So much for 2012 being a quieter year

At the close of 2011, K & I were reviewing the year and were amazed at how much had happened in 12 short months.  We both agreed that 2012 needed to be slower, with more time for each other and more time to relax and enjoy the things that make this craziness all worthwhile.  Little did I know …………

I am writing this entry on February 20, less than two full months into the year and this is what it currently looks like.

Arrived back from NZ on January 2nd.  Within one week I was in Lausanne for business. Then I have been backwards and forwards to London, again for work, four times.  This weekend K & I went to Antwerp just for time out.  I then have to go to Paris for 4 days in the second week of March for work.  I get back home at 9pm on the Friday night and leave on a flight to NZ at 10.00am the next morning.  I come back from NZ very early April and then I am supposed to be going to Johannesburg and then Dubai in April.  At the end of April there is a long weekend so we are planning to go towards Austria or Switzerland and then at the end of May we are going to Italy for 10 days.  In between all of this there are trips I need to make to London and Milan.

I look at this and think “so much for the quieter year”.

Let me write this before I forget!

I just read this and its something I hope not to forget 🙂

A recent study by the Yale School of Public Health and the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore conducted a long-term study following and testing hundreds of men and women over a period of 38 years.

Researchers assessed their memory every six years from 1968 until 1991 and then every two years.  They presented participants with 10 cards containing geometric shapes and then asked them to reproduce the figures.  They also presented participants with stereotypes such as “old people are absent-minded” and “old people can concentrate well” and asked to what extent they agreed.

The results were striking.  The more positive people were about ageing and the fewer negative stereotypes they held, the more they retained their powers of memory.  Those with gloomy views of old age lost their memory earlier.  When negative participants were 70, their memories were only as good as the optimistic 73 year olds.  By 80 the gap had widened to six years and by 90 they had the same recall powers as the cheerful 99 year olds.  Overall there was a 30% greater memory decline for those aged 60 and above in the more negative stereotype group.

The study found another effect.  Researchers asked participants when they thought people became old.  Those who believed that they were not old yet had better memories.

Perhaps there is truth in the old saying “You are only as old as you feel”.

Stressed – what makes you think that?

Here is a potted version of the last 7 days.  Today marked the end of one of the most stressful weeks in a long time. 

Last Monday we had to transfer some money into another European country to complete a project that we have been working on for 3 years.  Leading up to this Monday had required quite a lot of detailed engagements with a number of other third parties to make sure that everything needed was in place.  That actually was reasonably smooth.  So, Monday, execute the transfer.  Everything was set up for the 2 of us to fly out of Amsterdam on Friday morning to arrive and finalise everything, some weeks ago.

Wednesday afternoon I get a phone call.  “Apologies, but the schedule has changed.  Because of public holidays the offices of everyone involved will be closed by midday on Friday and we know your flight arrives at midday.  Can you change this?”.  Rapid calls to KLM and to my amazement could change things to Thursday night, last flight out.  Checked bank account late Wednesday night – all the money is back in the account. Shit, it take 3 days to transfer anything and this needs to be in specific accounts Friday morning.  Holy shit, what to do?  Try a different transfer method and this time pay for immediate transfer, – let’s try that.  Phone calls and screen shots emailed on Thursday. 

Booked a rental car earlier in the week.  Something in the back of my mind was aware that not everything was settled with this.  Checked reservation and noted in very bottom left hand corner saying that because we booked the pick up time at 11pm, reservation couldn’t be confirmed because the office shuts at 10pm – shit.  On the phone, called the hotline, “Dont worry sir, you can pay an additional fee and the people will wait for you” – great.  Arranged that.  Thursday mid afternoon, same feeling.  Called hotline again – “no problem, if they don’t wait the leave a note at the desk and the key and contract with airport information”.  Hmmm, this is Italy, why do I not believe this?  Decided to call Sixt in Italy to check.  Lady was helpful but not entirely convincing, so she put me through to the office at the airport – “wait for you, not really possible, yes, yes you have paid for me to wait but if you are delayed I cannot wait” (this is better this is the Italy I know).  “Try Hertz, they are open until midnight”.  OK, now we are talking.  Called back Sixt to cancel the reservation (that was never really a true reservation, apparently) and then get onto the Hertz site to book.  Fortunately this time I get a confirmation number.  Everything good to go.

Out to airport, jump on plane arrive on time 10.30pm in Rome.  Out through the doors, followed the signs towards the rental car desks.  Signs direct you through some doors.  Doors don’t open – they get locked at 10.00pm.  Hmmmm – lets follow the other Italians who seem to know where to go.  Around the corner into an elevator, up to the 2nd floor, out, down some corridors indicating direction to hire cars, doors locked at 10.00pm (only in fucking Italy).  Reverse direction, back down to arrivals area go to the exit – yep doors locked at 10.00pm.  Go further down airport until we find the one remaining exit.  Outside to taxi area of course no signs toward rental car area as all signs are inside.  Asked a person, yes 100 meters that way and up some stairs – easy.  Off we go.  Yes, there are the stairs, race up 4 flights and miracle of miracles, the fire doors are jammed open so we can go through.  The alternative would have been ugly as there was no way to open the fire doors from the outside.  Into the overhead walkway, relocate signs and off we go to Hertz.  Arrive at desk sweating like a pig.  Calm helpful lady – good.  Gave her the reservation printout, passport, credit card and drivers license.  After a few minutes the lady gets my attention “Excuse me sir can you please help me”?  “Whats up” says I.  “From what I see here your license has expired in January”. “Expired, impossible” – looking, looking – fuck me it expired in January – 9 months ago.  In that time I have hired 2 other cars (ironically from Sixt) and the police pulled me up to check papers and licence in Germany in April.  As you can understand this took a few minutes to process.  Holy shit, what happens now.  “K, please tell me you bought you licence and that it’s not expired” She tentatively pulls hers out and thank god, it’s all ok.  Why is this such a MAJOR problem, you ask?  Well we HAD to get a car because we then had to drive another 2 hours to be where we needed to be to meet people at 7.00am Friday morning and there is no public transport at all going anywhere at midnight and a taxi would have required a second mortgage.  “So ma’am, you will have to drive as he cannot”.  Yes that I figured out.  So bags in the car, GPS plugged in let’s go!.  “Why isn’t the GPS locking onto the satellites”?  Dont tell me that the major map upgrade I did 2 days ago has fucked something up?  Cant be, we used it yesterday in Holland.  Then why doesn’t it activate and pick up the satellites?  Bloody hell, how do I know?  Look follow directions as I remember them and I will figure this out!   Wait, 15 minutes into this journey the bloody GPS decides it can find the satellites and lock on.  Thank God.  Location plugged in, everything good.

Now of course I am completely stressed because my licence expired 9 months ago and I can hear the conversation already “I am sorry sir, 9 months is too long.  You will need to sit your test once again and yes the fact that the whole thing is in Dutch is a complete major pain in the fucking arse, but rules are rules”.  I could visualise this conversation!  Lets add to the stress of everything else.  Monday I have to figure this out.

Arrive back in Amsterdam late last night.  Up really early to make sure I have all the paperwork required to present myself at the Dutch Immigration office to renew my residents permit, which expires in December.  And the problem is?  To achieve this appointment took 3 weeks of pure Dutch bureaucracy at its finest.  It would take too long to explain, but bottom line was that because I haven’t passed the required exams that prove I have integrated, I cannot get an appointment.  So you then you enter this closed loop of bureaucratic insanity where everyone is apologetic, but those are the rules without any clear answer except you have to leave.  Luckily there is one absolute constant in Holland.  If you can clearly demonstrate to them that a certain action will end up costing the state considerable money (and supporting my 2 dutch children until 18 would do that), suddenly things become very easy.  “Oh, just fill out the form we send you, bring a photo and we will see you at 10.00am”. So got there, spent 30 minutes with a nice lady who takes my forms, photocopies them, then photocopies the photocopies, stamps the photocopies and then stamps the stamps on the photocopies, takes my money and tells me that they are a bit backlogged and the process could take 4 months. Oki doki.

Jump into my car (yes without my valid licence) and race to the local government office to see what awaits me.  Well the first thing is waiting time of one hour.  My number gets called and I go to the desk of a pleasant man and I explain what has happened and the fact that the agency didn’t send me a letter to remind me to renew.  (For those living in Holland you understand the importance of this observation.  Every single thing about you resides in a central database and you get letters reminding you about all the required things needed to function here).  The man from the local government office listens and says, quote “well that’s fucked up”!  I instantly knew things would be ok, and it was.  Entered more info into the computer, extracted a reasonable sum of money from me and told me to come back this Thursday morning and pick up my new licence!  Thank you God and my guardian angels!

Tomorrow morning I am up at 4.45am to get ready to fly to Geneva and so life continues. 

I think I need to sleep.

So you want to marry a Dutch girl? – part 2

Over the last 2 weeks the subject of being married to Dutch women has come up in a number of conversations with colleagues and acquaintances.  Of course the following is both a generalisation and subjective, however this aspect has been a common thread in these conversations.  This time the common thread has been about why, once married a lot of Dutch women don’t feel a driving need to work and contribute financially to the partnership.  Now to be clear, this particular situation is more related to couples who have children.  The conversations were actually prompted by the fact that with one income there is nothing left at the end of the year in savings.  The one income is just enough to pay for all of the stuff associated with living in The Netherlands.  There has a parallel thread to this as well.  Over the last week the weather has been freakishly good, so each day I have been out for a walk and I have noticed how many women, all with baby buggies have been sitting drinking coffee with their friends and co-conspirators at cafe terraces. This is where I begin to struggle.  I am not sure how people can make this ‘alright’ in their heads and that applies to both the husband and the wife.  On top of this, the husband works all week and when the weekend comes, it is his job to look after the children because wife has had to do it all week!  This is how it seems to be and to be honest I don’t get it.  There is one complication here that is not in other countries.  That is where the majority of primary schools (first schools), throw the children out at lunch time for an hour so the stressed teachers can sit back with a cup of coffee, a cheese sandwich and be ‘cozy’, which is accepted by everyone as normal.  Additionally every Wednesday school finishes at 12 noon, then of course add-on all of the teachers ‘study’ days that seem to randomly pop up and then the children have to stay at home.  If you are both working then of course this provides a level of challenge that is not suffered in other countries.  But it still doesn’t add up to what seems to be a general attitude of “its fine to stay at home and you go and earn the money”.  Last night we were sitting having an early evening drink in Amsterdam and you could hear the conversation inside (before service) from the waiters (Italian) and some friends.  The whole conversation was about how Dutch women don’t understand how to be a partner and make a man feel loved.  It seems to be consistent, if a man is not Dutch and if they have been involved for any length of time with Dutch women, this conversation is a common thread.  But who am I to comment, all the Dutch men seem to accept it.

Scams – My considered response to this wonderful offer

I was about to delete the email in the previous post but then I realised that I should take the time to respond to such a genuine once in a lifetime chance offer.  Here is my response – enjoy.

_______________________________________________________________________

Dear Allen Mark Ede,

This is indeed a coincidence. It was only last week that I was talking with other members of our family about the death of Randolf. We knew he was part of the extended family because he actually married the illegitimate daughter of my grandfathers third cousin twice removed, who had an affair with Roma gypsy who lived in a far corner of the families estate.

It is wonderful to actually have the opportunity to get some of the money owed to the extended family by this unprincipled money grabbing prick who actually completely shafted cousin Boris in a business venture that involved co-ownership of a brothel specialising in sex with large breasted dwarves, but that is another story.

It is imperative that this matter is kept completely confidential because I know from frequent interactions with my family in Uzbekistan, (the Karimov’s) that my cousin Gulnara has been blackmailed by the decendants of the Roma gypsy family who are trying to locate some of Randolfs fortune. Under no circumstances can we let them know that you have access to Randolfs estate because it will cause considerable complications.

Because we need to act in all haste I would like to propose that I transfer by Western Union a retainer of US$50,000 to secure your immediate services and confidentiality. In return for this I would like to have the funds as described in your offer below, deposited into my personal bank account in Vanuatu no later than close of business Monday September 26.

All the best,

Wonderful world of Internet Scams

The following email arrived yesterday – what a tempting offer – LOL

From The Desk of Barrister Allen Ade.
15-16 Prince of Wales Terrace,
Kensington, London, United Kingdom.
Email:barrister.allenmarkade@yahoo.co.uk
Tel:+447045779589

Good Day Paul Draskovich,

I am barrister Allen Mark Ade, The personal adviser to late Eng. Randolf here in London.

I am the Personal adviser to the late Eng.Randolf Draskovich, hereinafter referred as ‘my client’ who worked as an independent oil magnate in my country and who died in a car crash with his immediate family on the 4th of Oct,2005

Since the death of my client in 4th of Oct, 2005, I have written several letters to the embassy with an intent to locate any of his extended relatives whom shall be claimants/beneficiaries of his abandoned personal estate and all such efforts have been to no avail.

More so, I have received official letters from our bank in the last few weeks suggesting a likely proceeding for confiscation of his abandoned personal assets in line with existing laws by the bank in which my client deposited the sum of US$8.5 million Dollars.

On this note I decided to search for a credible person and finding that you and my client bear similar last name, I was urged to contact you, that I may, with your consent, present you to the “trustee” bank as my late client’s surviving family member so as to enable you put up a claim to the bank in that capacity as a next of kin of my client.

I find this possible for the fuller reasons that you bear a similar last name with my client making it a lot easier for you to put up a claim in that capacity. I propose that 35% of the net sum will accrue to you at the conclusion of this deal in so far as I do not incur further expenses.

Therefore, to facilitate the immediate transfer of this fund, you need, first to contact me via this email signifying your interest and as soon as I obtain your confidence, I will immediately appraise you with the complete details as well as fax you the documents, with which you are to proceed and i shall direct on how to put up an application to the bank.

HOWEVER, you will have to accent to an express agreement which I will forward to you in order to bind us in this transaction. For quick and cordial communication I will appreciate you to forward your personal telephone number and fax.

If you are interested, you can contact me on Email:barrister.allenmarkade@yahoo.co.uk
Tel:+447045779589

Upon the receipt of your reply, I will send you by fax or E-mail the next step to take. I will not fail to bring to your notice that this proposal is hitch-free and that you should not entertain any fears as the required arrangements have been made for the completion of this transfer. Like I said, I require only a sole confidentiality on this.

I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law.

Best regards,

Barr. Allen Mark Ade.

 

The 4-Hour Work Week

By pure chance I picked up this book when I was in Waterstones a month ago and decided to buy it as the title intrigued me.  I subsequently read a couple of weeks ago when I was in Italy.  For anyone looking to change the direction of their life and to figure out a way to live your life, embracing the things that you love to do, then this book by Timothy Ferriss is the one you need to read.

The fundamental principles of the book are;

  • You don’t need to be a millionaire to stop work and pursue your dreams.
  • If you lost your job tomorrow, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen.  If you really look at this seriously you will understand that it is never usually as bad as you imagine.
  • Focus on your strengths and experience.  If you focus to improve your weaknesses, they will be improved but they will still be weaknesses.
  • Focus on the key things that make a difference, outsource everything else.  You will be surprised how easy and cost-effective that can be.
  • Get over your fear.
  • Live more, work less.

The book is full of practical advice, reference material, url’s and examples of people who have done exactly this.  Possibly the easiest way to get insight into the topic is to visit the website and then go to Tim’s blog.  There is a huge amount of information as well as video clips of a number of people who are now pursuing their dreams.