 Million Euro go through it. It seems like a relatively low risk investment and the average return is over 10%. I think I may have to try it. www.boober.nl is the dutch one, I forget what the one in England is called.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Hip are coming back

I have a feeling The Tragically Hip like the Netherlands. They are coming back again this year and this time I got tickets for a show in Amsterdam. It's one of the best concert venues in the country so I'm looking forward to this. In case you are bored September 26 and happen to be in Amsterdam, feel free to join me at Paradiso.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Drivers Licence

Today I had my driving exam and passed. I can drive again! Another one of those pain in the ass things checked off.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Update

I've been neglecting this blog quite a bit lately so I thought it was time for a general update. My time lately has been split between finishing a project for a client and working on my apartment. My current contract is coming to an end, the project is almost done and turned out to be quite successful. What can I say, I do my job well. :)

My apartment is moving forward, but it is a lot of work and I'm starting to get fed up. I've got a few more weekends before my new floor gets installed and I need to be done painting before then. So far I've got my living room painted with a base white and my bedroom is almost ready to get its first coat. Fixing the walls has been a major pain in the ass. It will all be worth it in the end, I just can't wait to get there. I am very grateful for all the help I've received. I've had a few friends come over and do a few things, and my brother really put in some effort a few weekends ago.

Here are a few pics of the apartment at various stages:


Wallpaper nightmare


That ceiling was filthy


I'm not sure if Miro is painting or playing air guitar...

Friday, June 15, 2007

A4SWIFT ACK NAK schema has an error

It's been a while since a purely technical post but having gone to a Microsoft conference put me in the mood.

I've been working with the A4SWIFT accelerator for BizTalk 2006 a lot lately and ran across a few challenges. One that I didn't find any documentation for was that the ACK and NAK messages that come back from SWIFT do not validate against the schema provided in the accelerator or in the new 2006 message pack. The error you get when running Validate Instance in VS2005 is one like:

error BEC2004: Unexpected data found while looking for:
'}'
The current definition being parsed is AllianceTrailerBlocks. The stream offset where the error occured is 65. The line number where the error occured is 1. The column where the error occured is 65.

I looked at the message produced when I use the Generate Instance option on the schema, and noticed that there is an imbalance in brackets. There is one too many of these } present. The generated instance looks like the following (I've added whitespace to make reading easier):

{1:ASeLTAddressSessSequen}
{4:{177:DateTime}{451:AcceptReject}{405:ErrLin}{108:MessageUserReference}}
{5:
{MAC:AuthenticationResult}
{PAC:AuthenticationResult}
{CHK:Checksum}
{SYS:TimeAndInputReference}
{TNG:}Training
{PDE:TimeAndInputReference}
{DLM:}DelayedMessage
}
{S:{AllianceTrailerData}}
}
Notice the bracket that is in red, it turns out to be the one that is extra. To get rid of it, go to the Swift Trailer, Alliance Trailer Blocks, Repeating Trailers Alliance Trailer Data and set the child delimiter type to 'None'. This fixes the schema so that actual SWIFT ACK and NAK messages are validated. The exact location of the node is

/*[local-name()='SWIFT_CATEGORYS_MTS21_FIN_ACKNAK_Interchange' and namespace-uri()='http://schemas.microsoft.com/BizTalk/Solutions/FinancialServices
/SWIFT/CategoryS/MTS21_FIN_ACKNAK']/*[local-name()='SWIFTTrailer' and namespace-uri()='']/*[local-name()='AllianceTrailerBlocks' and namespace-uri()='']/*[local-name()='RepeatingTrailers' and namespace-uri()='']/*[local-name()='AllianceTrailerDataRecord' and namespace-uri()='']

Once the fix is in place, the generated instance looks like :

{1:ASeLTAddressSessSequen}
{4:{177:DateTime}
{451:AcceptReject}
{405:ErrLin}
{108:MessageUserReference}
}
{5:{MAC:AuthenticationResult}
{PAC:AuthenticationResult}
{CHK:Checksum}
{SYS:TimeAndInputReference}
{TNG:}Training
{PDE:TimeAndInputReference}
{DLM:}DelayedMessage
}
{S:{AllianceTrailerData}
}

I was surprised to see that this hasn't been blogged about before since I can't see how anyone would get the ACK and NAKs to work with the existing schema.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Who approves this crap

Recently I had a real world run-in with a horribly coded application.

Public transport in the netherlands is slowly switching to a new form of payment, namely cards with what seems like RFID chips in them. You have a balance on your card and as you scan in and out when using public transport, your balance is decreased. Fine thus far. I wanted to try it out in the Amsterdam subway and so I went to load 5€ onto my card. This is done at a machine. I followed through the menus, paid 5€ and assumed all went well. After all, I got no error message and I did get a receipt. Just to be sure though, I put my card next to the reader again and checked my balance. Zero. WTF? I was confused and pissed that it ate 5 bucks. Later in the office I went to the FAQ on the website for the new system, and I found this was a common problem. The cause? I aparently took my card away from the RFID reader too early. Huh? How can that be, it deducted money from my bank account, right? Aren't these things using basic principles of transactional processing? I mean, it's not hard to verify that the card has the money on it and only THEN take it off my account, right?

Perhaps they are worried that people will pull the card away at just the right moment between having the money loaded on and the verification check, and thus getting free money. I'm sure some sort of logic can be applied to prevent this, but even if not, then at least put some sort of a 'please wait' message on the screen until the verification can be done.

Seeing systems like this makes me cringe. How the hell is it possible that someone approved this design? I think it's time the computer science industry implemented something similar to the PEng concept that engineers have. Computers are running all sorts of complex and vital systems these days, and the only guarantee of quality we have is the hope that the people who developed the system had the brains/resources to get it right.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First Night

Last night was the first time I slept in my new apartment. I am living like a junkie. I have a matrass on the ground and pretty much no other furniture. I spent the whole day today taking down the old wallpaper that is on most of the walls. What a pain in the ass. I've got about a third of the livingroom done. There is a LOT of work to do still. I have a feeling it will be a while before the place is set up the way I want it. I hate wallpaper. I think it should be illegal. I think the person that invented wallpaper should be punished by spending eternity taking down wallpaper... I think it may be in my best interest to stop working for the day. Last thing I want is to hate my apartment before I am really living in it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Restart at HH:MM and then run this script

Every morning I come to work I have to turn my machine on and spend at least 15 minutes starting up the various apps I use to get productive. (There is some issue with the BizTalk schema designer combined with Source Safe that causes Visual Studio to use 100% CPU power for 5 minutes per each schema I open.) I've learned to live with this, but I realized today that it would be really cool if I could do the following:

Create a script, macro or something of the sort that specifies the apps I want to run when I start my machine. Instead of shutting down my machine, specify that I want to do a delayed reboot. Here I should be able to specify how long the delay should be, or what time the machine should come back up. I should also be able to specify my script/macro that would be run when the machine comes back up.

This way I would come in and my computer would be ready to go after a nice clean reboot. Kind of like a coffee pot with a timer. :-)

I know I can somewhat achieve this by hibernating my machine, but I have 2GB of RAM and hibernation rarely works for me. I also like to start the day with a freshly rebooted box.

Any ideas on how this could be done? Would hardware support be necessary or can this be done with software only?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Trip to Canada

I've been meaning to post this for a while and keep forgetting. I've bought a flight to Toronto for the fall. A wedding and then Oktoberfest? Why not.

I leave Amsterdam Oct 3rd and fly back Oct 14th. See you there.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weird feeling

I was looking through the contacts in my phone today, seeing whom I've not talked to in a while. I do this every now and then to make sure I someewhat keep in touch with people I know. This time was a bit different though. I came across a phone number of a colleague who died last winter. The logical thing to do is to delete his phone nr, but it feels weird. I'm not sure why, and I'm sure a psychologist could explain it, but it just feels weird. I didn't even know the guy that well.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A few close calls

The last few weeks have been stupidly stressful. Both the banks I had gone to for mortgages suddenly decided my company was too new and that I was too much of a risk to lend money to. The contract I had signed regarding my apartment could be dissolved on the basis of two such rejections but that wasn't exactly the plan. I like the apartment and didn't want to lose it. So I spent a week and a half on the phone trying to figure out some alternative options for borrowing money (not the mob but it did cross my mind) and didn't have much luck. Finally my dad got pissed off at his bank for jerking me around and went there with a threat to take all his business elsewhere if they didn't commit to their promises from a few months ago. Guess where I got my mortgage from. :) They still didn't give me a mortgage for the entire sum, just the execution value of the place. This means I am house poor. I've got just enough money to pay income tax for last year and the difference on the apartment cost vs the mortgage. I think I'll be down to a few hundred bucks very soon. Oh well, I'm working and I should get paid within a month on a few invoices. In any case, it was a close call as I thought I would have to back out of the contract just because banks decided to change their minds and royally fuck me. It goes without saying that my current bank will not be seeing my business for much longer.

Another close call was my driving theory exam. I studied for it most of the weekend and managed to get 45 out of 50. 43 is a fail so I had a buffer of one question. The test here is a LOT harder than the Canadian one, and most people taking it failed. I heard some people saying it was their 4th or 5th time. Ouch.

I should be doing work but it's so hard these days. 25 Celcius and a nice breeze. Best time of year in this country. Patio beer is so good......

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The worst Martini I ever had

Last weekend I went to the Casino in Nijmegen (town in Holland) with a few friends. We threw some money on the roulette table, watched it get taken away and walked away with the same sense of satisfaction as you get when you throw $20 off a bridge. That's what a casino is however, so no complaints there.

After flushing money down the roulette table, I decided I'd like a vodka martini. I was drinking beer before and felt like a change. So I go to the bar and the following conversation (or close to it) unfolds:

Bar Chick: "What can I get you?"
Joe: "Vodka Martini."
BC: "Vodka with Martini?"
At this point a red flag goes up but I decide to commit and see this through.
Joe: "No, a Vodka-Martini"
BC: "OK...."
She grabs a glass usually reserved for soft drinks or rum-cokes and proceeds to pour a shot and a half of vodka in it. Then she grabs a bottle of Vermouth and starts pouring with the intent of filling up the glass.
Joe: " Woa - Stop!"
BC: "What?"
Joe: "That's quite enough... A Martini is three parts Vodka, one part Vermouth"
BC: "More Vodka?"
Joe: "That's ok, I'll just take it as is".
BC: "Want an ice cube in it?"
Joe: "No thanks."

I had a feeling it wouldn't taste too good regardless of what she did to it, so I opted for a smaller volume of gross rather than letting her add more vodka. It was fucking gross. One of the worst drinks I ever had. I drank it quick to get a buzz and then chased it with a beer.

The moral of this story: Forget about Vodka Martinis unless at a very quality place. I would have thought the casino hires skilled bar staff but how wrong I was.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I bought an apartment!

I got a phone call today that represents a huge step forward in my life. I have bought an apartment in Amsterdam. My real-estate agent called and told me she had negotiated a price with the people selling the place and now we just have to go through the paperwork. It will be another month or so before all that gets sorted out, but I don't expect any issues since I've already spoken to a number of banks and they are willing to loan me the money. The rest is just legal crap that my real-estate agent will deal with.

I am pumped about having my own place. Now back to work so I can afford furniture.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

From 0 to 100 in six seconds

My life kind of feels like the title of this post. Last week I was sitting at home doing dick all, plans were being made but that's it, and this week I am busy as hell. I am working on two projects for different clients so I was in the hague half the time and in another town for the rest. I am also sifting through resumes on monster and looking for employees for a new venture that I have started with one of my business partners from last year. I recently realized that being on the employer side of the interview table may actually be more difficult. At least it is for me right now.
My two month hiatus was good for recharging the batteries, and I am glad I did it. I have a feeling I'll need the energy in the next few months.
This year should be a very interesting one from a business perspective. I now feel comfortable in the dutch market and am ready to go full throttle. Stay tuned.

Otherwise my life is quite dull. I moded my Wii but haven't had the time to make much use of it since.

Gotta get off the train, till next time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Neverending flu and my ongoing hiatus

So I've had what appears to be a flu for three weeks now. Twice already I thought it was over, but is seems like this bastard likes to go three rounds at least. I am at what seems to be the end of round three, hopefully the final one.

I had planned to take January and February off for snowboarding but the complete lack of snow has fist-fucked that plan completely. Instead I've spent most of January getting caught up with a few seasons of various tv shows. Hopefully this stupid flu is over and I can get back to a normal life soon.

Since this snowboarding season appears to be a casualty of Global Warming, I am leaning towards taking my life off pause and getting things done. Time to go apartment hunting and back to work. More on this as it happens.

The only other thing to report is that Zelda on the Wii is tons of fun, and I've reached Pro rating on Wii golf and Wii bowling. Yes my life is kind of pathetic right now.

Actually there is one more morsel of info that my Canadian friends will have a good laugh at. It appears I have to go back to driving school. No, it's not cause I did something stupid but rather because Holland considers Canadian driver's licenses to be in the same league as monopoly money. Cute but utterly useless. Unless the license is from Quebec that is, in which case you can just trade it in for a Dutch one. (Don't even get me started on that rant.) So unless I can convince the folks in Slovakia to give me a license, it's off to driving school for Joe. Yippee! I just can't think of a better way to spend 2000 euro!