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Posted 1 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Especially for frequent readers of the PhotoLog: here's a preview of the new PhotoLogiX series Capital Cities of Europe. The final version will be online before next Sunday.

It's interesting how different cultures (and individuals) react differently when faced with one and the same problem. When looking at the issue of traffic congestion, many different countries have just as many different approaches to solving the problem:

Try to increase effiency:
Netherlands: decrease the speed limit to 80 km/h ("what if we move slowly, that will make us get where we want quicker")
Austria: increase the speed limit to 160 km/h ("we want to get somewhere quicker, so the faster we drive, the quicker we get there")
Germany: have no speed limit at all ("otherwise we won't sell our precious speedy German cars")Canada: Promote carpooling ("that didn't work in Holland so let's try it here and see if it works")

Use financial measures:
Sweden: levy toll around borders of urban areas ("it won't make us quicker, but we'll at least make some money out of it")
Kuwait: make your elegibility for a drivers licence subject to the most irrelevant factors such as monthly income ("drive as you earn")

Be creative:
United States, CA: allow for more congestion by law ("it doesn't solve a thing, but at least we don't have to do anything about it")
France: Only allow for cars with either odd or even (alternating) number plates to drive around big cities ("that will keep them busy")

Solution for the simple minds:
Belgium: Simply aim to reduce the number of cars by 10% ("cars cause congestion, so fewer cars means less congestion")
Iraq: No joking on that one.

(Photo below: Paris, November 2000)

(© Paris - FR, October 2000)
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Posted 2 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

The only thing that's interesting about history is how it explains the present and predicts the future. Now, when was the last time that a civilised country claimed that there was 'no proof for detention camps in Poland' ? (Photos: June 2002)

(© Auschwitz - PL, July 2001)
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Posted 3 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

I'm in a hurry to get to the airport and catch the flight to Dubai (UAE). Check the out PhotoLogiX during the coming week to see new photos from around there every day! Photo below: early Sinterklaas celebrations this year, last night at my sister's place.

(© The Hague - NL, December 2005)
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Posted 6 December 2005 - Dubai (UAE):

This photo pretty much summarises all I have seen of Dubai since the beginning of the conference yesterday.

(© Dubai - UAE, December 2005)
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Posted 7 December 2005 - Dubai (UAE):

Although quite flexible from the linguistic point of view, I had some trouble last night answering the question "San Pellegrino or Perrier?" in proper English. First of all, I don't like to hear or read about food in English because it degrades my impression of the to-be-served meal. Secondly, whenever I speak a foreign langague I need to switch my reflection mode for both hearing and speaking. I can perfectly have difficulties understanding somebody who speaks Dutch, only because I expect that person to speak English at that moment.

'Perrier' is in the French vocabulary pool and I cannot match it with 'please' from the English pool. I can say things like "W Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie" in Polish (click here for more tongue twisters and how they are pronounced), but the only answer I could give to the waiter was: "A, uh, Un Perrier s'il vous plaît".

The photo below is another view from the conference center. A lot is being built here and it seems that 10 years ago, the only big thing in the wide area was the airport. Nowadays, buildings pop up from the ground like pop-ups in Internet Explorer.

(© Dubai - UAE, December 2005)
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Posted 8 December 2005 - Dubai (UAE):

Since I'm still in Dubai and I probably won't return here soon, I'll write some more about the city and what I have seen of it so far. Basically Dubai is a small strip of land where the desert meets the sea. During the last few years, it has been transformed into a hotspot for the region, but also for the world. The coastline is filled up with skyscrapers and luxurious real estate. Click here to read what the experts say. And/or to guarantee your place in this success story and find a nice place to live, work or just for showing off. One of the projects which is currently in progress: the world's tallest building: Burj Dubai, 700 meters, over twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower and approaching the height of the Tower of Babel).

There seems to be no end to it as the construction of another tallest building of the world has already been announced. The record will remain in town, because this 750 meters skyscraper will also be built... in Dubai.

(© Dubai - UAE, December 2005)
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Posted 9 December 2005 - Dubai (UAE):

We spent an exciting afternoon in the desert yesterday afternoon: jeep-driving over the dunes. It felt like one big rollercoaster which started to make me feel sick after an hour or so. Fortunately, we also had some stops on the way to recover and shoot some photos.

(© Dubai - UAE, December 2005)
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Posted 10 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

I'm back home and very happy about that. One of the best things about travelling is getting home, especially if you fly over Iraq and have a mystery landing in dense fog.

I hope that writing about what I think of Dubai won't give my site the qualification below. It's not very much my kind of place. It's capitalism in its worst form and I would even call it self-denial of a place and culture. All that doesn't take a away the fact that is was worthwile visiting and that my work allowed me once again to travel places I otherwise would have left aside.

Find the photo report by clicking here.

(© Site Blocked!)
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Posted 11 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Last week's trip to Dubai was probably my last trip abroad this year. It closes a vertiginous list of foreign destinations, which looks like this for the year 2005 only:

Belgium: Ardennes, Brussels
Bosnia: Sarajevo
Bulgaria: Sofia
Croatia: Zagreb, Sisak
Czech Republic: Prague
England: London, Southampton
France: Paris (3x), Caen, Avignon, Carcassonne, Clermont-Fd
Italy: Rome, Florence, Venice
Poland: Warsaw (2x)
Romania: Bucharest
Serbia: Belgrade
Slovenia: Ljubljana
South Africa: Cape Town
Sweden: Stockholm
Switzerland: Zürich (haven't seen a thing!)
Turkey: Istanbul
United Arab Emirates: Dubai
USA: San Francisco, Washington DC

The photo below is not from former Yugoslavia as one might have suspected; it's from France and shows a former railway station in Normandy.

(© Normandy - FR, September 2005)
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Posted 12 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

I spent most of Sunday afternoon on the design of my christmas cards for this year. The result is surprising, although I can't tell in which way yet. In contrast with the photo below, there's no ice and snow in it nor anything that refers to winter.

(© Stockholm - SE, January 2004)
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Posted 13 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

One year ago on this day, in Vetlanda (SE). Sweden celebrates Saint Lucia today, a party that honours 'light' and comes with nice cookies!

(© Vetlanda - SE, December 2004)
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Posted 14 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Some people seem to think that life is one big puzzle. Nothing wrong with that, except when their life is all about Sudoko. Sudoko as a way to relax, Sudoko as a way to avoid other people on the way to work, Sudoko before and Sudoko after. Sudoko is inondating Holland.

Life may indeed be a big puzzle but why not take a look outside and allow yourself to get puzzled about what you get served in everyday life (as long as you don't hide in a Sudoko paperback). Take a look at this photo, try to figure out what it is. Are the lines convex or concave? Is there any underlying message? (Photo: Prague - CZ, June 2002)

(© Prague - CZ, June 2001)
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Posted 15 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

My good friend Opel C. is back in business! I went to the garage yesterday evening to pick it up and was surprised how happy I was driving it again. I realised that so far it has never let me down and proved much more reliable than I could have expected when I bought it from Freek's sister the day following his birthday, now almost two years ago.

Apart from the car business, Christmas is approaching at high speed. Shop windows fill up with gold, red green and people are getting anxious to spend money on impressive Christmas presents. Christmas is celebrated in many different ways throughout Europe. This website lists a number of countries.

Since Holland is not included, I will briefly describe how we celebrate Christmas. Historically, our two Christmas days were only celebrated as a religious event. People used to have dinner with their families and commercial influences were still limited. Sinterklaas, a saint from Spain arrives shortly before Christmas (typically mid-November) and rewards the nice children with presents on 5 December. Nowadays, American Santa is taking over this role and Christmas is changing into a major commercial event. People still have dinner with their families but presents increasingly play a role in the celebrations. Most families have a Christmas tree (I don't, by the way) and widely display the Christmas cards they received from friends, family and acquaintances. Companies hand out "Christmas packages" to employees while the latter most of the time complain about the impractical gifts inside the package. Photos below: preparing for Christmas in London's Regent's Street and Oslo's Karl Johanns Gata (December 2004).

(© London - UK / Oslo - NO, December 2004)
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Posted 16 December 2005 - The Hague:

Almost since the beginning of time, Holland and Germany share a relation of rivalry between themselves. This is true in everyday life, but it is taken to a climax during football matches between the national teams (Oranje vs. die Mannschaft). Even the Royal Dutch Footbal Federation is pooring oil into the fire by offering tailor-made courses in German: how to comfort a German after 'die Mannschaft' lost, don't worry there will be another World Cup in four years time, and many more..... A must for people who speak German and/or Dutch.

I was writing about Sudoko the other day. The guy on this photo (left) probably just got robbed and is desparate about his metro life without Sudoko.

(© Paris - FR, December 2002)
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Posted 17 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Since my departure for France, back in 2000, I have become interested in everything that has to do with thinking strategies, creativity, problem-solving, and logics that explain behaviour. There's been nothing scientific about my approach, but many of the 'theories' later turned out to be confirmed by 'real' research. Let me list some of those ideas:

- Doing what people would like you to do is mostly useless, as most of the time what they think they want you to do is not what they actually want you to do;
- Smiling makes you happy just as much as being happy makes you smile;
- Problems can be made smaller to the same extent they can be made bigger;
- Tell people they are fully free what to do and the first thing they are likely to do is copy somebody else's behaviour;
- Truth is a matter of perception and statistics typically serve to cover up lies;
- People who insist on being respected don't deserve that respect, otherwise they wouldn't insist;
- Creativity is problem-solving with the only difference that you first need to come up with a problem that needs to be solved;
- Ideas only survive when they are bigger than their inventors.

(Photo: Paris, November 2005)

(© Paris - FR, November 2005)
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Posted 18 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Today, I framed three photos I took in Rome and they are ready to be delivered to the buyer. I always find it very exciting to frame my photos. The combination of a poster-size print and a nice frame make photos look much more impressive. Lots better than small computer screen images. Click here if you haven't seen the series 'Rome Nulli Secunda' yet. Below is one of the three selected photos, in small computer screen size though..

(© Rome - IT, October 2005)
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Posted 19 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

I had a real family weekend this weekend. First helping my uncles, aunts and other relatives clean up the apartment where my grandparents used to live, then visiting them in the home for the elderly where they are living now. Sunday tennis with my uncle and cousin (Robin) with the latter coming along to spend the afternoon in The Hague. I dropped him off at his parents' after dinner at Maaike's parents' place and that was the end of the weekend. Below is a quick portraits of my grandparents (father's side) in their living room. They are well over 80 years old. Granddad: strong but tired, grandma: proud but vulnerable.

(© Zwijndrecht - NL, December 2005)
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Posted 20 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Exactly on the day I was planning to write about Holland's biggest free newspaper and how much it annoys me with their editors interviewing each other or themselves (including the chief editor being quoted in a news message), spicing up their articles with images in which you can count the pixels, publishing photos which are irrelevant to the article they refer to, spelling mistakes, illogical and incomplete reasoning, contradictions and travel reports always ending with "this place is definitely worth visiting for people who like .., .. and .."

At that exact moment, the "TV-moment of the year" in Holland's best sold newspaper Telegraaf catches my eye. The Duch TV-audience has elected the terrorist attacks in London to be "TV-moment of the year". Don't know what exactly to say about that but I find it sick, ridiculous, dirty, unbelievable and disgusting to compile charts of the most horrible disaster and then reduce those disasters to TV-moments so they can be compared with more digestible material on the pile of Big Brother, Idols, SMS games and interactive talk shows.

The photo below is also from London just before the city experienced its TV Moment of the year (early July 2005).

(© London - UK, July 2005)
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Posted 21 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

My housemate Jean is going to move out of the King Square Villa by the end of this month. I originally moved in after leaving 's-Hertogenbosch in December 2003 and my stay was meant to be temporary. As it turns out, I will be the one who's staying here for a bit longer. We are currenly examining opportunities to organise a house cooling party before the end of this year.. (Photo: Jean, October 2005)

(© The Hague - NL, October 2005)
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Posted 22 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

One of the things I like about Christmas is sending and receiving Christmas cards. I missed out last year, but I'm back in business this year. It's always an interesting challenge to come up with some kind of creative idea that's a bit different without being ridiculous or tasteless.

Below is the card I prepared two years ago, showing the All Saints' Celebration in Wroclaw, Poland. If you want to know what this year's Best Wishes look like, keep a close watch on your mailbox or click here. Full appreciation can be obtained by moving away from the computer screen by about 10 meters.

(© Wroclaw - PL, November 2003)
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Posted 25 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Many people may or may not be celebrating Christmas today. I'm thinking of a French song that proves right every year. It's called "Non, non, rien a changé" and you can find the lyrics here.

Fortunately, there have also been some good things going on over the last year. Take a look at the photo below which hopefully gets some hope and happiness across. South Africa is one of the few countries where people have proved that things CAN be different. The photo was taken with a disposable camera, so don't be bothered about the composition or colours. Just look at the faces and have a nice Christmas day. (Photo (Enlarged version): Cape Town - SA, September 2005)

(© Cape Town - RSA, October 2005)
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Posted 26 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

In many countries, Santa Claus is not as popular as for example the Coca Cola Company wants us to think. In France, Father Christmas was at the heart of a big scandal which kept the nation's internet sales down for the years following the affair (Read more).

Santa is not really 'the man' in Holland either. He IS in a commercial way, but there's not much fairytale about him. In the photo below, one poor kid (on the righthand side) came to listen to Santa's songs and I bet it's Santa's own son..

(© The Hague - NL, December 2003)
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Posted 27 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

Travelling to far away destinations can for sure be a nice pastime, but it's just as nice to stay closer to home. I took this photo yesterday in the village of Schipluiden (15km away from The Hague). It reminded me of the bus trips I undertook with my mum to visit my dad's canoe production company, when I was only 3 or 4 years old. Only very few of these nostalgic concrete-and-glass bus shelters still exist today, and this is one of them.

(© Schipluiden - NL, December 2005)
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Posted 28 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

After a one year break, one of Holland's best known bands, Van Dik Hout, is back on stage. Before kicking off their official tour in Paradiso (Amsterdam), they had a 'secret' try-out yesterday night, in a local pub in The Hague. A selection of photos from this gig can be found here.

(© The Hague - NL, December 2005)
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Posted 29 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

The photo below seems to show a piece of well-designed and smart civil engineering, architecture and social science: a nice protective round building with a playground in the middle and some small trees for the health aspect.

But look again: the football field has been constructed on a raised platform so the ball easily rolls off. And there's a tree in the middle of the penalty area.

At the same time, you can also see that the grass has been worn out in front of the goal, so there has been some playing going on, despite all the obstacles.

So where is this story headed? The Dutch government is implementing some new rules for the coming year. A new health care insurance system, new unemployment legislation, new 'financial course-of-life-planning' and a whole forest of new rules and regulations. On an elevated playing field and with trees in front of the goal. It all serves to keep people creative enough to stay in the game (Photo: The Hague - NL, 27 December 2005).

(© The Hague - NL, December 2005)
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Posted 30 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

In order to keep our nation clear of external influences and protect our cultural heritage, the Dutch national immigration service has come up with a list of questions to assess a person's suitablity to enter our Lebensraum (one of those few German words we incorporated in our language after WW2).

This can at least be called an 'interesting' initiative but what if even the Dutch themselves are not able to come up with the right answers? I have done some kind of copy of the test (you can find the ridiculous questions and equally classifiable replies here and there's no English version). I only scored 52 out of 100 and would not be allowed to enter my own country... How does that work? Would they have found out that I am secretly French?

(© Paris - FR, January 2005)
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Posted 31 December 2005 - The Hague (NL):

It's the last day of the year and what a year it was. What's awaiting us in 2006? Even more stress, the experts say... This website describes some more changes we can expect.

(Photo: Resisting the trend: relaxation in Belgrade - YU, April 2005)

(© Belgrade - YU, April 2005)
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