Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays

Storm radarWe have had two days with late afternoon ‘supercell’ storms blowing through Maastricht, of a sort I usually only see ont eh Great Plains back in teh US.  Both produced intense rain and wind. headed north into the rest of the Netherlands where they topped power towers, broke trees, and flooded streets.

It’s finally ended the tropical heat and humidity, oppressive conditions that have made for cranky days and sleepless nights.  With fluffy clouds and cooler temperatures at hand, it’s also good conditions to get back to writing.

I’ve been in and out of the Netherlands for the past month, traveling, pitching, meeting, so it’s been nice to get sustained time back along the Maas.  I’ve put sustained, uninterrupted time into the diligence efforts for funding the two startups, and to renewing my visa.  One unpleasant surprise was to find that the US embassy in Amsterdam now charges $83 to add extra pages to a passport for visa stamps: this was a free service up until this week. 

In contrast, the IND fee for renewing my residence permit remains zero euros.  I collected the last of the information and sent it off today.  The two renewal conditions that I find that I need to stay vigilant about are 1) being out of the country no more than 25% of the time, and 2) maintaining 25% of my startup capital in my business bank account at all times.

Otherwise, smooth sailing.

I’m still sorting things with the realtors from their mishandling of the apartment changeover.  They reported that they have talked amongst themselves and agree that they did a great job, so would I please pay the remainder of their fee?  ‘something less than the audit and apology I’d hoped for.  Meanwhile, the prior realtor scooped 1000 euros out of my security deposit refund, thank you, for doing the checkout from the prior apartment.  That was, perhaps, an hour’s diligence with help from the landlord and I.  It’s really hard to see how these folks justify their fees, but they seem universal and unavoidable in Limburg’s rental market.

I’m getting a general sense that people increasingly have their hand out during any business transaction, collecting fees and adding charges for minor services and former courtesies.  It’s happening everywhere, not just the Netherlands; creating financial friction that taxes every transaction and contract.  Maybe its always been this way, but it’s forceing me to spend more time shopping among services, scrutinizing invoices, and doing things myself instead of on contract.

‘wrapping up with two warnings about software:

I’m a big fan of Windows Live services: I use ‘Wave 3’ Mail and Writer extensively.  ‘Wave 4’ just released in beta, and I gave it a spin for a week.  It was very disappointing: buggy, opaque, and slow. The Ribbon interface has been transposed in from Office (only different), making functions hard to find, and some windows with fundamental directory functions had over-writing problems that made them unusable.  I’m uninstalled and am waiting for the full release.

I depend on Skype, including conferencing and their two pay services, Pay As You Go for general calling to land-lines and mobiles and Skype-In to access services from telephones.  Unfortunately, the accompanying Win7 Add-Ins are buggy and crash IE8, and the problems get worse version after version. Their forum discussions keep saying that the problem is solved, then it isn’t, then it’s worse, then a fix is coming, over and over.  I’ve concluded that it’s time to simply disable all add-ins in the interest of system stability, and rely on minimum Skype functionality.

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