Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Today I saw this sign in Amsterdam. It says: “Area protected with DNA spray”. As I had no idea what DNA spray was, my mind painted pictures of DNA material being sprayed... Well that just couldn’t be right.

But it’s not what you think. At least not what I thought. DNA spray is a tool spraying synthetic DNA material in the air in case of robbery. It’s invisible and not easy to wash off. It lights up under black light. This way police can find criminals and especially prove their involvement in the crime.

I just wonder: if the DNA spray is released in the air it will also down on other people, right? If you want to avoid misunderstandings keep clear of black lights after you’ve witnessed a robbery in a shop.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


“I think the woman can speak Russian”, I said after looking at the couple seated at the table beside ours.
“I think so too”, answered my companion. “Look at that furry thing she’s wearing”, he said amused with her rabbit hair knit vest.

Even though we could see only her back we both were pretty confident about the origins of this woman. The main evidence was the white vest. It was accompanied by hair coloured in different rather unnatural shades of blond and well manicured and polished, rather long, nails. When she turned her head I saw a large shiny earring. It was striking how easily recognisable her background was.

“Aren’t you ashamed to be with me? Aren’t you afraid people will laugh at you, or rather at me?”, I asked imagining that I myself in my blue Cora Kemperman dress, brown leather jacket and red hat was as easily identifiable.

“No, you are not THAT obvious”, he smiled.

Totally irrelevant:

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Yesterday on a train I overheard a conversation of two women about preserving the cultures of African tribes and ethnic minorities in South America. They were talking about traditional clothing, rituals and songs.

I never really thought about it, but yesterday this idea suddenly struck me. What if by helping them to preserve their culture we actually prevent them from developing? The reason that we don’t walk around in wooden shoes and dance around fire is that we’ve moved on. We have better shoes and nicer places to dance. We’ve got a lot of other stuff too. And we are proud of it.

The next thought that occurred to me was even more peculiar. If a country is trying to revive already vanished traditional culture (costumes, music, cuisine) isn’t it making steps backwards? May that holding onto the ‘traditional values’ be at least part of the reason why a country does not develop to its full potential?

What do you think, is this song a sign of progress or is it clinging to the past and resisting progress?
Ivan Kupala - Kostroma

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Fear! That’s how many companies in today’s economy earn their money. Insurances are extremely good at it. They let us pay them money because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to get ill, to have our house destroyed by a fire, to get robbed while abroad, to die. We’re afraid, afraid and afraid. To get rid of that fear we give money to companies that do not produce anything. Moreover, they don’t actually prevent us from getting ill and our house from burning down. They will not make sure we don’t get robbed or die. They will leave it all to chance. And we pay them anyway. What an ingenious concept!

Another industry flourishing on fear is the cosmetics industry. Not as good as insurances though as they have to actually give you stuff in exchange for your money, but still good enough a business. Their specialty is our fear to get old or to appear ugly. And they are damn good at depriving us of our money! They even have the nerve to promise us their nicely smelling substances packed in pretty tubes and jars actually work. And we pay them.

Take me for example. My skin is getting less pretty with the years and I use more and more skin products. Even though I understand that the changes of my skin are the result of the unstoppable ageing process I still don’t dare to take the risk. If I’d saved the money I spent on skin products and the time I spent visiting a beautician and applying those products for the past ten years, I could have easily made a trip around the world.

Instead I walked into a cosmetics store today to buy a new foundation (the old bottle is almost empty). Without actually wanting it I found myself in a high chair in front of a mirror. A girl was applying foundation on half of my face. “Do you use a primer under your foundation?” she asked. A primer! Exactly! That’s what I miss next to my deep cleansing scrub, cleansing foam, cleansing milk, refreshing tonic lotion, rebalancing cream mask, cellular treatment gel, sun cream SPF 30, moisturising cream, smoothing eye cream and the foundation. A primer! I left the chair as soon as the second half of my face was covered, had another girl recommend me a foundation about €10 more expensive than the one I used before, paid and ran out of the store. A primer?! Thanks, but no, thanks!

I am afraid that I’m not THAT afraid. Yet...

Saturday, 19 November 2011


I like taking psychological or life style tests of all sorts because the outcomes usually make me feel good about myself. Not that I desperately need reassurance, but a little boost is never wasted. Tonight I spent two hours taking tests on Youbeaty just to discover that I am a healthy arrogant female between 30 and 53 lacking sleep and dissatisfied with her sexual life.

I might reconsider my attitude towards tests.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

December stress

December stress – for some people it’s so bad, they seek help. Of course, if holidays give you so much stress that you need help, you’d better get help. I honestly think half a country needs help.

Although, I can see where the stress is coming from. First there’s all this Sinterklaas happening. I have no clue how the parents cope. They certainly don’t look healthy the couple of weeks prior to 5th of December. But at least it’s clear where and with whom you will celebrate that. If you have kids, the childless relatives will gather at your place. If you don’t have kids, you go to somebody who does. Or you don’t go anywhere.

Then you get Christmas. Christians (still a majority in the Netherlands) go crazy. Each year you’ll have to decide where you’ll be spending the two days of Christmas. And no matter what your options are you never win. There aren’t many options really. You can stay at home and pretend to ignore the whole happening. Except you can’t. You cannot go anywhere because it’s either fully booked and has a special Christmas programme or is unreachable. You will see Christmas out of your window, on your TV and in your mailbox. And don’t forget to buy enough food – the shops will be closed!

You can host a Christmass dinner at your place. You will spend three weeks planning the menu and buying decorations, one week decorating and buying food, two days actually cooking and one evening serving your friends and family all the stuff you cooked.

You can skip that and go for a dinner at someone else’s place, most probably family. You will spend at least a month negotiating whether you spend the first day with your parents and the second with the parents of your partner or another way around. After that is settled, you’ll try to squeeze in a Christmas brunch hosted by your sister-in-law and visit two or three still living grandparents. You will spend two days dressed in uncomfortable black glittery clothes eating food among hideous decorations and discussing family matters.

If you got through December without serious traumas, food poisonings and family conflicts or arguments with your partner – congratulations! I’ll gladly share a bottle of Champaign with you at the New Year’s eve. But to be sincere – being single and having no family in the near vicinity does have some advantages.

Happy December stress everybody!

Signe Tollefsen - Where You Been

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Identity crisis

In the Age Of Empires 3 Board Game colonists are placed in the event boxes during the turn to claim the space and perform the action depicted in the event box. Specialists can perform the same function as the basic colonists but also have unique extra abilities. Merchant ships can be combined with trade goods to form “sets” that generate income. There are trade goods, money, capital buildings, discovery counters and discovery cards. You can place your figurines in event boxes or regions.

If you want to win you need to buy capital buildings that give you people every turn. For that you need money. To get money you need to collect three similar trade goods or buy a building that gives you money each turn. To buy a building you need money. And of course the building has to be available. To buy the best building you need to claim the 1-space through the initiative track. If you do that, you’ll lose one colonist. But because you only have five colonists each round, you might want to spend them for getting specialists – captains, soldiers, merchants and missionaries. Captains and merchants give you more weight when getting a merchant ship or during the discoveries. Soldiers are good to earn money while discovering new continents. They also can fight during conflicts to defend colonies. Colonies are necessary to earn winning points. To build colonies you need colonists and specialists. You get five colonists each turn, but you also lose loads. To get specialists you need to place a colonist in the merchant space, but then you will lose your colonist. To get extra specialists you need to buy capital buildings. And for that you need money...

Is this game for nerds? Absolutely! Did I play? Yes. Does that make me a nerd? I guess to a certain extent. Did I come any close to winning? Nope. Am I a beauty or a nerd? Help! Identity crisis...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A melancholy time

The big tree in my neighbours’ garden was changing colours. From green to yellow, to golden to brown. Like the trees in the Zuiderpark not far from my house. Green-yellow-red-golden-brown. Like the trees along the canal. Like the trees covering the hills around Tübingen last week – breathtakingly beautiful. Like autumn in the parks of Kiev. Yes... like in Kiev...

Somehow I always end up in Kiev. Fall scenery everywhere no matter how gorgeous is always just a reminder of the fall in Kiev. Just as blooming chestnuts in The Hague are a reminder of Kiev’s chestnut prelude to the summer in the beginning of May. Kiev just won’t let me go...

A melancholy time! So charming to the eye! 
Your beauty in its parting pleases me - 
I love the lavish withering of nature, 
The gold and scarlet raiment of the woods, 
The crisp wind rustling o'er their threshold, 
The sky engulfed by tides of rippled gloom, 
The sun's scarce rays, approaching frosts, 
And gray-haired winter threatening from afar. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Morning drama

“The kindergarten opens at 7:30, but don’t worry about that. You can sleep as long as you want. He will not wake up till 7:00 or even 7:30” Wow! I can sleep as long as I want till 7:30. Do you also feel a discrepancy in this statement or is it just me?

The morning with the three-years-old son of my friend started very promising. He woke up at 7:30 sharp and with a bright smile started showing me his toys. But as we moved to the kitchen to get breakfast his buoyancy started to deteriorate in a rapid tempo.

“Where’s mama?” “She’s gone to work. She told you that aunt Sasha would be taking you to the kindergarten today, didn’t she?” “I’m going to look for papa.” “OK.”

Obviously, papa was not there. “Aaaaaaaa! Where’s papaaaaaaa?!” “He’ll come tonight. Let’s have breakfast.” “Noooooo! I want to my papaaaaaa!” “Drink your milk before it gets cold.” “Nooooo!”

After some negotiations we managed to make it to the table and start eating the breakfast while counting animals in a children’s book. That’s when the phone rang. The concerned mother wanted to know how things were going.

“Who’s that?” “It’s your mother.” “May I talk to her?” I guessed ‘no’ was not an option and handed over the phone. “Mamaaaaaaaaa! Aaaaaaaaa! You have to come home nowoouuuuaaaaa!”

Now everybody was upset: the boy because his mother was away; the mother because her child was crying bitter tears on the phone; me because I had to start negotiations all over again.

“Drink your milk.” “Noooooo! Go away!” “If I go away, you’ll be here completely alone. You don’t want that, do you?” “Yes I dooooo! Go away!” Crap.

After counting all the animals in the book seven times we finally finished the breakfast.

“Let’s wash your face, otherwise they won’t let you in.” “Nooooo!” “You can’t go to the kindergarten so dirty. Other kids won’t play with you.” “I am not going to the kindergarten. I’m going to wait for mama and papa.”

Sometime later I chased the kid around the house with a toothbrush. To prevent another round of drama I let the boy put stickers on the wall while I was dressing him up. I hope the stickers are easily removable. Otherwise, dear friends, I am very sorry.

“OK, we have our shoes and coats on, let’s go outside.” “I am going to look for papa and mama.” “Yes. Outside.”

At 9:10 I delivered the child at the kindergarten. What a relief! “Everything is fine” I texted my friend. She texted back: “Thanks a lot! Did you enjoy your time with him? You should visit us more often.” Hmmmm.

How do you, people with kids, can do this every morning? And with more kids? I don’t even dare to think of that.

Friday, 4 November 2011

High standards

My friend and I were discussing my yesterday’s blog post and both agreed that a man writing with mistakes is a no-go. A man who doesn’t speak his languages is not particularly attractive either. Guys with an IQ below 125 will not be considered. Steady (high) income is required. Men who are still searching in terms of their professional development have little chance.

A car stopped next to us. The door opened: “Hi girls! Where are you going?” We were so uninspired by this cheap attempt to make contact tha we didn’t even bother to stop. “At least he was the right age range” I said trying to look at things positively. “Yeah, but not the right weight range” my friend replied dryly.

Poor men! I don’t envy you.

Terez Montcalm - Sweet Dreams

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Sehr gut

I was reading my morning newspaper today and kept on stumbling upon mistakes. Luckily there were no spelling mistakes, but plenty of skipped words, wrong word order and other stylistic disorders. Mistakes are annoying. Very annoying. Really.

I’m not talking about misspellings and mistakes in status updates, tweets, chats or text messages. Typed fast, often from a phone they are doomed to contain mistakes that are a pity, but no more than that. Although I do tend to remove my tweets and type them over if I notice a mistake. I also have a lot of respect for people whose tweets and status updates are always mistake free. But when it comes to texts that were supposed to be written, read, edited, reread and edited again I am rather unforgiving.

I take grammar very seriously. As I write this I realise that when it comes to ‘measuring’ someone’s influence on me their writing would give quite an accurate picture. I tend to accept the authority of those who write well and disregard opinions and expertise of those who misspell or make stylistic mistakes. Even if the subject of their expertise has nothing to do with languages.

Some time ago I translated my resume to German as homework for my German class. Yesterday I received it back corrected by the teacher. “Sehr gut!” – she wrote on top of the paper. The two pages contained seven mistakes. That can’t be ‘sehr gut’! It’s not even ‘gut’ – there are mistakes. It took me a whole day to calm down about it and accept that mistakes are a part of the learning process and if my teacher says my work is ‘sehr gut!’ I’d better be proud of myself. I even played with the idea of accepting that not all people have the talent for languages and I should rather look at the essence of the message before turning it down because of the bad grammar. But no. I hate mistakes and I will consider unsubscribing from my newspaper if I stumble upon four or more mistakes in one article ever again.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Tübingen has a lovely town centre, beautiful river and a lot of nature outside of town. Up the hill there are very nice houses where people live. Jewellery shopping is fun. Other shops look promising too. Theatre is crap – don’t go there. You can better go to a salsa party. Although, if you have a choice, you’d better do that in Italy.

I had a wonderful time: I shopped, danced, went for a long walk in the woods and had some typical German food. And spoke very little German. What a shame!

On the German note: 17 Hippies - Herz auf der Zunge
And if you're interested - the lyrics are here.

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