July 20 - August 2, 1999

I've been programming! That is my explanation for why I haven't updated anyone in the last two weeks. Yes I've been doing other stuff, but it is a good excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I've been programming! Some of you probably won't understand, but here goes. I have to plan and detail exactly what I will do for my clients before they will approve me actually doing the work. Then one of my main jobs is to generate work for the other programmers on my team. So even what I get approved, I can't necessarily do. Well, I finally got enough work built up, that with my client on vacation (My clients factory and office is shut down for 3 weeks), I was able to dive into a hard chunk of code. I rewrote a bunch of my quote module, changed the internal structure and API's, and changed the user interface. It felt great to be programming something difficult again. It went well and I'm wrapping up my portion of the coding this week. On schedule and budget. The client will return from his vacation rested, and have a new build of my program ready and waiting for him. I enjoy being here in Holland, interfacing with the client, planning the changes, but programming is the most fun. Sometimes I absolutely love my job.

When coding is going smoothly, you can see ideas inside your head, visualize the data structures, see how things fit together. This module will call this API, get this piece of data and do something with it. I know it sounds weird, but its true. I imagine that an architect or a builder can imagine the house they are working on, I can see a program the same way. Then the compiler reduces it to 1 and 0s and I wake up.

The Saturday before last, I went down to Den Haag. Known in the US as "The Hague". It is the Netherland's seat of government and also the location for the World Court and lots of other international agencies. It had some nice cathedrals and buildings. I spent the day wandering the small streets and really enjoying myself. Nice city.

This "fountain" fires jets of water straight up out of the ground. Totally cool idea.

This was a weird church, I think it had hosted a fashion show or something the night before because it was not looking like a traditional church.

The strategy of me staying here for 3 months, leaving the country and then returning for the remaining 3 months of my stay is now kaput. The lawyers now say that I would have to stay out of the country for 3 months before returning. So our new strategy is to apply for the permits that I should have had from the start. So Jeanne has had to help me gather diplomas and certificates. She did a great job and really helped me out. So we're applying for the work permit and I'll be able to stay in Holland while we are filing for the permit. As a matter of fact, I probably shouldn't come back to the US until I hear whether I'm approved for the permit.

I took a day off last week and went to the beach. The sea is about 10 miles from my house, so I waited for a nice day, called my office and was off to the beach. I rented a beach chair, put up a windbreak and relaxed. I read a book, enjoyed the sun, walked in the water, splashed a little bit, and just collapsed. I fell asleep for a little while too. People who know me can already see the ending of this story coming. Since it was a weekday, there were more women and children and less men on the beach. I got to see the tide come in and take away probably 150 feet of beach. The beach is at least 100 yards wide and miles long. I'm stalling before I admit that I got sunburned. Yep, even with sunscreen, I got fried. The next couple of night were sheer torture. I couldn't roll over, I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. My ears are currently peeling. EARS!!

After cowering around the house on Saturday avoiding the bright sun, on Sunday I had to get out. I went into Amsterdam and watched a meaningless soccer game at a British pub with some very enthusiastic Brits. I then went to the park for a couple of hours. Amsterdam has its own version of New York City's Central Park. It is called Vondel Park. Tons of bikers, rollerbladers, roller skaters (I guess they are hip now.), dogs, and everyone enjoying the nice day. I stayed there until the sun started going down, then went to eat at a decent Italian restaurant, Casa di David. Good linguini, but I don't know why I keep trying bad house wines. I'll learn to order better.

I haven't talked about $$$ before so here's my chance. The small pizza I had delivered tonight was 14.50 guilders. There are around 2.05 guilders to the dollar right now. That is down from the rate of 2.15 we had a week ago. I get paid in dollars and my expenses are in guilders, so I have to watch this rate pretty close. It costs me over 110 guilders to fill up the gas tank of my small car. A Big Mac is 4.95 and an Extra Value Meal is 8.95. The most common bill is 100 guilders. So everything is pretty much doubled in price for the currency and 125% - 150% of regular price after the currency exchange. It means I go though cash big time. I'm always at the ATM getting money out. Lots of places don't take credit cards, there are no checks, so it is pretty much a cash situation everywhere for me. The locals have pin cards that are like debit cards in the US.

Grandma Dahl, I received your letter. Thanks! And happy Birthday to all of those July Birthdays!

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