Friday, April 25, 2008

Pennsylvania's primary

Last Tuesday was the day of the Pennsylvania primary. I was driving home Tuesday night when my street was filled with media cars and police: Hillary decided to stay in a hotel which was around the corner of my apartment building! This is where she gave her 'winner’s speech' Tuesday night.

The opinion of the media has changed completely: before Tuesday, they wondered if Hillary should quit the race if she didn´t win big. After Tuesday, Obama is a big loser because he didn´t win PA while he spend much more money here, and Hillary is back in the race after raising $ 10 million Wednesday. After starting her winner´s speech with ´Thank you, please send us money!´

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fun with Dutchies

Traffic in the US is relaxed. Speed limits are low, people don’t clip your bumper, there are many wide trafficlanes, and people accelerate slowly. (That last one is probably because most American cars are, despite their 4.8 liter V8 engine in the average ford or chevy, not very fast.) The fact that you only have to drive for one block to get your driver’s license on the age of 16 is not really an issue here: traffic isn’t that difficult.

American drivers might not be the best drivers, but they are relaxed drivers. So, what would be more fun that racing around with 11 Dutchies? On the go-kart track, of course!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Thursday night. I’m home, eating and watching a sports game on TV, when the fire alarm goes off in my apartment building. I wait for a while to see if some idiot hit the alarm just for fun, but when a fire truck arrives and people start walking outside, I decide that it might be a good idea to go leave the building. With my passport, of course. After about 20 minutes in the rain, the firemen realize that there isn’t a problem and allows us back inside again.

An hour later. I’m ironing my shirt and the sports game is getting more and more exciting, when the alarm goes off again! No way that I’m going to stand in the rain again; I’ll stay here to iron my shirts, and before I know it, I don’t even hear the alarm anymore. No problem for 30 minutes, until it started smelling bad in my apartment. Oh, the alarm is still on! In the meantime, seven fire trucks arrived and two police cars had shut down the street on both sides. Thank god it was only a small fire on the 6th floor, and the bad smell disappeared soon… Lesson learned: Americans are able to overreact very well!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Is this the whole car?!?!!?

Yes, it would be more likely to see the following type of car in this country:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

ING Direct US - Survivor of the Mortgage Subprime crisis

When ING Direct started in the US in 2000, many banks laughed about its concept:
• Encourage people to save money, instead of spend money, and give them a free savings account with a high interest rate;
• Don´t give customers a credit card; give them a debit card instead, so that they only spend the money that they have. Instead of (expensive and unsecure) checks, we can also e-mail money to each other;
• Offer customers an attractive mortgage, that fits their salary – without giving them a mortgage that would not fit their needs but would be more profitable, or charge hidden fee´s without the borrower knowing about it.

This low-cost business model is made possible by avoiding expensive branch offices, and offer banking services over the phone and internet. To keep in touch with (potential) clients, ING Direct cafe’s were opened in large cities; customers can drink a latte, and ask the barista something about saving accounts or mortgages. (The coffee served here is Peet’s Coffee; founded by the Dutch entrepreneur Alfred Peet, who moved to San Francisco in 1966 to use his coffee-brewing experience with California – it turned out to be the inspiration for Starbucks. Just to let you know!)

After 8 years, other banks started recognizing and respecting ING Direct´s values. News shows wonder how ING Direct US is the only survivor of the subprime mortgage crisis: while Countrywide had 94.000 foreclosures in 2007, ING Direct US only had 15! The world now realized that a lot of Americans are financially illiterate. The economical consequences are still unknwon. Anyhow, it feels good to work for a company that tries to help people to get into a better, more stabilized financial situation, while at the same time it is a very successful lender. And if people still don´t trust the internet as a medium to use all their banking services: ING Direct was the safest bank in the US in 2007!

Here is a recent news video about ING Direct US surviving the subprime mortgage crisis:

And some pictures of the ING Direct café in Philly: