Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Business as usual

Today I went to the Ukrainian consulate in The Hague. I went to register my daughter as a citizen of Ukraine. I also wanted her registered in my passport so that we can travel together without anyone suspecting I kidnapped her.

With the current situation in Ukraine I was prepared to see people being reserved, polite and quiet. I expected the atmosphere to be a bit chilly. Which would be fine given such state of affairs. I was wrong. It was all business as usual at the consulate. People spoke different languages, chatted and made jokes.

A woman came in. She spoke Russian with a slight accent that I’d associate with Tatars or Chechens, but her family name was Russian. Well, you never know.
“I applied for the Ukrainian passport a month ago, is it ready yet?” – She asked in Russian.
“What’s your name?” – The consul asked in Ukrainian. “We don’t have it here yet.”
“I am from Crimea, what passport do I need now Russian or Ukrainian?” – She asked all of a sudden.
The consul switched to Russian: “We only have Ukrainian passports under our jurisdiction. Your passport is ready, but did not reach us yet. Maybe it will come with the next post batch.”
“But the post doesn’t work now!” – The woman exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, we are talking about diplomatic post. That works. We will give you a call as soon as we receive your passport.” – He sounded very friendly and patient, something we are not used to from our officials.
“Thank you.”

The woman went away leaving me with a new casus on migration and citizenship law. Love those!

Sunday, 5 January 2014


“CrimeNL is a research project on what experiences people have with crime and how they view safety and danger in the Netherlands. Please be so kind to contribute to the research by filling out our questionnaire.” Of course I will! I will tell them how safe I feel in the Netherlands, how danger deteriorates as a notion and how really not dangerous it is here. My voice may be a lonely one, but it will be heard.

“In the past 12 months was there an attempt to break into your home without anything being stolen?” NO! “In the past 12 months has anyone attacked or molested you by beating you up or punching you or by using a pistol, a knife, a piece of wood or something else?” No of course not. What do they think - that it’s some kind of a Wild Wild West here?

"Many people sometimes do things that are not allowed by law. We would like to know how often you’ve done anything like that in the past 12 months. […] stolen something with a value of €5 or more” - I don’t steal. “[…] damaged something like a phone booth, a window or something else” – are they even serious? Phone booths don’t even exist anymore. “[…] threatened somebody (in person, by phone, e-mail or such) to be able to steal from them or make them do something for you? […] a weapon? […] hard drugs?” – oh, come on! “[…] free riding on public transport” – eh. “[…] downloading illegal software, music or films” – well… So what?!

“Please now think of the people with whom you’ve had a trustful relationship in the past 12 months. We would like to know how often they’ve done things that are illegal.” OK… “[…] downloading illegal software, music or films” – *swallows*. “[…] using soft drugs” – well, maybe not in the past 12 months, but… “[…] skipping work without a really good reason” – I hope they don’t, but then again: what’s a really good reason? “[…] drinking too much alcohol” – oops…

In the first few months of school they made it very clear to us that not making your homework will eventually lead to misbehaving, then to stealing and thus you’ll end up in prison. They used some kind of doublethink to explain that and to us, a bunch of 7-year-olds, it sounded pretty convincing. But what if it’s true? And if skipping homework leads to stealing, then where does all that illegal downloading lead?

All of a sudden I pictured K threatening me by phone, B throwing stones into my windows, J1 putting a gun to my head and J2 smashing my cat with a piece of wood. And then they rob me of all my belongings. And I entrusted my house keys to one of the J’s.

“Now we will ask some questions about how safe you feel in your own house.” …

HaBanot Nechama - So far/Lihiot

Monday, 7 October 2013

The good, the bad and the healthy

I’ll be honest with you – I do not do my best to be a better person. In fact, I hardly even try. But sometimes, even though very rarely and far from regularly, I get the urge to do something about my egocentric existence. Then I choose the laziest way possible – I resolve to buying “right” products, in particular food. And see, that’s where the problems start.

There are Fair Trade products. They are more expensive than regular alternatives because the producers (poor farmers in Third World countries) get a fair fee for their produce. Which is good. The Fair Trade logo doesn't mean the products were made using sustainable energy. The farmers are better off, but they still may be causing damage to the environment. That’s bad. They might also be using loads of pesticides. Not very healthy.

Then there are products, usually foods, called ‘organic’. From my secondary school I can vaguely remember that inorganic compounds cannot be properly processed by the human digestive system. In other words, if it’s not organic it’s not edible, i.e. all foods are by definition organic. I might be wrong, school was a very long time ago. In Dutch they refer to these products as ‘biologisch’. It’s a complicated concept, but one of the features is that for plants no pesticides and for animals no aggressive medications are being used in the process. Very good. That means that farmers run a risk of losing part of their produce to diseases and parasites. It makes the price much higher and that is bad for the family budget. Besides, we all know that pesticides and medications also help prevent plants and animals from getting diseases that could be transmitted to people. Might be not so healthy.

And then there are animal friendly products. That often means that these products were not tested on animals. Good. But wait, were they then tested on people? That’s closer to bad. Or weren't they tested at all? That might not be so healthy. Yesterday we had lunch at Bagels&Beans.  I had an everything bagel with Prosciutto di Monastero, Parmiggiano Reggiano, pine nuts and arugula. There was a little green square next to Prosciutto di Monastero. According to the menu a green square means… animal friendly! I am not kidding.

I guess my attempts to be a better person are doomed to fail.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

How to succeed with women

A couple of years ago I found this book on my boyfriend’s shelf. ‘How to succeed with women’ the title said. Intrigued I read nearly half of the book right under the book shelf. I learned a couple of things:
- My boyfriend did not read it;
- The vast majority of advice makes total sense;
- Reading this kind of stuff reveals some things about men in general.

I wanted to read the whole book, but had to put it off for a while because of the permanent lack of time and different priorities. But then I stumbled upon the blog of RooshV. The author of the blog travels around the world trying to have (unpaid) sex with as many women as possible. Afterwards he makes practical travel guides for guys. Apparently the books sell well enough to help him keep on travelling. Before RooshV started producing his travel guides, he wrote a book called ‘Bang’. “Bang is a pickup textbook intended for men who weren't born with the natural ability to sleep with a lot of women. It contains simple but powerful techniques, moves, and lines that offer a direct line to casual sex.”

I know, I know: there’s no one single recipe, no two women are the same and getting laid should not be a goal of any self-respecting man. Nonetheless, a lot of advice in these books makes perfect sense. As a small example here’s an excerpt from the Bang: “We don’t use direct game, where we walk up to a girl and tell her she is beautiful.” According to RooshV men shouldn't do this because that would increase the woman’s value relative to that of the approaching man. That wouldn't be my reasoning, but please, men, do as he says! It might sound counter-productive, but it ‘s true. It might signal that you are not really interested in her intellect and personality, that you are boring or that you are not prepared to make more effort. Whether you want quick sex or a long-lasting relationship – those are not the signals to send.

If men took this seriously and internalised at least a little part of the recommendations life would be a lot more pleasant. So guys, whatever your aims and status, please do read your literature. It’s there for a reason. And if you happen to know of any female equivalents of those books, please do let me know.

This is very beautiful: Soha - Mil pasos

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Netherlands is poor. The recession has hit us so hard, we couldn’t withstand it. And now we are all broke, poor beggars. Newspapers dedicate whole chapters to poverty and poor people. Second hand and thrift shops keep on popping up around the town. Food banks scream for help because they are not able to feed the ever-growing number of clients. Even big shops try to give tips on saving and doing things on a tight budget.

I don’t know how the latest issue of AH Wathandig found its way to our kitchen table. I came down for a super late brunch today and saw it there. I never pick up this magazine at the supermarket because it contains literally nothing but advertising. I must have opened it on a wrong page, but the first thing I saw: “Nowadays I cut open the seemingly empty tubes of toothpaste and cream. I still get quite a lot of product out of them this way.” Dûh!

Never mind, I turn a couple of pages. It’s time to budget-decorate the house. Take a large sheet of coloured cardboard; collects all kinds of (s)craps: dry tree leaves, postcards, cut-outs of cute cats and Bambies from magazines (in short: stuff that belongs in the dustbin); tape all that to the cardboard. For that you will only need to buy a set of three rolls of decorative tape for €2.59 and probably a large sheet of coloured cardboard. And maybe some foam to strengthen the cardboard. Ok maybe a cute postcard or two. Voilà! (Euh, why would you want to do this?) The magazine also gives tips on how to uselessly deploy the leftovers of the decorative tape.

Here's a how-to
If you are poor, you don’t throw things away. You repurpose. Here’s how to repurpose old little toys once your kid stopped playing with them. Collect some glass jars with a lid; glue the toy to the lid; spray the lid and the toy with paint = done! You just need to buy some suitable glue (from €2.29). And a spray can of paint or several spray cans if you want your jars in different colours. Now all you have to do is to find some crap to keep in those jars. Of course you can always buy something.

I think the recession did not hit us hard enough. There’s still room to go until we have no useless stuff around the house to repurpose and no money to buy supplies for useless ‘home decorations’. Then we’ll be closer to poor. We might also become much happier then.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

No blood

To our huge disappointment there was no blood. The mouse was not dead and not even slightly injured because the cat did not bite her at all. He only lightly touched her with his paw to encourage her to move if she spent too long a time in one corner. He played with her for hours and the most time was taken by waiting in this or that corner. Every once in a while the mouse felt caught and then she would stand on her back paws and look the cat straight in the eye. And that pussy of a cat would back up!

We comforted ourselves with the notion that the mouse was afraid of the cat and that mice might leave our house just to avoid the horror of being chased by the cat around the house for hours. She was definitely more afraid of him than of us and let herself be caught in a glass and brought to the neighbouring street. Whoever got her now in their house must be delighted.

Even though the cat let us do half of the work to let the mouse disappear, I still consider the operation quite successful and thinking of placing the cat food closer to the vent in the kitchen where more mice might come through. Or should I let the mice be? Experience shows that when you teach your baby the names of different animals it’s very convenient to actually have these animals at hand.

Maybe we should also get a fox: Ylvis - The Fox

Thursday, 12 September 2013


The famous National Geographic & University of Georgia Kitty Cams (Crittercam)Project revealed that domestic free-roaming cats hunt and bring 23% of their prey home as a present for their owners. 28% is eaten and 49% is left to (die and) rot on the site.

Up to yesterday my cat had brought home two birds (one of them to the baby room, isn't that sweet?) and one butterfly. If we apply the statistics that would mean that he had eaten 3.65 animals and left 6.39 bodies on the site. I saw him dismembering a dragon fly in the garden once. He didn't eat it.

But that was up to yesterday. Yesterday he spent a few hours hunting a mouse indoors.

I am not sure it adds to his number as this was not happening outside. I also have difficulty placing the outcome of this hunt within the three categories offered by the research. I suggest you make a quick guess in the poll at the right side of this blog.

Discovered yesterday: Susheela Raman - Maya

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