Appreciation for the good old post system

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packageLast October I was send a package to my office in Chengdu from The Netherlands. The shipping fee was about 30 dollars.  The package never arrived, and information from the Dutch post company was cryptic. (contact local post branch) Just when I considered the package lost, it successfully was returned to it’s origin address halfway around the globe. Three months after originally sending it off. Something as simple as the good old post system still seems to function very well, pretty cool!

 

 

Working at Dr. Panda in Chengdu

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Our spacious Dr Panda office is located at Raffles city in the center of Chengdu, China. After HR helped us find a house, I started working daily at the modern (air purified) office, which is a 10 minute walk for home. Working with the Dr. Panda team has been a great experience so far – with product-commited teammates from all over China but also Poland, Sweden, Belgium, France, US, Vietnam, Spain and The Netherlands; some speak only a bit of English, some speak only a little bit of Chinese, some both. For the interested there are free Chinese and English language courses in the office.

The spacious Dr Panda office is located at Raffles city in the center of Chengdu.

Meeting colleges outside office hours is normal in China, which is pleasant as a foreigner moving in. The office turns into a ‘cafe mode’ in the evening, some will go for dinner together, others keep on working (deadlines are fierce) but others just play board- or video games or play ping-pong in the after hours. Besides cozy evenings the mood is generally great at the office, free fruits, guess-where-we’ll-rank competitions for each app launch, and every now and then we have ‘happy hours’ with food and drinks.

At Dr. Panda, we make kids feel familiar with life through role playing games. I’m proud to be working on our next title. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been pitching new concepts and idea’s and now we are making actual playable prototypes. Today we delivered its second iteration at a product demo, we keep iterating and testing with kids until we get it right. Looking forward to the next steps.

Mia likes Dr. Panda too, product demo's and playing pingpong.

In the DonaldDuck

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Working at the Kids and Teens department is always interesting; The editors and the drawers of DonaldDuck get their jokes and inspiration from all sorts of places, even around the office. They ‘used’ me to make a character in an actual duck story; I’m a geeky guy who drives around a celebrity – how cool is that! If you want to read it, get a copy of the latest TrosKompas!

Mont Ventoux, je ne suis pas fou

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If you wanted to watch the Tour de France in the 70s, you had it rough, it was a daily 20 min B&W summary filmed from a single angle. However, my dad did become an avid fan and took up cycling himself. Together with his friends they climbed the famous mountains like Alpe d’Huez, Col de la Madeleine and the steep Mont Ventoux themselves. Their sport bonded the group and they are cycling together to this day.

Moving on to may 2015, my dad was picking a cottage for our yearly family get-together, unsurprisingly he picked one at the foot of that very Mont Ventoux. Our whole family took the opportunity and enjoyed surprisingly good weather, French baguettes and French wine. Then my dad asked me if I wanted to join him up the mountain; I had to consider, I cycled up Col de Madelaine in 2004 but I am totally untrained at the moment. I agreed to a small ascend to halfway point as a first training.

We started off and I felt pretty great, the mood was good, lot’s of “bonjours”, waves and there was an American girl cheering us on and offering cold beverages, that was fantastic! With the 7~10% climb I was cranking energy fast but all was good… until a man dressed like Lance Armstrong rode by and called me to my place “hey, c’est la folie, you are crazy” and carried on*.  I yelled something back – too little too late – but actually found a renewed strength; “I’ll show him!” After a good hour we left the forest and we could see the moon-like summit. Breathtaking.

At halfway point I told my dad I wanted to keep on going, as the weather was exceptionally cold that day. But actually, being there with my dad really kept my nose to the grindstone and I didn’t want to let him down. Then I hit my limit. Closer to the top, I got into trouble but I made it! Thanks to my dad staying by my side and motivating me. A lovely Dutch woman with a SLR camera snapped my last meters, seen in the shot above.

At the top, we cheered, took some photos and had a cold drink. Then we turned around and breezing off the mountain, I was carrying such a big smile that I felt embarrassed for the people still climbing but I couldn’t stop. It was an absolutely perfect day.

*note: I did carry a helmet but only wore it during the descent; it was a remark regarding my endurance or my bike. Also; Generally French people are nice!

Long weekend in Shanghai

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20140826-180812.jpg20140826-174313.jpgIt seems to be a good tradition to visit Shanghai now and then. We met up with friends and ate the fruits and dishes that we craved. Arriving during Friday’s traffic rush, we had some trouble hailing a taxi from the metro station.20140826-172738.jpg A friendly passerby explained that you can bid for taxi’s with an app these days, but instead I called a friend to pick us up. On Saturday we enjoyed a south Chinese lunch (小南国), haggled for presents at pearl city, and ate a modern 20140826-172938.jpgShanghainese meal with friends. However good and rich the Chinese kitchen is, the next day we enjoyed Japanese foods like 20140826-173120.jpgokonomiyaki, shabu shabu, and soba; as those are all also hard to get in my home country. Afterwards we left for a stay at the sofitel Sheshan, a bit outside the city; again amazed by the size of 20140826-174420.jpgShanghai, and the ghostly quiet rows of skyscrapers. Shanghai is such an energetic city and there is so much to do; we both think it was worth coming here, if even for a short time! Leaving at 5 am to the airport, the G20 was already busy with cars (day and night) and we realized the smog also continues day and night. It has been getting worse and breathing it is the price to pay to live here, I guess one can’t have it all.

Finland, Belgium and Maastricht

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Sanoma headquarters in Helsinki

Sanoma headquarters in Helsinki

Started the month with a business trip to Helsinki at the Sanoma headquarters. Even though I met a lot of colleagues that are working there, it’s was great to see the office for myself and see a bit more of company I work for. Sanoma became big by the newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ in Finland.

Train depot in Simpelveld

Train depot in Simpelveld

I’ve also visited Limburg with Suna and her high school friends who were visiting. My personal highlight was a tour at the miljoenenlijn. Actually, just drove the car to an industrial building besides the track. No people around, until we made our way into the depot. Just look at these magnificent locomotives. Still used during the summer on the track for tourists, money is raised to refurbish them further during the winter. We got an improvised and enthusiastic tour by one of the engineers who has been working on one of the trains for over 9 years. He told the stories of taking the train from London to Istanbul in 1924; The girls were surprisingly intrigued, the people dressed nicely, lot’s of leg-space and good food seemed to fill their appetite to get an idea of the romantics of train travel during the time.

Maastricht with Suna

Maastricht with Suna

Besides trains we also explored Maastricht, Brussel and Brugge. Of which Maastricht seemed most interesting to them, didn’t do much more then walking around and visiting monuments; The city has a better appeal to foreigners compared to the touristification of cities like Amsterdam and Brussels.

10km Run at Rotterdam Marathon 2013

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Beer!Ran a 10km run at the Rotterdam marathon with my dad and my friends today. We drove to Rotterdam in the Morning. We were well on time and as the real marathon started 15 minutes earlier, we had time enough to watch Lee Towers sing ‘You never walk alone’ (Youtube). We then headed out and were allowed to start right in front. We ran 15km in Rotterdam last December but today’s run was very special. The start was so cheerful I had goosebumps from it!

The race was well organized and I enjoyed the people cheering from the sides. See track here: Google maps. The temperature was a bit on the high side but that was ok. We started in front with the fast runners and I got a bit carried away with that so when runkeeper gave me my averages at 2km I realized I was running too fast. I slowed down a bit until I reached the final two kilometers. Generally I really enjoyed the scenery and the Rotterdam vibe. At the last kilometers, I was able to speed up again and really went for ‘empty’ in the last meters. It was at the finish that I both lost my breath and at the same time bumped into Paul Koole who I didn’t see ever since both of us worked in Shanghai. He had subscribed for the NY marathon last year which was cancelled due to Sandy. It was nice chatting with him again. Then I got a call from my friends Bart and Michiel. They actually pointed out this marathon to me a month ago so we had to meet up at the finish! They ran a nice time so we celebrated, together with my dad at Blaak with a view on Rotterdam in the first spring sun. A great start of the running season!

Valkenburg Christmas With Suna

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With the holiday season around the corner here in The Netherlands, business and meetings are slowing down. Suna and I drove to the city of Valkenburg in an impulsive mood. The city of Valkenburg is a small touristic town in the hills close to the Belgium border, famous for it’s christmas parade and market. At first we visited the christmas market, which took place in a cave. The market was quite huge but didn’t really have much interesting items to sell, mostly just merchants selling belts, sweaters and other non christmas related products. After the market we enjoyed a meal in the city center. The meal offered us some time to celebrate our 2 year anniversary and reflect a bit. Afterwards we went out to see the parade. The parade almost didn’t happen this year as last March there was a huge fire burning all the preparations. Standing on the curb, looking at the locals showing all their efforts we thought it was so nice to see a town community join in to make something happen in these dark Dutch days.

A weekend in and around San Francisco

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I flew to SFO from SHA through LAX, good to bring the Kindle and order some coffee on the plane

Spent the weekend in San Francisco, I’ve visited the city before in 2009 but didn’t have much time then. So when I heard I had some business meetings during the week, I made sure to include the weekend for some sightseeing. The flight from Shanghai to San Francisco takes about 15 hours. Due to the time difference, we landed at exactly the same date/time as we left. Therefore I aimed to stay awake during the flight and read as much as I could, to fall asleep in the hotel instantly to avoid jetlag.

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In my beautiful shanghai marathon gear. Picture was coincidentally taken by a Shanghaines

Before I realized it, I had to return to the hotel to freshen up for my meeting with Maggie and Josh (working for Zynga and Pixar), who introduced me to a fine Mexican restaurant. Nice to hear about their life in San Francisco, hope to receive them here some time too.
In the early morning, I went for a run from Union square to Embarcadero. I snapped some pictures with my phone. I was aiming for a small run but enjoyed the weather and sceneries so much that I kept adding blocks to my trial, I ran well over 10km before I knew it.

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Kindly received by Maggie and Josua, while fighting jetlag

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During the afternoon, I explored more touristic spots and for dinner I enjoyed in-n-out burger, their fries and burgers are particularly great.  In the evening I was supposed to go to a party, but happened to walk by a little theater on Bush street. I asked the guy at the door what was going on today,  and before I knew it I had a front row ticket for a fraction of the original price. The story was called ‘death of a salesman’, the story was set in various points in time (actors kept changing clothing according to the 60’s etc) and featured the story of how one bad decision can influence your entire life..

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entire cast on stage

On Sunday, I took a tour to Napa Valley. Napa is one of the most famous wine valleys in the United States. Napa was put on the map in a 1997 Bourdeaux blind wine tasting, when the French jury voted Mondavi’s Californian wine to be the winner, they actually wanted to do redo the competition. Napa’s ground price increased 10 fold instantly…

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Sunday morning, took the bus to Napa valley. View from Oakland Bay bridge

I knew about the area because of Marc who showed that particular story in a movie called ‘bottle shock‘, I can highly recommend it… I also watched a documentary last winter about this particular character.

Had to get up in the early morning to take the tour bus out of town. It was nice to drive by Oakland, Berkeley and other famous area’s in the bay area. Nice to see the countless vineyards as well.

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Just a small drive later, you drive in France-like sceneries

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10 AM, time for a local grown 2008 Estate Chardonnay

The day consisted of visiting three vineyards, a process in the hot sun between the grapes. Very nice experience, met a lot of interesting people from all outskirts of the US.

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Already empty? They didn’t fill the glasses completely though…

I arrived back in San Francisco around 4PM. I didn’t realize the gay pride weekend was going on with a huge parade and party at the Civic center. So I checked that one out as well. San Francisco is particularly liberal (drugs and sexual views), this event has become so huge that it’s considered commercial. The audience varied from transsexuals to gays to straight people, all just dancing and having fun.

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‘intimate’ setting during the pride parade

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SF Civic center… Great location for a party

The music is pretty much international. The small stages featured house music which would also be played at events like Loveparade in Europe. The main stage featured rock music and some national level pop artists. Then the weekend was over, Xander arrived in town as well so we met up at the airport and

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Highway 101, left lane is carpool only. Free road for us! (the sign reads ‘buses and carpools only’

we headed down to Silicon Valley. We resided mostly in places like Palo Alto and the likes. We drove down the 101 highway and noticed that that the left lane was for carpool only. Since most people drove by themselves, and had to drive on the right, we didn’t realize at once that the left lane was ours! Very good initiative. A quick visit to the famous Apple store which Steve Jobs always visited. I was looking to buy a new laptop and was helped by the lady on the left. Considering her age, I was surprised to hear her technical know how.

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At Menlo Park Apple

The best thing about California is clearly the weather and the hard working mentality. It’s not ofter to see that combination. We had great weather all week, this picture I took from our hotel. (view to Oakland and San Francisco)