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National Anthems

Posted 1 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Do you know the lyrics of your national anthem? When looking at them closely, you may be surprised by the strange combinations of words and meanings that make up the song. Wondering to which extent the anthems of countries are representative for the national culture, I digged into some of them. This resulted in the following (very short) summaries of the hidden meaning behind the words:

The Netherlands (Wilhelmus):
Not sure where about where I’m actually from or who I should listen to.
Belgium (La Brabançonne):
We are liars (‘in harmony unbreakable’), and stupid (last sentence x3 for those who miss out the 1st and 2nd time).
Germany (Das Lied der Deutschen):
Too bad we didn’t get our Lebensraum, we still deserve it anyway.
France (La Marseillaise):
Whatever you do, make a lot of fuzz about it and describe it in as much exaggerated detail as you can.
UK (God save the Queen):
God and the Queen are all we care about, no matter if they care back for us.
Poland (Dabrowski Mazurka):
You win some, you lose some / can’t have it all.
Italy (Fratelli D'Italia):
Kamikaze all the way.
Ireland (The Soldier's Song):
Life is a scouting camp, are you with us?
United States (Star-spangled banner):
We want to plant our flag wherever we can even though we have very little understanding of ourselves and the world around us nor do we care.

(© Champagne Region - FR, June 2003)
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Joker reaches UK

Posted 2 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Another Dutch person protesting against the new passport requirements (no more smiles) and the abundance of rules and regulations surrounding it. The man had his ID-photo taken as if he were The Joker from Batman. His photo matched the criteria and as a result, he obtained his ID and flew to London to prove that security on ID document was and is a laugh.

So where's the leak?

1st degree) Faces are simply not suitable for identification other than by optical and human verification, leaving a high risk of error.

2nd degree) The passport photo decree states that the face should be clearly and entirely visible, while the same goes for the lower extremes of the ears. At the same time it stipulates that exceptions can be made for people whose religion, personal belief or way of life oblige him/her to cover a part of the head.

Authorities could choose to eradicate whole problem by either admitting that their officials are not skilled enough to identify people by photograph (which can humanly be expected to be true). The solution would then be to use something fixed and digitisable like DNA if you really want to be sure. As an alternative, they could opt for taking out the above-cited stipulation, which would at least make the whole story the same for all citizens (and in accordance with art 1 of the Dutch constitution).

Rather than all that, they observe the stupidity of adding an extra rule to the game: people who claim to qualify must now prove that their religion, personal belief or way of life exists, is shared with others and that it cannot be explained as a temporary fashion or an individual orientation. Good work, officer!

(© Piatra Neamt - RO, August 2002)
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Unintentionally photographed

Posted 4 February 2007, The Hague (NL):

Some people hide from cameras pointed at them, while others don't care or sometimes they don't even notice you're there. And if the photographer doesn't notice either, you may get photos like the one below: somebody's head unintentionally appearing in your photo (in my case, always coming from the righthand side). Sometimes it works with the image, sometimes it doesn't. I think I kind of like this one, but I am not entirely sure. It does add another dimension, that's for sure..

(© London - UK, October 2006)
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Unintentionally photographed II

Posted 6 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

I was actually planning to write something about smoking and post a photo of an ugly old lady holding a cigarette - but forgot to upload it so will now just post another photo that I had prepared for the posting of 4 Feb: somebody walking into the photo without warning. Again, from the righthand side.. I'll save the smoking lady for tomorrow..

(© Ghent - BE, January 2007)
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Weather alarm, another one

Posted 8 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Some snow today, hardly any wind and temperatures well above 0 degrees. Nothing to worry about, the worst thing of the day being the weather alarm that had been issued well in advance. Don't go outside when you don't need to, prepare to return home from work early in order to avoid getting stuck in traffic.

Best pupil in class in observing the weather alarms is the Dutch railway company 'NS'. They à priori announce that 50% of trains will not run, and stick to this policy even when not even the slightest snowfall has been detected at the southern borders of our nation. Which have apparently been defined on the basis of pre-1830 geopolitical circumstances, so let's say somewhere near Arras, in modern days France but at the time called Atrecht.

Here's an archive winter photo to make up for all this poor and unnecessary organisational mess...

(© The Hague - NL, February 2005)
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Chabot, Giphart & Bril

Posted 9 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Photos of last night's visit to the theatre, in spite of the weather alarm. Left to right: Bart Chabot, Ronald Giphart, Martin Bril. All writers/comedians.

(© The Hague - NL, 8 February 2007)
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Barça di Barça

Posted 11 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

I am leaving for Barcelona today and I am NOT bringing my digital camera. In order to keep the log updatumd, I will use my phone and see what that is going to bring. Upon my return (planned 22 Feb), I will rush to the photo shop to get my films developped and hopefully post some nice photos then!

(© Barcelona - ES, May 2002)
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Day 1 in BCN

Posted 12 February 2007 - Barcelona (ES):

Safely arrived in Barcelona and at the conference ground:

(© Barcelona - ES, 12 February 2007)
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More of the same

Posted 14 February 2007 - Barcelona (ES):

Another day at the conference:

(© Barcelona - ES, 12 February 2007)
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Primavera empieza..

Posted 17 February 2007, The Hague (NL):

No Bilbao and Madrid this time, I returned home last night for personal reasons. Which allows me to finally post real photos again, and I even replaced some of the ones I posted earlier this week. Below's a short impression of spring taking off in Barcelona:

(© Barcelona - ES, 15/16 February 2007)
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Photoclubs and Killing darlings

Posted 18 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

If you ever want to find out more about photography and get more out of it, here's one advice of what NOT to do: join a photoclub. Why not? Well, what they generally tend to do is similar to explaining jokes: take out all the fun by analysing the joke to death. Good photos can cope with that, but average photos cannot. Since most of the discussed photos have a typical averageness to them, the whole photoclub process is quite acid. It's better to look at your own photos and possibly get frustrated about them in private.

However as an exception, here's my analysis of one photo that was almost perfect (personaly opinion, I know there's nothing very special about it), but I overlooked one thing. The green lines are the dimensions which make the photo very pleasant to look at. I did notice the bus, which is almost right inbetween the wing and the fuselage. Also, the other plane on the lefthand side (almost invisible in this size but surely there!) is in the right spot. But then that annoying car right next to the airplane's wing... GRRRRR.

Always so many things to think about and a fair chance that you overlook one tiny detail that spoils the photo. According to the Kill your darlings-rule, this photo should go straight down the shredder for that reason alone... Well, I hope the explanations along with it are a good excuse to post it anyway..

(© Barcelona - ES, 16 February 2007)
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Kabul youth hostel Barcelona

Posted 19 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Whenever I travel for work, I fly KLM and sleep in hotels. For private trips, or in case I'm staying a little longer than strictly necessary, I use budget airlines and sleep in youth hostels. This photo shows the Kabul Hostel in Barcelona. It is located at Plaza Real, a very pretty square close to the Rambla. I took the photo right before leaving last Monday morning, when everybody was still asleep. Uncovered limbs, mess on the floor, bottles and bags all over the place - all very typical for youth hostel life..

(© Barcelona - ES, 12 January 2007)
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Local life in The Hague

Posted 21 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

The Hague is not a very special city, as in: apart from the museums, there is not much to see. Still, it's a very nice place to live. It's big enough to be a real city but small enough to make sure you daily run into people you know. Yesterday afternoon happened to meet Freek (pronounce Frake, not Freak, short for Frederik) who was on his lunch break from work. Sneaked along to his office at the water management department of the municipality and took this quick photo:

(© The Hague - NL, 20 February 2007)
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Last Barcelona photos

Posted 22 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Before proceeding to the next big trip, below are some final street photos from Barcelona.

Photo 1: Although the conference pass included free access to public transportation within the city for 5 days, many (many many) businessmen preferred to queue up for taxicabs - even when having to wait for hours to grab one;
Photo 2: People entering Plaza Real early in the morning;
Photo 3: One of the very many small bars on the corner one of the diamond shaped squares which together make up the map of Barcelona.

The next trip is bound to go to Moscow, provided that we will be granted our visa in time. All that is still being worked on..

(© Barcelona - ES, February 2007)
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Sín título

Posted 23 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.
~ Maori Proverb

(© Rome - IT, October 2005)
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Childhood across Europe

Posted 24 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

A recent article about child happiness across Europe has led the BBC to create a weekly diary in which the position of children in society is compared in different ways and per national culture. UK Children seem to be worst off while Dutch kids are among the happiest.

(© Downpatrick - UK, September 2001)
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Poem of the day

Posted 25 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

I wrote a small poem this morning, mainly to myself but the end result sounds acceptable from a literary point of view so I'll post it anyway:

Be brave, courageous, true to your heart
And conscious yet naive
Open-minded, free of fear
That things will turn out right

Work with dedication
Enjoy the small and pure
Share the best, forgive the worst
And cure
The pain of dreams - cherished in vain

(© Western Ireland - IE, September 2006)
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From Russia with Love

Posted 26 February 2007 - Moscow (RU):

I don't think I mentioned earlier that we have been able to get our visas for Russia ready in time. We left from Schiphol earlier today. I surprisingly enough enjoyed the flight - something I haven't done since early December 2004. The weather was good, the flight smooth and I had some reading material with me. The first glance of Russia from >30,000 feet altitude was like a black and white photograph: white for snow and grey or black for about everything else. We landed on runway 25R of Sherementjevo Airport and went through an elaborate customs procedure. We took a taxi to the hotel and I tried to make some conversation with the taxi driver. The small Russian phrasebook was sufficient for a good laugh but we didn't really get any substantial discussion out of the whole thing. I tried to read the Cyrillic signs along the road and managed quite alright - with some. I decided that before the end of the week, I should at least be able to read words and pronounce them. Hopefully learn some interesting words, but at least recognise and pronounce the characters.

We got kicked out at the wrong hotel so had to take another taxi to end up at the right place. Although it was very cold, we didn't really notice how cold. It's not the kind of wet type of cold we have in Holland (or used to have....). It's a dry and persistant cold. It only freezes you slowly so to say. I took precautions so should be alright, except for one missing glove...

Kind regards..

(© Budapest - HU, July 2002)
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MOCKBA updatum

Posted 27 February 2007 - Moscow (RU):

Moscow proves to be quite an interesting and non-standard city so far. Today was cold again (-12 C), rather sunny and calm. Buildings are quite colourful, while people's clothes are monochromely varying between black and white with exceptions in the brown and yellow range. The streets are dirty with black snow/slash/mud. Pavements are slippery and crossing the road is an adventure that any Paris visitor would be jealous at. People in the street all seem to have a small cloud going in and out of their mouth and/or nose. They take it with them wherever they go. Many people wear fur coats and hats. Cyrillic characters are everywhere and they are pretty fascinating. I don't want to learn Russian (yet) because I am afraid it will get mixed up with the little Polish I know so I'll stick to characters alone. Quite some words do already sound familiar once you get to decipher them..

(© Moscow - RU, 27 February 2007)
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Conference Day One

Posted 28 February 2007 - Moscow (RU):

I haven't seen too much daylight today, since we spent all of the day at the conference ground. Some presentations were in Russian and we were handed out headsets for translation.

I spent some time thinking about why I always get so sleepy during sit-down-conferences and came up with the following excuses: lack of daylight, fresh air and sensatory stimuli (worst thing is the monotonous sound) plus I'm not very interested to hear lengthy stories with many incomprehensible abbreviations.

Over the last few years, I only enjoyed very few business presentations. The one I remember best: Vinton Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist from Google, talking about the future of internet and its integration in daily life, among others about internet-managed socks.

(© Moscow - RU, February 2007)
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