New Affiliate Nexus Tax in Illinois will destroy small businesses and result in less income for the State

Posted by Arthur in Illinois

The new Internet Tax bill HB 3659 with Amendment 3 is suddenly blazing through the Illinois House and Senate. This new bill will cause hundreds of online merchants to terminate their affiliate programs in Illinois, causing thousands of small businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations to lose all or part of their income.

The tax bill is supposed to generate more revenue for the state, but the reality is that many web-based businesses will leave the state, resulting in less income for Illinois. This bill is all pain and no gain. I have already received an email from Amazon telling me that it will terminate my affiliate account if Governor Quinn signs this bill into law. 🙁

I just faxed the following letter to the Office of the Governor.

Dear Governor Quinn,

I am writing to you to urge you to PLEASE VETO the tax provision included in Senate Amendment 3 to HB 3659 (also known as the Amazon Tax). The provision would require out-of-state retailers to collect Illinois sales tax if customers were referred by any website operated by Illinois businesses or residents.

What typically happens when a state passes a provision like this is that online retailers simply cancel their affiliate programs in that state. This leaves small businesses and others who derive income from this work (including non-profit organizations who have on their website affiliate links to retailers like Amazon) with a reduced or no income.

The state earns no additional tax benefit and in fact loses income as the affiliates are left with a reduced taxable income themselves. Over 200 merchants terminated affiliate programs in New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island, where similar measures passed.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.

Please veto this amendment or my small business and that of thousands of other online marketers and affiliates in Illinois will be devastated.

Thank you for your consideration.

If you’re an affiliate in Illinois that will be affected by this awful law, please write to Governor Quinn and urge him to veto this bill. You can find more information and contact details here.

For more information see:

January 7th 2011 | 5:11 pm CET | No Comments »

2010: Our Year in Review

Posted by Arthur in Personal, Photos

As I write this there are only a few hours left in the year. It has been a great year! We did a lot of fun things around the Chicago area and traveled to Holland in August to visit my family. Here are some pictures of our year, mostly for myself because I love looking back at these year-in-review posts of previous years, and it’s nice to go through our pictures again. Happy new year to everyone!

Snow in Round Lake Beach

10 February: We had a lot of snow last winter, but it was fun shoveling the driveway each time, and good exercise too!

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

18 February: This day we took the train to Chicago and visited the Shedd Aquarium to see some nice fishes and the Art Institute to see some nice art.

Gull Frolic

20 February: Every year in February the Illinois Ornithological Society organizes a Gull Frolic at Winthrop Harbor. That’s me on the right in my thick winter coat. We’ll go there again in two months to freeze our butts off to look at gulls and attend education seminars.

Amy with Darwin at FCWR

23 February: From January 5th through March 30th Amy did a raptor internship with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, which she really enjoyed. Here she is holding Darwin, an American Kestrel education bird, at her first solo walk with a bird.

Grant Woods

10 March: Here we’re on a walk at Grant Woods Forest Preserve, one of two county forest preserves near our house. I biked to Grant Woods many times this year, which was really great. I’m looking forward to taking my bike out there again when the winter is over.

Sears / Willis Tower

25 March: For a total of 19 times in the spring and fall this year we went downtown to volunteer for Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation’s Migration Rescue & Recovery. Each morning during the spring and fall migration period, volunteers look for injured fallen birds who have struck the tall buildings in downtown Chicago. Birds rescued by FCWR volunteers are treated at the Northerly Island bird hospital. Salvages are brought to the Field Museum.


16 April: This day we saw Jerry Seinfeld at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.


1 May: We attended the spring gathering of our bird club in Nauvoo IL where we did this boat trip on the Mississippi. An Asian Carp jumped in our boat and almost knocked someone out.

Kirtland's Warbler at Magee Marsh

14 May: In May we went to the Biggest Week In American Birding in Ohio. We saw lots of colorful warblers at Magee Marsh and had a great time. One of the highlights was this rare sighting of a Kirtland’s Warbler.

Chicago Cubs

17 June: Amy’s parents took us to Wrigley Field for two Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Taste of Chicago

17 July: On one of the hottest days of the year we went to Taste of Chicago.

Transformers 3 in Chicago

17 July: In July and August Michael Bay was filming Transformers 3 in Chicago. We went downtown twice to look at the action and see some stars.


9 August: This is a view from our house. The summer of 2010 was, weather-wise, the nicest summer I’ve ever experienced. So much sun, blue skies and nice temperatures! 😀


11 August: From 11 August until 1 September we visited our family in the Netherlands and did lots of fun stuff.


18 August: We visited the Papegaaienpark (parrot park) in Veldhoven, a sort of parrot, bird and animal rescue center and sanctuary near Eindhoven. The park took in its first birds in 1987 and is run by the Dutch Foundation for the Refuge and Care of Parrots.


21 August: At Biesbosch National Park in the Netherlands we rented kayaks with my family. A highlight was seeing a European Kingfisher fly low over the water around our kayak. This year we got kayaks for Christmas (thank you Santa!), so I hope to be doing this a lot more in 2011!


23 August: We took the train to Amsterdam for a day and did a canal tour.


25 August: We took the Thalys high-speed train to Paris where, on my birthday, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. 😀


28 August: This day we went to Antwerp and checked out the renewed train station pictured here.


30 August: Toward the end of our vacation in Holland we went to De Efteling amusement park. Here my brother Patrick and I are getting wet in the Piraña river rafting ride.

Independence Grove

12 September: We did a lot of walking and birding at forest preserves around our area. This is Independence Grove, a Lake County Forest Preserve.

Independence Grove

19 September: This day we drove to our nearest drive-in theater and saw The Goonies and Back to the Future on a big screen from our car.


9 October: In October we drove up to the north of Wisconsin for an Evenstad family reunion. We stayed at the idyllic town of Bayfield. Here we are on a ferry to Madeleine Island with a view of the beautiful fall foliage.

Hawk Watch Open Day

16 October: At the annual open day of the Illinois Beach State Park Hawk Watch Flint Creek was there with education birds and Amy volunteered. Here she’s holding a Red-tailed Hawk named 0511.

Saw-whet Owl

16 October: That same evening we drove to Durand IL to attend Saw-whet Owl Banding at Sand Bluff Bird Observatory. Saw-whet Owls are my favorite bird and it was great to see them catch, band and release three of the owls.

Great Horned Owl

30 October: Flint Creek had an education program at the Wild Bird Center in Fox River Grove.

Operation Migration

31 October: We got up early this morning to drive 2 hours west before sunrise to try and see the Whooping Cranes that flew south with Operation Migration. We were extremely lucky and saw 10 of the rare birds fly right over us following the ultralight aircraft.

Operation Migration

9 November: This day we drove to Indiana with Amy’s parents to watch Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, where they get together in the thousands! On the way we visited the Monon Train Museum.

Barred Owl

13 November: This night we attended an Owl Prowl at Ryerson Woods in Lake County and saw our first Illinois Barred Owl, which is Amy’s favorite bird. The picture above is that of Meepy, a Barred Owl in FCWR’s education program.


20 November: This day Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation released a rehabilitated Great Horned Owl at a public event in Winnetka. Amy handled Justice, a Great Horned Owl in Flint Creek’s education program.


12 December: Our front door decorated with Christmas lights.

December 31st 2010 | 8:59 pm CET | 1 Comment »

Home Christmas Lights Synchronized to Music

Posted by Arthur in Funny, Life in America

The other night we drove to Kenosha WI to see a house with lights synchronized to music. There’s a sign in the front yard that tells you what FM frequency to listen to in your car so that you can listen along to the songs. The house we visited (at 6834 106th Ave in Kenosha WI) had over 25,000 lights programmed to 30 different songs. I thought it was hilarious and very nicely done. I had never seen anything like it, but there are apparently a few more people across the country who do this.

Below is my video of the house in Kenosha (sorry, it’s a bit shaky), followed by other ones I found on YouTube:

The next house is in Pleasant Grove, Utah (more info):

This house in O’Fallon MO has a lot of videos that you can see here (more info):

The following house is in Round Rock TX (more info):

This house with over 80,000 lights is in Sawyer MN:

This one is from Providence Village TX (more info):

Here’s a classic video that has been making the rounds on YouTube for over 5 years. This house is in Mason, Ohio:

December 24th 2010 | 7:53 pm CET | No Comments »

First Decade of Wolfstad

Posted by Arthur in Personal, Top Lists, Websites & Tools

I registered the domain just over 10 years ago and this blog has been around for about half that time. I haven’t been writing here as much as I used to, but it’s fun to look back at old posts and see what we’ve done over the years. I was just looking at Google Analytics and checked the most popular blog posts over the last 5 years. Here are 10 posts with the most pageviews:

  1. Hidden security tags in Old Navy jeans (01/2006)
  2. Quechua’s toss-and-go “Seconds” tents (07/2006)
  3. Top 10 budget things to do in Chicago (01/2006)
  4. The Rat Temple of Rajasthan (04/2006)
  5. Did you know there is beef in Pop-Tarts, M&M’s and Mentos? (09/2006)
  6. Top 10 things to do in Tunisia (02/2006)
  7. Brilliant bar concept at Footsie in Paris (10/2005)
  8. 10 Chicago Firsts: Famous Inventions (01/2009)
  9. Top 10 things to do in South Florida and the Keys (12/2006)
  10. Woodstock, set of Groundhog Day (12/2005)
November 18th 2010 | 9:56 pm CET | No Comments »

Saw-whet Owls

Posted by Arthur in Birds

My favorite bird is, without a doubt, the Saw-whet Owl. Unfortunately I haven’t seen one in the wild yet, but I have seen a few up close at raptor centers and events. The small owls winter in our area, but they’re very hard to find. I hope to finally see one this winter and will be looking for them every time we go on a walk. They are ridiculously cute:

Saw Whet on the Moss
Photo by BigBrotherBear on Flickr

Photo by Steve Gilchrist on Flickr

Two weeks ago we drove to Sand Bluff Bird Observatory, in Durand IL, for Saw-whet Owl banding. The banding station has been in operation since 1967 and is one of the largest in the region. They caught three birds that evening and we were lucky to witness the whole banding process, from net-run to release. Amy has a detailed report of our visit to Sand Bluff on her blog, and some photos here.

Sand Bluff Bird Observatory founder Lee Johnson with a Saw-whet Owl
Sand Bluff Bird Observatory founder Lee Johnson with one of the Saw-whet Owls

November 2nd 2010 | 3:13 am CET | No Comments »

Whooping Cranes and Operation Migration in Winnebago County, IL

Posted by Arthur in Birds, Nature

We got up early this morning to drive 2 hours west before sunrise to try and see the Whooping Cranes that are flying south with Operation Migration. They had been grounded for 12 days at their 5th stop, in Winnebago County Illinois, due to unfavorable weather. They never know if they’ll be able to take off until the very last minute, but we were lucky and got to see them today! 🙂

Whooping Cranes are North America’s tallest birds and they are highly endangered. In the 1940s there were just 15 birds left! Thanks to several conservation projects, there are now believed to be over 400 in the wild, but there are still years of work ahead before the bird can be removed from the endangered species list.

Reverse Reflection
Photo by FlappinMothra on Flickr

Since 2001, the non-profit organization Operation Migration has worked to reintroduce these beautiful birds by raising young cranes in isolation at their center in Wisconsin, and then flying them down to Florida with an ultralight aircraft in an effort to establish a new flyway east of the Mississippi River.

The birds are guided for 1,285 miles through seven states, from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. The long journey takes several months (see migration map). This year, 11 birds left Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on October 10th. Each morning the crew evaluates the weather as they can only fly if there is not too much wind. Until this morning they had been at the same place in northern Illinois for 12 days, due to the bad weather these last couple of weeks.

Spectators from about a dozen cars had gathered this morning on a road where the cranes would fly over shortly after takeoff. We could not see the camp from where we were standing, but they were not far. Around 7:30am two members of Operation Migration arrived to inform us about what was going on. They had radios so we could listen in on what the pilots were saying. Two of the aircraft went up first to check the wind at higher elevations. We saw them flying over the treetops.

After a few minutes we learned that they were going to try it (yah!). The two ultralights started to circle around in the distance. We could not see the birds, but after a short while we saw one of the planes emerge with the cranes following behind.

In the above picture you can see lead pilot Joe Duff is wearing a white suit
from top to toe, so that the birds don’t get used to humans.

There were ten cranes following the ultralight (an eleventh stayed behind and had to be transported in a crate). Nine on the left and one on the right. We read in the Field Journal on the organization’s website that later the birds divided perfectly with five on each wing. It was a beautiful sight and we were very lucky that we got to see them take off on our first trip out there.

Here’s a short video of what we saw:

If you’d like to support Operation Migration and the wonderful work that they do, you can make a donation here.

The following pictures are from last year’s migration. More can be found in Operation Migration’s Flickr photostream:



IMG_6384 - Day 43


St. Marks 023

October 31st 2010 | 6:17 pm CET | 4 Comments »

Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

Posted by Arthur in Nature

We recently took a road trip up north to Bayfield, Wisconsin, for a family reunion. It was right in the peak of fall foliage, so we saw lots of beautifully colored trees.


View of Lake Superior from Madeleine Island



WisconsinView from Madeline Island Ferry of Bayfield WI



In Bayfield we found a very nice trail along the Lake Superior shoreline called the Brownstone Trail. The 2.5-mile trail uses an old railroad bed that was originally used for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad in 1883. After it was abandoned in the 1970’s, the public started to use the railroad bed as a footpath.

Brownstone Trail south of Bayfield WI

Me at the Brownstone Trail

October 18th 2010 | 12:09 pm CET | No Comments »

Annual Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Posted by Arthur in Birds, Chicago, Nature

Many birds are migrating through the area these weeks. We get some extra birds in our backyard too, ones we don’t usually see. Today, on 16 October, we had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. That’s the first time we see one of those in our yard since 16 October last year! Wow, I wonder if it’s the same one!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet- My Back yard- Peachtree City, GA
Photo by davidcreebirder

October 16th 2010 | 2:32 pm CET | No Comments »

80’s Weekend at McHenry Outdoor Theater

Posted by Arthur in Chicago, Life in America, Movies

It’s 80’s Weekend at the “C” You At The Movies outdoor theater in McHenry IL this weekend and last night we saw The Goonies and Back to the Future, a double feature! We arrived at 6:30pm when the gates opened and found a nice place next to a speaker pole. In the next hour the place filled up with cars. Many people took out chairs and sat outside their vehicle while others pulled in backwards and sat in the back of their car, or on top in case of trucks. It had been at least ten years since we went to a drive-in theater and it was a lot of fun.

Top view from Google Maps, with the screen in the upper-left

McHenry Outdoor Theater
Back of the screen

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

September 18th 2010 | 9:16 am CET | No Comments »

What’s wrong with American bikes?

Posted by Arthur in Life in America, Shopping & Stuff

A lot of things are bigger and better in America, but in my opinion bicycles are not among them. We’ve been looking around to buy a new bike, since we didn’t bring our old ones when we moved here from the Netherlands, but unfortunately bikes here are nothing like the sturdy and useful bikes that millions of Europeans use daily to shop and go to work. No wonder everyone drives a car around here!

First of all, it seems that 99% of bikes being used and new ones sold in stores are too small for adults. Only a small amount of the more expensive bikes have larger frames that seem the right size for adults, but most of the mountain, hybrid, urban and cruisers have quite low seats compared to the average European bike. Also, the steering wheel is often at the same level as the seat, causing you to be hunched forward all the time, and you can often move the steering wheel up only a tiny bit. I find it very uncomfortable to be on a small bike and leaning forward for a long time.

Sure, people here don’t use their bike for shopping and going to work. Most use their bike for exercise, so I understand that many people prefer a sportier and lighter bike. But what I don’t understand is why the bikes lack so many basic features. Here’s a typical bike you’ll find at a bike store:

American bike

As you can see, it is stripped down: there is are no lights, fenders, chain cover, lock or racks. These are accessories you can purchase, but most people don’t and leave the store with a bike that looks just like this. Why? Do people enjoy getting mud on their butt when they go through a puddle? Is it fun to get grease all over your pants from the exposed chain? I don’t get it.

Stores do have fenders, covers and racks for sale, but they seem very light and simple compared to the accessories that come standard with European bikes. And not all models can have these accessories installed. The chain covers that are sold separately are always just a simple piece of metal that doesn’t cover the entire chain, leaving the rest exposed to the elements. And most racks are tiny and can’t handle much weight.

Compare above American bike with a typical Dutch bike:

Dutch bike

On this bike, which is sold like this, the chain is completely covered, there’s a sturdy back rack that can hold a lot of weight, the tires are covered with fenders, there are lights on both sides, reflectors on the wheels and tires and a permanent lock under the seat. The steering wheel is also generally higher, making it more comfortable.

Why are there no bikes like this sold here? It seems to me that many more Americans may take their bike instead of car if bikes were more functional and more comfortable. Sigh … I wish we had imported our old bikes when we moved here.

September 4th 2010 | 5:32 pm CET | 2 Comments »