Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Scammed in Barcelona.

If you knew there was a chance of getting scammed, how much money would you be willing to lose to give it a try and not be upset?  This was the topic of a discussion we had while traveling with another couple in Barcelona.  Well, I guess it depends on what it is, right?  Here is a video of what we saw and thought "How much would you pay for this and if it didn't work, you wouldn't be upset?"

So we watched these things in real life and couldn't figure out how they worked.  After watching them for a few minutes, we wanted to buy one just to see if we could figure out how it works.  So that is where the "How much...." question came into play.  After seeing this, how much would you pay for one of these knowing that it might not work?  For us, it was five euros.We decided that since there was a good chance these things wouldn't work, we could pay with five euros and not be upset.  However, we really didn't want to spend five euros.

If you know my wife, you know that she loves to "get a deal".  She will haggle with anyone if she can.  This gadget was five euros for (2) of them.  To me, that was a deal, as I was willing to pay five euros for one.  My wife didn't want to pay that.  She haggled with the guy and ended up getting (2) for €3,50.  We then asked the guy how it worked.  The guy said, "There is a tab on the back, pull it up, place it near the wall and the sound waves will make it dance." This really didn't sound right to us, but he picked it up and showed us and then put it back down and it started to dance again.  Then he stopped the music and it just stood there.

Not fully understanding how it worked and not really believing him, we took these paper dolls back to the hotel to try to figure out how they actually worked. I Googled "dancing Bart Simpson paper doll" to see if anything came up.  That is when I found the above video, but they all said it was a scam.  Then I Googled "dancing paper doll scam" and I found this video:

After watching this, I felt bummed because I got scammed.  However, I had to remember that I'm not allowed to be upset because my price was €5,00.  So this is what €5,00 will get you. Absolutely nothing.

Do you like the way they dance?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Locked Up Abroad

Note: This is not a paid advertisement.

I recently participated in a game where I was “incarcerated” in a 19th century prison with the goal of escaping within (3) hours.  The prison, Noordsingle, is one of the oldest prisons in the Netherlands.  It is also the largest prison and one of two prisons in the “American Style” with a cellular device.  Upon arrival, you’re automatically split up from anyone you know.  This really messed up my game plan, as I don’t speak or read Dutch.  My friend was the first to go in the prison.  As he left, he wished me luck not knowing if we would see each other on the inside or not. 

I then patiently waited for my inmate number and name to be called out in Dutch.  After what seemed like forever, I hear my name and inmate number.  I checked in, entered the prison and that is when things “got real” real fast.  As I entered the gates, there was a guard who yelled out commands to me in Dutch.  Noticing the person in front of me was stopped and at attention, I followed suit.  Then that person moved on and I moved up.  After I moved up the guard barked out an order.  I walked forward and then stopped.  Then the next command came, which I assumed meant go but I was wrong.  I went and then he yelled at me so I stopped.  Then he repeated the command and I just stood there.  Again he yelled at me and then I moved on (assuming that is what I was supposed to do). 

I then found myself in the “yard”.  Everyone was lined up in a single file line.  There was an inmate named “Saurus” doing push-ups while a guard put their foot in his back.  I lined up like everyone else and then the Warden came around.  He walked up and down every aisle and eyed everyone up and down.  Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I just looked straight ahead and didn’t blink.  Then the Warden gave a long speech.  The only words I understood were “Shawshank Redemption”, “Escape from Alcatraz” and “Prison Break”.  Then I heard something about push-ups and everyone dropped to the ground and started to do 10 push-ups (including myself).  After that we went inside and had our pictures taken and we were assigned to our cells. 

L: My intake photo. Top: to Bottom: The exterior wall, the main gate, they second prison yard.

That is where I made mistake number two.  As I walked in, the guard read off my inmate number A0002 and told me in Dutch “Twee”.  I then marched to cell #3 and joined my cell mates.  It was (2) girls and they started to speak Dutch to me right away.   I explained that I only spoke English and then we started to make a plan.  However; the guard came by and stared to yell at me.  She was pointing at me, so I was sure it me.  Then she yelled out my inmate number again and said in Dutch cell “Twee”.  I realized my mistake; I went to cell drie (three) because I heard twee and thought three.  Twee means two, so I had to make my way into cell #2. 

While in cell #2, I met my new cell mate and explained I only speak English.  The doors closed and it sounded like it does in the movies.  We started to look for clues and tried to figure out what we needed to do.  After a little while the doors opened and we could walk around.  I was able to locate my friend and we were able to make a plan.  We quickly made our way to the “yard” and started to find drugs hidden everywhere.  We knew we could use these later to get information or bribe people.  After circling the yard looking for ways to escape (while other inmates smoked, played football and fossball) we realized this is not the way to get out.  Without giving away the game, (3) hours came and went fast.

In the end, we were able to use the drugs to escape the prison while some people got involved in a riot and escaped that way.  Not everyone escaped.  I was later able to find my cell mate once I was on the outside and she did not escape.  This was an Escape Room x 1,000 with a Shawshank theme.  I would recommend this to anyone who likes interactive, realistic games.  Check out their website Prison Escape.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Super Dutch: Cycling

So it's been a while since I have written a blog.  That's because everything here is almost normal to me and not much phases me.  However; a few months ago I made a comment (I can't remember what it was) and my colleague said "That is a Super American thing to say."  I then ask her, what is "Super American"?  After some thinking, these are some of the things she came up with:
  • My love/obsession for enormously large (or what I would consider "regular") size drinks.
  • My obsession with ice in my drinks (you basically don't get ice in your drinks here).
  • The fact that I don't ride my bike in the: rain, cold, strong wind or any other excuse I have.
  • And my thought of any country outside of the US is dangerous.
  • The fact that "sweet" things are not sweet enough (like peanut butter).
That lead  me to think, what do I think is "Super Dutch"?  I have a mental list, but I thought I would slowly share them blog by blog.  However; today's "Super Dutch" thing is cycling or as we would call it riding a bike. Cycling is a way of life here in the Netherlands.  Everyone from children to elderly people do it.  Since moving here, I have seen lots of odd things done on a bicycle.  Here are some of things I have seen:

1) The "bike in tow"

How this guy steers his bike and this bike is beyond me.

2) "Carpooling"

This takes extreme skill.

3) Holding hands

This one doesn't make any sense to me at all.  I think it is ridiculous.

4) Hitching a ride

The Dutch have very strong leg muscles.

4) Moving day

Not even an option for me.
5) Chit Chatters

I have been guilty of this from time to time.  Being behind these can be annoying.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Greatest Generation.

This past weekend I traveled to northern France to visit Normandy.  For most people, this is just a place where an invasion called D-Day took place.  To me it's something a little special.  Seventy years ago, this is the place where my grandfather (Lt. Julian R. Sheehy) landed along with thousands of other young soldiers to complete a job that their country asked them to do.  As they landed, the Nazis sat waiting for them.  As the boats landed, thousand of young soldiers were mowed down by heavy machine gun fire.  Some didn't even make it out of the boats.  After the landing was complete, thousands of young soldiers lost their lives while trying to preserve freedom for Europe and the rest of the world.

My grandfather was an exception.  By some miracle, he was able to make it out of the boat, cross the beach and survived the landing.  Was it courage, was it instincts or was it a job he was asked to do and he did it without any questions?  I don't know.  What I do know is that he was a million times braver that I could ever be.  He left his family and traveled over 3,000 miles to do something amazing.  I can honestly say that I don't think I could do it.

Growing up, I used to hate going to visit my grandparents in Florida.  It was far, their house was always 80 F/ 26 C and my grandfather always seemed mean. Have you seen the Clint Eastwood movie Grand Torino?  That character was exactly like my grandfather. But as I got older, I realize how much of an amazing person he was.  In the end, he received a few Purple Hearts and survived one of the bloodiest wars ever.  I never go to ask him about it, but I would have loved to heard his amazing story of survival.

Shall we never forget what happened and never forget the men and women who sacrificed their lives so others could live in a free world.  As I travel around Europe, it's absolutely crazy what went on here and ever more crazy that so many innocent people lost their lives.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

King + Orange = A Fun Day

Yesterday in the Netherlands was Koningsdag (King's Day).  What is Koningsdag? Koningsdag is the celebration of King Willem-Alexander's birthday.  It's a national holiday and is an excuse to go out, enjoy the weather on the canals and "party".  This was a special day because it was the first King's Day since the tradition started back in 1890, all other days were Koninginnedag (Queen's Day).  How would I describe it?  I would describe it as Mardi Gras meets canals meets boats meets a great time. Everyone is happy, drinking and wearing orange.

Orange is our new favorite color.
So why do they wear orange?  Well orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family, The House of Orange-Nassau, which is a branch of the European House of Nassau.  The name Orange takes its roots from the French Princedom of Orange, named after the town Orange in the South of France.  The Queen's title is a result of marriage in 1515 between Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda and Claudia of Chalon-Orange from French Burgundy.  The dynasty had been established, when their son adopted the title of Orange-Nassau.

The morning after looks like Walking Dead meets Mardi Gras.
So the events started on Friday, Koningsnacht (King's Night).  All over the city there were stages built with bands preforming at all hours of the night and when I say all hours of the night, I mean all hours of the night.  There was a stage about 200' from our house and the bands played until about 2:00 am!  The next morning is filled with "garage" sales which is then followed by packed canals and lots of parting.  It is a lot of fun and if you come to Amsterdam for Koningsdag, a boat is the way to do it.  In the words of the Dutch "Het was Gezellig."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where Am I?

Recently I went Geocaching with a friend of mine.  What is Geocaching?  Geocaching is a form of treasure hunt using GPS, in which an item is hidden somewhere in the world and its coordinates posted on the Internet, so that GPS users can locate it.  The reason I like to Geocache, is because it takes me to some very interesting locations.  This past weekend was no different when I ventured to a city that either has an identity crisis or has a split personality.  A confused city?  Well you tell me.

This weekend I ended up in the town of Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands or Baarle-Hertog, Belgium (depending on where I stood).  How could I be confused as to where I was?  Well, let me share a map of the area.

What is this city about and why are there lines all around it?

This town is located directly south of Amsterdam near the Belgium border, no it's in Belgium, no the map says it's in the Netherlands, but it is in Belgium, no it's in both.  It's in both, but the map clearly shows the city in the Netherlands.  Well, now you might really be confused.  In order to understand this oddity, you have to become familiar with some terms.  The first term you must know is "Enclave".  An enclave is a country, or especially, an outlying portion of a country, entirely surrounded by the territory of another country. The best example of this is Vatican City.  This is a country that is surrounded by another country, Italy.  Ok, so far so good.  The next term you must know is "Exclave".  An exclave is a portion of a country geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory.  An example of this is Llivia, Spain.  This is a part of Spain that is separated from the main part of Spain by France.  Are you with me so far?  Now lets really confuse you.

How can Belgium be in the Netherlands when they are both different countries?

The town of Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands/Baarle-Hertog, Belgium is a complex example of enclaves within enclaves (also known as counter-enclaves or 2nd order enclaves).  This town consists of 22 Belgium enclaves and 8 Dutch enclaves (7 of which are counter enclaves).  This town has several markers marking the borders of each country.  One second you are in the Netherlands, then you are in Belgium and then you are back in the Netherlands.  How can you tell where you are?  Well the ground is marked letting you know where you are.

As you can see, the left side is Belgium and the right side is Netherlands and the line goes right through the front door.

Some houses that have the border going through them have a front door in one country and the other part of the house is in another country.  So the owner could sleep and wake up in the Netherlands, but then eat dinner and watch TV in Belgium.    So which country is this house in?  This house is located in both countries.  This house is the only house here where the border goes right through the front door.

Belgium on the left and the Netherlands on the right, huh?

Since the border runs right through the front door, making this house in both countries, it has 2 door bells (one for each country) and 2 house numbers (one for each country). Very odd, but yet very interesting.  So if you are ever in this area, be sure to check out GC4R5PF: Pungelpad 7 to see this odd house and area.  And this is why I love to Geocache.  Without a Geocache being placed in this area, my friend and I would have never seen this unique area, nor learned as to what this occurrence was called.  I love where my GPS takes me.  And to think, my friend has lived in this country all his life and he had never been here before.  It took an American and a Geocache to show him a unique part of his country.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ohh that Smell...

I thought the 1977 song from Lynyrd Skynyrd would be the best title for this blog. Recently I went on a ski trip to Les Houches, France with my wife and some friends from the states. While I was there I tried to experience some French cuisine, but it mostly consisted of pizza, French fries (or fries as they are called there) and hamburgers.  On our last night, I decided to try some real French food.  The restaurant we went to didn't have a menu in English nor did the staff speak English (well, they spoke little English), but I thought we could manage.  In most cases, some of the things on the menu look very similar to English words.  Looking at the menu I decided to try "Andouillette a la moutarde". Not knowing what it was, I thought it was going to be some type of andouille sausage with mustard sauce.

It's amazing what a few extra letters can do to food.
Having lived in Louisiana, I knew exactly what andouille was.  I had it in gumbo, dirty rice and at some crawfish boils.  Louisiana is a state with French heritage, so I assumed that andouillette and andouille was the same.  I mean, it had a few extra letters on it but so did moutarde.  My first clue that this was a mistake was when the waitress came over to take our order.  I placed my order and she asked me "Do you know what that is?"  I said "Yes, its like a sausage with some mustard sauce on it, right?"  She smiled and said yes and left with our order.

This isn't the actual dish, but it looked very similar to this.
 When the food came out, everything looked good.  I cut into my meal and instantly realized I made a mistake.  Without taking a bite, I knew I was not going to be able to eat my meal.  To describe the smell, I'm going to use a phrase once used by my wife's cousin to describe the way Florida State was playing in a game they were loosing.  This thing smelt like "a bag of mashed up assholes".  I know that description is a bit graphic, but that is really the only way to describe the smell.  I turned my plate in an attempt to escape the smell and eat something else, when one of our dinner mates said "Can you turn that around?  That stuff stinks!"  I text one of my colleagues from work who is from France and she said "That stuff is made of death and intestines".

So what is this dish I ordered?

"Andouillette (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃dujɛt]) is a coarse-grained sausage made with pork (or occasionally veal), intestines or chitterlingspepperwine,onions, and seasonings. Tripe, which is the stomach lining of a cow, is sometimes an ingredient in the filler of an andouillette, but it is not the casing or the key to its manufacture. True andouillette will be an oblong tube. If made with the small intestine, it is a plump sausage generally about 25 mm in diameter but often it is much larger, possibly 7–10 cm in diameter, and stronger in scent when the colon is used. True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odor related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellant to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees." - Wikipedia

To say it has a strong, distinctive odor is an understatement.  If you think I am exaggerating about this, I have found other blogs (The Grubworm and Things That Stink) that will back my description of  this item. One of the blogs was called "Andouillette or... The Dish of Death".  So when ordering food in another country, know that a few extra letters can change an entire meal.