Friday, July 31, 2009

Scheveningen & Rotterdam

For the final day of Roxi's conference in Rotterdam, she was scheduled to present her research before the conference adjourned shortly after noon. Since it has warmed up in the Netherlands, I've been wanting to make a trip to one of the many beaches on the North Sea. Roxi wasn't as interested so I decided to use our last morning in Rotterdam to make the short train ride to The Hague and visit the most famous beach in Holland.

We awoke to what looked like a pretty nice day in Rotterdam, but we have learned from our time here that the weather really can change quickly. During the forty or so minutes of our breakfast, clouds rolled in and it started to rain. The heavy rains started falling just as we began our walk to the city. We parted ways after crossing the Maas River, Roxi continuing on to the conference while I hurried to catch a train to The Hague. I arrived in time for a train but the ticket machines were not it the usual place at the Rotterdan Blaak station, so in the time it took me to locate them, my train left. Fortunately, the next train was only about thirty minutes later, so my wait wasn't long.

As another illustration of the quickly changing weather in Holland, by the time my train left the underground station, the sun was shining brightly. In fact, in the entire thirty minute train ride to The Hague, there was barely a cloud in the sky. I arrived at Den Haag Centraal at about 11:30 AM and immediately caught a tram heading for Scheveningen, the famous seaside district of the city. I was determined to get back to Rotterdam shortly after the conference ended so, I set a time limit for myself to admire the beach. I took a short walk along the shore before retracing my steps back to Rotterdam. I'm very glad that I made the quick trip so that I could have the experience of seeing a Dutch beach.

Scheveningen Beach and the North Sea

Scheveningen Beach

Scheveningen Pier


My trip back to Rotterdam was uneventful and I was able to rendezvous with Roxi at the restaurant in the Golden Tulip Hotel. We decided to have lunch before starting our return journey to Enschede. Always one to try local cuisine, I ordered the kapsalon which was listed as a traditional Rotterdam dish. The description made it sound like a big sandwich so I was very surprised to see a large scoop filled with fries, chicken, lettuce and cucumbers covered with melted cheese!

Kapsalon: Rotterdam's version of the KFC Famous Bowl.

After lunch, we walked back to Cherrycake & Chocolate for the last time and had a wonderful afternoon tea with the owner. After being suitable stuffed with kapsalon and cake, we gathered up our things and made the short walk back to the train station. On our way we had time get some pictures of one more architectural marvel before leaving Rotterdam: Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses).

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Kubuswonig (Cubic Houses)

Good News For Futurama

Only a few hours after my last post comes news that the entire original cast has signed to star in all 26 of the new episodes of Futurama. One of these stories is not accurate so for the sake of Futurama fans, let's hope it is the previous one and not this one.


We've been very busy over the past two weeks! Between Roxi's colleague Sergio visiting from Italy last week and us spending several days in Rotterdam and Amsterdam so that Roxi can make some presentations of her research, there has been very little free time. During our non-travel days in between all of these things, we've been packing up our apartment for our move back to the United States. Things have been going very well, but needless to say, it hasn't left a lot of spare time for blogging. Right now we are in Amsterdam for the Cognitive Science Conference but Roxi's not feeling well and I could honestly use a night off of doing much else. I thought that now might be the perfect time to catch up on blogging about our travels.

Last Sunday afternoon, we took the train from Enschede to Rotterdam which was just about a three trip. Roxi had done the hotel research several weeks prior to our trip and picked out a bed and breakfast a little south of the city center on the Noordereiland (North Island) in the Maas River. Our walk from the train station was pretty easy and Cherrycake & Chocolate turned out be a beautiful bed and breakfast with a wonderful river view.

The view from one of our windows in the English Room at Cherrycake & Chocolate.

After getting some suggestions from the owners, Roxi and I walked to the south bank of the Maas and then followed the signs to the Hotel New York, the one-time headquarters of the Holland-America shipping line that took Dutch emigrants to New York City. Along the way, we admired the modern architecture of the city including the famous Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). After dinner at the hotel restaurant, we took a leisurely stroll back to the bed and breakfast where we could get some rest before a long day on Monday.

KPN Telecom Building

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the south.

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west.

Hotel New York (Holland-Amerika Lijn Building)

Hotel New York (Holland-Amerika Lijn Building)

Erasmbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west.

Monday was a full day of conference proceedings for Roxi so after a light breakfast, we made the walk to the Golden Tulip Hotel for the Society for Text & Discourse conference. While Roxi attended early morning talks, I walked to the park a few blocks away and slowly made my way back to the hotel to meet Roxi for lunch.

Golden Tulip Hotel

Montevideo Building dwarfing the Hotel New York.

Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) from the west on the north side of the Maas River.

Roxi and I met for a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe on the banks of the river. The skies were clear and the day was warm so it was a very pleasant time to be outside. After lunch, Roxi returned to the afternoon portion of the conference while I walked to the Euromast to get a birds-eye view of the city.



Later that afternoon, Roxi and I met back at the conference for the final talk of the day followed by an evening dinner cruise on the China Boat. The Netherlands has quite a bit of Chinese and Indonesian food in its cuisine because of their colonial history in southeast Asia. The China Boat took us all around the harbors of Rotterdam for three hours while we enjoyed a Chinese buffet. We ended our night after the dinner cruise as Roxi was scheduled to present her research early the next morning.

Futurama: What's the Point?

Comic Con provided no new information about the employment of the original voice actors for the new episodes of Futurama, but unsurprising news today is that the series will be produced with an all new cast. I already didn't like the idea of new episodes, but I thought that some Futurama might be better than none at all. As of now, I no longer hold that opinion. The idea of new voice actors on Futurama is about as smart as replacing the whole cast of Seinfeld with different actors and making new episodes. What's the point? I don't care how funny the scripts might turn out to be, it will just not be the same. They might even be able to find voice actors that can come fairly close to sounding like the original actors, but I doubt it. Maybe new viewers won't notice a difference, but fans will and shouldn't that count for something?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Lesson for Detroit

A colleague of Roxi's has been visiting from Italy for the past few days to present some of his research and make contacts here at the University of Twente. Yesterday, Sergio and I went to the Rijksmuseum Twenthe and the Twentse Welle museum. The Rijksmuseum was enjoyable, especially the collection of paintings by some of the Dutch Masters but I found the Twentse Welle particularly fascinating.

I love history especially when I can learn about it in the places where events occurred. The Twentse Welle traces the history of the Twente region of the Netherlands from the last Ice Age through the present day. I was amazed by the size of the great beasts that once roamed the steppe before the end of the Ice Age as well as the way the earliest human settlers first began to live and work with the available resources in the area.

As the population of the region grew and the Industrial Revolution reached Enschede, the small localized textile businesses experienced rapid expansion culminating in an immense cluster of factories and textile mills during the 1850s. The mills ran for much of the day for almost 100 years producing enormous amounts of fabrics shipped to all corners of the world. And then in the 1950s, just as suddenly as the industry grew, the textile economy of Enschede began to collapse as a result of cheaper production of comparable fabrics in Asia. Almost immediately, factories in the city began to close, unemployment rose dramatically and a twenty-year economic depression hit the region. There were thousands of blue collar workers who only knew how to work machines in the textile mills and those jobs were suddenly all gone.

The school that would become the University of Twente opened in the 1960s and began to train young people of the region in all technological fields. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, with help from the government, technology companies began locating in the area to take advantage of the resources the university and it's graduates. Over subsequent decades, Enschede has experienced a renaissance and become the largest shopping center in the eastern Netherlands. On a weekly basis, visitors from the Twente region as well as Germany come to enjoy all the goods and services the city has to offer.

Even before I left the museum, I recognized many similarities to the auto industry in the United States. It is striking to think that automobile manufacturing has been around for about 100 years in the Detroit area, but the Big Three are now collectively suffering from very large losses brought on by many factors including foreign auto makers producing higher quality cars for lower prices. I sympathize with the blue collar workers who are being forced out of their jobs by downsizing and factory closures, but it seems that the US government is only slowing the inevitable by propping up this failing industry and worse yet, it seems the motivation is more about nostalgia and votes than anything else.

If the federal government is hellbent on spending money in Detroit, it seems that said money would be much better utilized by focusing on emerging industries and innovation as opposed to a business sector that has been uncompetitive in the world market and failing for a very long time. The University of Twente was the catalyst that helped to improve the economic situation in Enschede because of the entrepreneurial mission of the school. Michigan already has two very large state schools, not to mention several smaller ones, that could help in serving such a function. For all the recent talk of change in the US, it is time to put our money where our rhetoric is and actually make some adjustments to an evolving economy. It's time to look to the future, not the past.

And one more lesson that we could all learn from the past. Here is a painting of the Enschede skyline at the height of the textile boom:

A mere one hundred fifty years ago, the skies of Enschede were black with soot spewed from the smokestacks of coal fired textile plants. Today the skies are clear and blue and the only smokestacks are remnants of the abandoned manufacturing plants. The scene was the same across Europe and the United States. The air is visibly cleaner than it was only a century ago. Obviously our air is still polluted and needs further improvement of quality, but we need to keep things in perspective. We should have clean burning fuels and energy sources, but it won't happen overnight without adverse changes to our way of life. Things have changed so much for the better in only a few generations and they will continue to improve as we continue our cycle of development and evolution.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Klompen At Work

Today is the first time that I saw someone in the Netherlands wearing wooden shoes while doing manual labor and not just as part of a costume.

The Changing French

Most Americans have the preconception that the French, especially in Paris, are very rude to tourists. I have personally made three trips to Paris in the past fourteen years and have found their attitude ever evolving. On my first trip in 1995, I generally agreed with the rude stereotype. In 1998 however, I spent two months in a Paris suburb and tried to speak as much French as I could with locals. In that time, I found that most Parisians were fairly kind recognizing that I was trying to speak in their native language but still they were not entirely friendly either. This past February, Roxi and I traveled to Paris with my brother and his finace and we were amazed at how nice everyone was to us even when we were not speaking with our best French accents. I jokingly thought that it was happiness brought on by our new president but I mostly chalked it up to a decline in American tourism due to the current economic climate. According to an article that Roxi forwarded to me this morning, it appears that I was mostly correct about the decline in tourism. They also go on to talk about the new "smile ambassadors" who are tasked with helping to foster a more friendly environment in the city. I'm not sure if they're really necessary though since we found the City of Lights to be a whole lot happier five months ago.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Follow Me

I've followed the lead of Future Man and started a Twitter account. Follow me

Trouble for Futurama Fans

I was already apprehensive about the new episodes of Futurama coming in 2010, but today brings news that casting calls are out for new actors to voice just about all the main characters! I certainly hope this turns out to be a nasty Internet rumor, but it doesn't make me feel any better about a great show that may be in the process of being besmirched.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Biking to Germany

Since we arrived in Enschede, it has been my plan to take a bike ride to Germany just because it is so close. Since the weather has gotten warmer and the rains have stopped, I've been threatening to go on several occasions now. Today was finally the day and it was a great afternoon of bike riding and exploring.

I started my trip at 1:30 in the afternoon by heading to the city center of Enschede. From there, it was uncharted territory. Thankfully, it's easy to get to Germany from the city center as you just follow Gronausestraat all the way.

Heading east towards Germany.

I appreciate the street name that tells you where you are headed.

The bike ride was very pleasant on the clear afternoon and although it was very sunny, it was not overly hot. After making my way through the small town of Glanerbrug, I crossed the German border and entered the outskirts of Gronau.

Leaving Enschede...

...and entering Glanerbrug, the last Dutch town before crossing the German border.

Leaving Glanerbrug crossing the Glanerbeek stream into Germany.

German speed limits in the cities, outside of the cities and on the motorways (in kph course).

Road sign for the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.

Entering Gronau in the Borken district of Westmunsterland.

"Welcome to the Borken district."

After a short ride through the outskirts of the town, I arrived in the city center about forty-five minutes after leaving our apartment in Enschede covering a little over 10 miles in that time. I spent the next forty-five minutes exploring the city center and surrounding area before heading back home to Enschede.

Once in Germany, Gronausestraat became Enscheder Strasse.

Tower in the city center.

A picture really is worth a thousand words because without this graphic illustration, I might have been inclined to run over several people in Gronau.

St. Anthony Church

St. Anthony: patron saint of pigs.

Gronau Church

Dinkel River

Old building... climbing wall.

Dragon-Cow or Cow-Dragon?

0.6 km to the Netherlands

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Future Man

Thankfully, I did not post this on my Facebook page and I don't even have a Twitter account...yet! However, if this comic had been written five years ago, Future Man would have been talking about "blogs."

Monday, July 13, 2009


Although it has cooled off over the last week in Enschede, not long ago it was unseasonably hot here. Having no air conditioner we resorted to leaving our windows and balcony doors open to allow for a breeze to help cool the stuffy apartment. The only problem with this solution was that it allowed lots of very annoying flies to get in and buzz around our heads incessantly twenty-four hours a day. Not knowing where to find flypaper or any other way to deal with them, we just accepted it as a fact of life. Thanks to a friend, we were informed not only about where we might get some flypaper, but also about an ingenious tool called a vliegenvanger (flytrap).

This morning I made a trip into town only to find that on Mondays, most stores don't open until 1:00 in the afternoon. You'd think I'd know this by know after being here for more than six months, but I just don't find the need to go all the way into town very often as we have several nearby grocery stores that open earlier and usually carry everything that we need. Thankfully however, two of the few stores open before noon were the ones that I needed to acquire these important fly exterminating implements.

The flypaper was a welcome find at the first store, but the vliegenvanger was the really exciting purchase. Although called a flytrap, it would be better described as a hand held bug zapper! It's about the size of a racquetball racquet, but instead of strings, it has a fine metal mesh connected to two AA batteries. The metal mesh is electrified by the touch of a button. By now, I'm sure you know where this is going!

A fly's worst nightmare...

"Electronic fly- / wasptrap"

A hand-held bug zapper!

Vliegenvanger In Action:

I defy anyone in PETA to spend a night in our apartment and not want to use this device several times to do away with these annoying pests!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Afternoon Ride

There was more rain in Enschede this morning and early afternoon, but late in the day the skies were blue so I decided to get out of the house for a nice ride through Hengelo. I had a good time meandering through the bike lanes around the city center and beyond and snapped a few pictures along the way.

Riding on a country road between Enschede and Hengelo, I got a picture of the street sign indicating that I was leaving Enschede (Roxi had to explain what it meant because to me it really just looked like somebody put a strip of red tape across a road sign).

Crossing a small creek and entering Hengelo.

Looking to the west along the A1 motorway which terminates in Amsterdam.

Looking east along the A1 motorway which eventually terminates in Moscow, Russia.

I'm not sure what these mounds are. The stairs up the side appear to lead to some sort of vent.

Mysterious Dutch Mounds

St. Lambert Church

I just liked this sign!