Why all American drivers are telepathic

Arriving in California this summer we noticed the strangest of phenomena: The four way all stop crossing. 

We watched in bewilderment as cars approached the crossings, stopped and then decided on who was to go first based on some type of mind reading. We were unable to detect any clear pattern on which car was to go first.

In Norway this is simple: You give way to the car from the right, unless there are traffic lights or a roundabout. Europeans love roundabouts.

Not so in America. The Avis guy told us that Americans also had to give way to cars from the right. He was at loss at explaining what do to if four cars arrived simultaneously — which happens all the time if the traffic is dense.

In the end we found that the system works because Americans drivers actually learn this kind of Jedi mind trick when getting their driving licenses. We also found that my wife and dedicated driver Susanne is a natural. Or maybe the Americans were just polite, helping her along. 

Originally published on August 24 2011

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The Samsonite five year warranty is worth nothing

My wife and I travel a lot, and we have learned that buying cheap suitcases can cost you. On one trip to Britain we needed to buy a badly damaged suitcase, and was forced to buy a cheap one. It lasted one trip ony and is now use to store clothes in the attic.

So we have normally bought Samsonite suitcases, as they are known to be sturdy. That being said, we have twice been forced to go back to the store because of damage, and every time we have faced the same strange Catch 22 situation:

“Yes, sir/ma’am, there is indeed a five year guarantee, but that is for production errors. This suitcase was damaged during transport.”

“So you are saying the warranty is void because we have used the Samsonite suitcase for travelling?”

“Yes, the warranty is only for manfacturing defects.”

“Ah, but we have used this suitcase only once, from London. Isn’t a Samsonite meant to be able to handle the hardship of one flight?”

“I don’t know about that, sir, but Samsonite won’t reimburse us for a new suitcase if the old one was damaged during transport.”

“Hm, but the reason we bought Samsonite is because they promote their strength and their warranty. Isn’t this close to fraud?”

“The warranty clearly states it covers only manufacturing defects and does not cover any damage caused by misuse, neglect, accidents, abrasion, exposure to extreme temperatures, solvents, acids, water, normal wear and tear or transport damage — by airlines for example.”

“I see, but you do understand that manufacturing defects are already covered by Norwegian consumer laws. You will have to replace such a suitcase for no cost, anyway, so what is the bl&%/(y point in having a Samsonite warranty?”

“That’s the way it is, sir”

Originally posted on June 12 2011

Visiting Thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand, beachMy wife Susanne and I have spent three exiting and wonderful weeks in Thailand.

During our first week in Bangkok we soon realised that we were not “in Kansas” anymore. The city is a chaotic cacophony of colors, noise and smell. A tiring experience indeed, but also refreshing and stimulating.

We knew that we would need a “real” holiday after our stay in Bangkok and flew down to the island of Koh Samui in the south east of Thailand.

The city, Chaweng, had also some of the characteristics of Bangkok. It reminded us of a city out of the Wild West (or the Wild East rather) with its many counterfeit shops, tailors, restaurants, bars and hookers. However, a three minute walk from the noisy main street is the beach, peaceful and beautiful — exactly what we needed.
Koh Samui, Thailand, Chaweng Road
I’ll come back with more reflections on Thailand later on. However, Susanne and I have already written one post on our stay in Bangkok over at Tor Johnsen’s Enjoy Food and Travel, while Susanne has told the story about a cooking course at Koh Samui. Take a look!

See also my Enjoy Food and travel post: The contrasts of Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand and our online Thailand photo album.

The old city of Tallinn in Estonia

TallinnLast week I had the pleasure of visiting Tallinn in Estonia. The Estonian government has asked the EU Commission to make a review of Estonian innovation policies, and I was asked by the Commission to be part of the review expert group.

Estonian innovation policy makers are extremely well oriented as regards the latest thinking on systemic innovation policies and the role of learning and innovation in economic development — much more so than most of their colleagues in the “old” member countries. It seems to me that this is a reflection of a general aspect of the development of post-Soviet Estonia: A great ability to learn quickly, work hard and do what it takes to catch up with rest of Europe.

And although the Estonian’s themselves are impatient people and will complain about economic difficulties and the ongoing conflicts with Russia, they are doing very well. The economy is growing at a breath taking pace, and as far as Tallinn is concerned, what I saw was a modern, successful, European county.
Tallinn, Estonia
(The suburbs and other parts of the country will tell you another story, they told me. I am sure it will, but what has happened in Tallinn demonstrates the possibilities).

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Manhattan early spring

In April Susanne and I went to New York for the Search Engine Strategies conference. We have followed the search engine scene for eight years now through Pandia, our site for internet searching and search engine marketing.

Many Americans tell us they find New York City a hectic, busy and unfriendly place. It probably says a lot about our won lifestyle that we feel right at home.

But it is not the noise that brings us back, but rather the amazingly colorful mix of people and cultures. The US may not be a melting pot, but what a wonderful salad the Americans serve!

Susanne has mixed a short video based on snapshots taken in the streets of New York.

You’ll find more pictures in our online .mac photo album.

See also our Pandia New York Search Engine Strategies conference coverage.

Summer of 2006

My wife Susanne has made a slide show of pictures from our holiday in Spain last year and uploaded it to her own Vox blog.

Catalonia is a great place for experiencing art, food and Catalan culture. However, if you want to combine such experiences with a beach holiday, stay away from Lloret del Mar and most of the other concrete tourist traps found along the coast. Some of them are veeeery ugly.

“Our” town, however, Tossa de Mar, has kept many of its original buildings, and remains a beautiful fisherman’s village. There is even an old medieval city centre.

We have also a photo collection from Tossa online.