Saturday, March 29, 2008

The at-home paternity test

What should you do if you're a man, and you've slept with a woman, but you are sure that the baby she got 9 months after you slept together isn't yours? Or if you're a woman, and you don't exactly know who the father of your child is, but you would really like for someone to pay the child support? A common problem in the US! Until now, people had two options. The most obvious one is going to the hospital. Unfortunately, most people that would need such a test don't have enough money to go there, so they would go to The Maury Povich Show where they would be faced with the paternity on TV: “You aaaaaaaaare…………… NOT the father!” after which the man stands up and makes a winners-dance move.

Until last week this was the situation. Now, you can buy an at-home paternity test for $29 at Rite-Aid. This kit contains three swabs, which you should use inside the mouth of the mother, the father and the baby to gain a DNA sample. You can then return these swaps (just place them in the postage-paid return envelope), after which the DNA is being analyzed and you will receive the result in 3-5 business days via mail, e-mail or a secured internet connection. Finally - people don't have to go to expensive hospitals or go to embarrassing TV shows anymore (like this one below)!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Washington DC

Last Saturday, I visited Washington DC with my parents. A short history of the US: Philadelphia became the capital in 1790 because it was the largest city at that time. Many states disagreed with this, so a new district was born: the District of Columbia, existing of only one city (Washington DC). Locals call it simply DC to avoid confusion with the State of Washington in the Northwest. In 1800, DC became the capitol of the US.

Over 200 years later: DC is a huge metropolitan area (nr. 8 in the US – see a list of the largest metropolitan areas in the US ). If DC were to be a State, it would be the smallest state in the US by far, with the highest population density! I noticed that DC, compared to other cities in the US, misses a nice skyline, but the city is very clean. The heart of the city is the National Mall: the area of the Washington Monument, Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool and of course the White House, surrounded by many government buildings. It is unique to walk around here and think about all the movies that were recorded here, especially when we came home in the evening and the protest-scene from Forrest Gump was on TV (which was recorded at the Lincoln Memorial, while his girlfriend jumps into the reflecting pool)!

Klik hier voor de foto’s!

Friday, March 21, 2008


This time, I let my parents write a story about their experiences and adventures in the US!

America is a country of 'extremes', we don’t have to explain that to readers of Daniel’s blog anymore. We are going to do it anyway, because we (Marije and Luuk - Daniel’s parents) experienced amazing things everyday during our ten-day visit in Philadelphia!

It started when we entered this country of 'opportunities'. The first experience was not that nice – after an 8-hour flight, we thought we had a great timing. We were wrong: US Customs acted like they have never seen an airplane with visitors land here, don't know how to make an efficient schedule and don’t care about tourists. It took us more than one hour before we were able to talk to a customs officer!

But after that, we experience a lot of nice things each day. Some stories:

Sunday afternoon. We made a trip to Doylestown, a small town just 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, where we visited a castle build of concrete! Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) decided to start building it without a construction plan or schedule: when he finished one room, he decided what the next room would look like. We took a tour trough this unique castle with beautiful art work.

Tuesday. We visited Lancaster, PA, where three religions live: Brethrens, Mennonites, and Amish. The Amish are very strict: they don’t have cars, TV's, tractors, or modern farm equipment; instead they use horses, donkeys and old-fashioned cars. They don’t use electricity – that would ‘connect’ their house to the rest of the world, which is not allowed either!

The Amish tour, as we made it, was amazing! The 30-minute ride was only $10 each (but add the 15% tip – even the Amish like that). The car we entered was only 6 months old, build of aluminum metal: light-weighted, no maintenance required, keeps shining and still looks old-fashioned. The ride itself was great, with a nice story from a religious man who grew up in this area. That’s America too!

Wednesday afternoon. A service employee from the Macy’s in Philadelphia recommended us to go to the Reading Terminal Market. The perfect market where people in Philadelphia lunch, get fresh food or just look around!

Thursday. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Perfect: old and new art from American, Dutch, French and Italian masters, even statues and Asian art.

Conclusion: our legs hurt, and it is amazing here!

A castle of concrete:

Amish tour

The Terminal market in Philly

Philadelphia museum of art

Dinner at the Applebees

Street view of Philadelphia

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Politics as usual

A lot of people from the Netherlands have asked me how big the ‘elections’ hype is over here, since I have not blogged about that yet. Well, most of the times I open up a Dutch website, there is a headline about Clinton, Obama or McCain, even when no one here has mentioned it yet; I actually think the hype is bigger in the Netherlands! So until this week, there wasn’t much to talk about.

However, last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton visited Philadelphia because of the pre-elections in Pennsylvania in April. When they announced that she would speak at Temple University in North Philly, I did not have to think twice about going there!

Clinton’s speech was introduced by the major of Philadelphia and the governor of Pennsylvania. One of the things I noticed about politicians in this country (compared to the Netherlands) is that they know how to sell the message – they always have great one-liners and a lot of enthusiasm, where we see long and boring, but in-depth debates in the Netherlands. The enthusiastic audience also encourages this, with a loud applause after almost each sentence. To give an example, this is how the major ended his speech: “We are going to write history here. If we can put a man on the moon, we sure as hell can put a woman in the white house!”

Clinton gave an hour-long speech in which se talked about health care, Iraq, gas prices, crime and the mess of the Bush administration. “In 1992, it took a Clinton to clean up a Bushes’ mess. In 2008, it will take another Clinton to clean up another Bushes’ mess!” The battle between Clinton and Obama is difficult, since their opinions are so close to each other. Clinton's recent arguments are “The White House is such a mess, this country needs someone with experience to clean it up” while Obama's point-of-view focuses on “we need change in this country. Someone fresh, with little bureaucratic political experience to bring this change; we don't want to go back to the 90s!”. This is basically the only way they can 'attack' each other.

Another thing that shocked me is the media's opinion and influence on politics. This picture caught my eye a few weeks ago, when Clinton lost several states in a row:

You can see immediately that this is a simple photoshop edit of normal facial expressions. However, when the headline is 'Clinton desperate for a win', you see the manipulation: no one wants to see a desperate president! A few weeks later Obama was the target. I saw the following picture on the internet, where someone compared his real photo (left) with a published photo:

Someone tried to make him look more black on that photo. A gossip magazine had a cover story on Obama last week - I can't remember the exact title but it was something like 'Full Story: Obama and his many terrorist-friends!'. Since most people prefer reading these papers instead of watching debates on TV, the media has a huge influence! Anyhow, it was an amazing experience to be present at Hillary's speech!!

For more pictures click here!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Weekend adventures

Last weekend was again quite interesting. It started Friday night, when my colleague celebrated her birthday in a bar in Philly. The most ‘Americanized’ conversation of the evening occurred when a girl entered, who had just had surgery to get new boobs and she was in the middle of a divorce. It was like Sex & The City was being recorded next to me!

Our ING Direct soccer team had to play against Bank of America on Saturday evening. On the road towards the game I realized that I am actually a little Americanized, because it was more then an hour to drive which is long for a 50-minute soccer game, but I thought it wasn’t that weird. Unfortunately, we lost, basically due to our chaotic strategy… I still have to get used to the ‘American Football’ strategy (run towards the ball, no matter what), the mandatory shin protectors for indoor (where sliding is prohibited) and the indoor field which is round, like a Ice Hockey Field).

While driving home, I was on a road of which I thought the speed limit was way too low... until I crashed into a huge water pool – so big you could sail in it. This was a good test for my new car, only two wheel covers were damaged. After the car was done recovering from his swim, I realized that it’s kind of strange how bad the road maintenance is in this country. It is the richest country in the world, and almost everyone has a car (I have seen how difficult it is to live without a car here!), but one of the first thing you will notice when you arrive in this country is the bad road maintenance – holes everywhere. It differs from state to state (like I said: the US consists of 50 countries, but the 11 states I have driven trough barely had any good roads. Last week I was in a traffic jam towards work (which is an exception) which was caused by remainders of a car accident … but the cops and involved cars were long gone. Some parts were moved to the crash barrier (under which the entire bumper) but many parts just lay on the road. I understand that it must be difficult because the country is extremely big and on some point ‘empty’, but lives are at stake… however, this keeps the taxes down. And I’ll try to stick to the speed limits!

The next road is well maintained:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Technical updates

We're living in 2008, so I had to make some updates to the site.

It is easier to subscribe via e-mail, giving you notifications of new stories. It is also possible to add this site to your iGoogle homepage . The links are on the right!

RSS readers can go to this Feedburner!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I finally got a decent car!

After two months filled with bad luck and time-consuming car searches, I finally got a decent car. Last weekend wasn’t very successful: after going to the DMV last Saturday (it’s almost like a tradition) where I passed my Leaner’s Permit test, I was told that the state of Pennsylvania had changed the law the day before, meaning that I was no longer eligible for a Driver’s license! In other words, this is going to cost me about 30% more on car insurance.

Bureaucracy is the only factor in the way here. Insurance companies think I am more dangerous than a 16-year old native American, who has to pass 18 simple questions and a short driving test (to give an example: what should you do when you want to make a left turn, but there is oncoming traffic? (a) hit the gas; (b) make a u-turn; (c) make a left, hoping that everyone stops; or (d) yield.

Saturday afternoon seemed more successful: I found a very nice Honda Civic, it only had to get detailed so I could pick it up Monday morning at 9:00 am. When I arrived at the dealer, he told me he sold the car to someone else!!

Tuesday night: another try. This time it was really successful, I found a very nice Honda Accord! After two months, I know how to play the game here: check the Carfax report, check the VIN Number on the car, and if the dealer doesn’t agree with your price, just drive away (he will jump for your car to get you back!). I could pick up the car on Wednesday night, but colleagues were sure something had to happen to keep my bad luck in shape: a plane will probably fall down from the sky on my Honda. However, it was still there, and I really like the car! So what have I learned in these two months?
• Don’t trust any car dealer!
• If you want to go live in the US, please don’t move to Pennsylvania – they make insane laws and hire retarded people to execute them
• Keep smiling – after rain, the sun will come up! (literally translated from a Dutch saying)

I also realized that I am not yet Americanized: I went shopping at the IKEA (exactly the same as in Europe), I bought clothes at the H&M and Zara instead of the Macy’s, and during lunch breaks I still don’t eat chips or pizza. And, I don’t drive an American car anymore, but most of my colleagues don’t do that either!

This weekend, I have a birthday party in Philly, an ING Direct soccer game and next week I’ll be watching the Philadelphia Flyers again! I’ll also have a dinner with some Dutchies in Philly and Friday my parents are coming. Time flies!

Check the Honda pictures! And there’s also a picture of my new shower curtain – bright orange :)