Array ( [total] => 30 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5669] => Array ( [iID] => 5669 [tTitle] => Napoleon remains in Rio [tSlug] => napoleon-remains-in-rio [iTime] => 1506981600 [iUpdate] => 1507047735 [tDescription] => Saint Helena was not only home to the banished former Emperor of France. The Zulu king Dinuzulu spent seven years on the island after rising up against the Brits in the late 19th century, and some 6000 Boers, including the somewhat infamous Piet Cronjé, also spent time on the island, after the Anglo-Boer war. But neither Cronjé nor Dinuzulu died on Saint Helena, Napoleon’s final resting place. Saint Helena was granted to the English East India Company in 1657 by Oliver Cromwell. The Dutch East India Company briefly took control in 1673, but after control shifted to the British Crown in 1833, it was only in 2002 that, finally, the British state granted full British citizenship to the islanders. Recently, the island was in the news for Britain spending 250 million pounds on an international airport, which has difficulty accepting large planes due to continuous strong winds, exactly what Napoleon also complained about in the years before his death. Napoleon was in exile on Saint Helena for only six years, from 1815 to 1821. Most of his time, he stayed at a place called Longwood House. Eventually considered unfit for a former emperor, a new home was constructed starting in 1818, but Napoleon passed away before he could move into his new quarters. In 1858, Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew, gained possession of Longwood House, which is still French property today. Incidentally, Napoleon III, before becoming emperor of the French, was the youngest elected president of France until Macron just this year, but, Napoleon III’s biography reads more like that of a late 20th century African dictator than anything else. Recently, Longwood House was completely refurbished, the stone steps leading up to the property the only part left standing from Napoleonic times, the literally poisonous wallpaper having long been removed. After arriving on the island, the British government made the members of Napoleon’s retinue sign a guarantee they would stay with the high profile prisoner indefinitely. This included Napoleon’s valet, Louis Marchand, whose diaries were published in 1955. Marchand’s narrative was a trigger for claims that Napoleon was slowly poisoned with arsenic while on the island, with Napoleon himself, in the weeks before his death, also claiming the Brits were slowly poisoning him. Symptoms described in Marchand’s diary supported this claim and, eventually, chemical analysis of some of his remains seemed to support this as well. However, recent additional analysis, including of hair samples from throughout Napoleon’s, and his family’s, life point to the opposite; Napoleon had high levels of arsenic in his body from his early years onwards, some 100 times present-day levels, simply through environmental contamination, including fumes emanating from a coating used in the wallpapers of Longwood House, which Napoleon himself made worse while on St. Helena by drinking large amounts of orgeat syrup, a lemonade made from almonds, which are naturally rich in arsenic. The hair samples that were studied included those cut off by Marchand, as requested by Napoleon, who asked Marchand to, after his death, use his hair to be put in jewellery and be presented as a gift to Napoleon’s direct family. Fast forward a century and some of these hair samples started to show up in various places around the world. Distant relatives, presumably, starting to sell off the locks of hair handed down from generation to generation, considering the sentimental value less relevant than their own financial interest. This went so far that, only a few years ago, a distant relative of Napoleon, a watchmaker in Geneva, started making watches with strands of Napoleon’s hair embedded in the clockwork. Another lock of hair made it to Rio’s military museum in Copacabana. The lock was donated to the museum in 1992 by the family of Marshal Castelo Branco, the first president of Brazil after the 1964 military coup. Castelo Branco’s most infamous legacy is probably a draconian press law that stayed in effect until 2009. But, how Castelo Branco, or his family, came into the possession of Napoleon’s hair is not clear. Castelo Branco was born into a wealthy Northeastern Brazilian family, with his mother coming from a family of intellectuals while he himself studied in England, France and the US, and fought against the Germans in Italy, as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. But, the connection with Napoleon is not clear. Back on the island, Napoleon’s last words were “France, army, head of the army… Josephine…”, Josephine being the name he himself had given to his first wife, whom he divorced after she seemed unable to give him any children, even though he, obviously, remained dedicated to her for the rest of his life. It’s not known with certainty what the name ‘Copacabana’ refers to, but it’s reasonably certain that a beach by the same name on Lake Titikaka in Bolivia derives from the Aymara name for a god of fertility, that which was denied to Napoleon by Josephine’s lack of being able to procreate. Napoleon was initially buried on St. Helena, but in 1840 his body was repatriated to France and given a state funeral. His tomb can now be visited at Les Invalides, in Paris. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 317 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1525 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9861 [fLongitude] => -43.1862 [tLocation] => Forte de Copacabana [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20171003 ) [5663] => Array ( [iID] => 5663 [tTitle] => Island, or not [tSlug] => island-or-not [iTime] => 1499637600 [iUpdate] => 1501893577 [tDescription] => The star attraction in Puno is lake Titicaca, and the floating islands on the lake. Now halfway to Disneyfication, the experience of visiting the islands is still quite worth it. Hundreds of people live on constructed, literally floating islands, held down by anchors, on the lake. A base of big clots of dirt, covered with cut reeds, anchored down to prevent the islands from floating away. The reeds have to be renewed every few weeks. When we visited, a cat fell of one of the islands right next to us. One of the ladies made a quick move and saved the kitten. Near to Puno, plenty of Inca and pre-Inca leftovers are also worth visiting. This includes a fertility temple that's probably a fake, and a village of the dead with a few dozen funerary towers, which reminded me of the persian towers of the dead, though on a smaller scale. With the difference that, here, the dead were not tied up on the roofs to be eaten by birds, but were wrapped up in little packets inside the towers, awaiting their reincarnation. One evening, we had dinner in a restaurant where one of the items on the menu was not recommended by the restaurant itself, in three languages. We had to try it: dried potato with cream. It wasn't bad at all. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 490 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1522 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -15.8182 [fLongitude] => -69.9694 [tLocation] => Uros islands [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20170710 ) [5657] => Array ( [iID] => 5657 [tTitle] => The boy from Brazil: Josef Mengele died in Sao Paulo [tSlug] => the-boy-from-brazil-josef-mengele-died-in-sao-paulo [iTime] => 1492293600 [iUpdate] => 1492450600 [tDescription] => In the cinematic classic from 1978, The Boys From Brazil, Gregory Peck, who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal, played a fictional version of Josef Mengele. In the film, Mengele fertilised surrogate mothers in a Brazilian clinic, with eggs carrying a sample of Hitler's DNA, releasing 94 clones all over the world to be put up for adoption. None of the film was shot in Brazil. Had some been shot on location, as opposed to opting for Portugal, the crew might have had the chance of running into the Angel of Death, or Todesengel, himself, as in 1978, Mengele was still alive and living in Sao Paulo. The real Mengele left Auschwitz on January 17, 1945, a mere ten days before its liberation by the Red Army. He had only arrived in Auschwitz in 1943, where he found the opportunity to conduct genetic research, primarily on twins, hence the plot line of The Boys From Brazil, but also on people with eyes with two different colours, people with physical abnormalities, and dwarfs. He had started his work on twins already back in 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt. Racial hygiene, essentially a euphemism for eugenics, was a set of policies through which certain groups of individuals were allowed to procreate, while others were not, with the expressed purpose of promoting characteristics deemed desirable. Mengele’s thesis, on the genetic factors resulting in a cleft lip and palate, earned him a cum laude doctorate in 1938. One of Mengele’s assistants at Auschwitz, an interned Hungarian jew, selected for being a pathologist, remembered one occasion where his boss personally killed fourteen twins in one night with a chloroform injection to the heart. And, if one twin died of a disease, Mengele killed the other so that comparative post-mortem reports could be prepared. Another witness described how Mengele sewed together two Romani, gypsy, twins, back to back, in an attempt to create conjoined twins. It's clear where American Horror Story’s second season got its inspiration from. As an aside, Marie Stopes, after whom Marie Stopes International is named, an NGO providing contraception and safe abortion services in nearly 40 countries, and a common player in the developing world, was a campaigner for eugenics. Shortly after leaving Auschwitz, Mengele was actually taken prisoner of war by the Americans, but disorganisation on the American side meant no one realised who he was, even though he was registered under his own name. Mengele was released shortly after, recovered documents he had left behind in what is now Chechia and then worked as a farmhand in southern Germany, until he sailed to Argentina in 1949, fearing for his arrest. His wife refused to accompany him, staying behind with their son, and they divorced five years later. As a sign of the times, Mengele, on the run, in and around Buenos Aires, worked as a salesman for his father’s farm equipment company, which included frequent trips to Paraguay. He managed to obtain a copy of his German birth certificate through the West German embassy in 1956, which allowed the Argentine government to issue him a foreign residence permit under his own name, which he in turn used to obtain a West German passport, with which he visited Germany and Switzerland, where he met his son Rolf, who was told Mengele was an uncle, and his future second wife, the widow of his younger brother. All this without the Mossad being able to trace him down, utterly impossible in today's world. Shortly after, Mengele being under investigation for practicing medicine without a license by the Argentine authorities, he moved to Paraguay, where he managed to get citizenship on the hardly obfuscating name of José Mengele in 1959. A coincidentally wise move, as Simon Wiesenthal, the famous if notorious Nazi hunter, had finally uncovered the divorce papers from Mengele's first marriage, which, amazingly, listed the correct Buenos Aires address for Mengele. But, by the time extradition, requested by Germany, was approved, Mengele had already moved to Paraguay. Around this time, the Mengele family business executive secretary had traveled to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, and had met with Mengele, bringing a message back with him, stating that “I (Josef Mengele) personally have not killed, injured or caused bodily harm to anyone.” You’d think it would be fairly easy to track him down with this information, but, no. Meanwhile, the Mossad had managed to capture Adolph Eichmann, one of the major organisers of the Holocaust, in Buenos Aires, in 1960. After his capture, Eichmann was held for nine days before being drugged, dressed as a flight attendant, and smuggled out of the country. The Mossad also tried to locate Mengele, but failed, with Eichmann's intelligence being too outdated. West Germany, it later turned out, knew Eichmann was living in Argentina for at least two years before his capture, but were wary of him being caught, as they feared Eichmann might spill the beans on Hans Globke, then Chief of Staff at the German Chancellery under Konrad Adenauer, the Angela Merkel of his day, but also, Globke was coauthor of several antisemitic Nazi laws. Yet, Germany went on to issue a reward for Mengele’s capture, which triggered Mengele clandestinely crossing into Brazil in 1960, with the help of Nazi supporter Wolfgang Gerhard, himself a German with ‘decent’ credentials in the Hitler Jugend. In Brazil, Mengele partially financed a farm for a Hungarian expat couple and became the farm’s manager, located in Nova Europa, a small municipality a four hour drive north west from Sao Paulo. Over the next few years, together with the Hungarian couple, Mengele would slowly move closer to Sao Paulo, until, in 1976, he was actually living in Sao Paulo itself. The Hungarians discovered Mengele’s true identity in 1963, but were afraid that reporting his existence to authorities might result in negative percussions for themselves, even though Germany had extended their extradition request to include Brazil in early 1961. Meanwhile, though Mengele had remarried the widow of his younger brother, him and his wife did not live together, the wife living in Italy and the two corresponding by mail. The Mossad had reignited their search for the war criminal, but were not able to intercept their communications, even though they did locate what they thought was Mengele, in Sao Paulo. However, budget constraints and a deteriorating relationship between Israel and Egypt saw the Mossad calling off the operation in 1962. In 1971, Gerhard, who had helped Mengele get into Brazil, gave his own identify card to Mengele before traveling to West Germany, seeking cancer treatment for both his wife and son. Or perhaps he sold the card, if a second hand account is to be believed. Hilariously, due to Brazilian hyperinflation, the reported price of the identity card in 1971 was such that only the equivalent of a million times million identity cards would buy you a simple cup of coffee nowadays. Or, at the time, half a cheap, but new, Volkswagen. Gerhard died in Austria in 1978. Tellingly, survived by his son he had named Adolf, Gerhard was still a fervent Nazi supporter who, even in Austria in the 1970s, topped his Christmas trees with swastikas. Now living in a suburb of Sao Paulo, Mengele met his son Rolf in 1977, the son now aware that Mengele was his father, not his uncle. Rolf later said that he found an unrepentant Nazi who claimed he had never personally harmed anyone, echoing Mengele’s statement from nearly two decades prior. Mengele, his health slowly deteriorating, had a stroke and drowned while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979, in the town of Bertioga, just east of Santos, and was buried under the name of Wolfgang Gerhard, based on the identity card he had been carrying, in the town of Embu das Artes, a short drive west of Sao Paulo, even though he had no connection with this village. Embu das Artes is now known for its Sunday fairs, and its artists, where more than a few restaurants are German themed, with Eisbein a local favourite. Mengele's grave, or what’s left of it, can still be visited in Embu, but his stone is no longer there. He shared the grave with Friderieke Gerhard, who, her stone reveals, died in 1959. Strangely, an LA Times article gave the date of Friderieke’s burial as 1961, but also mentions Friderieke was Wolfgang’s mother, which explains Mengele’s grave in the same location. I visited the grave site this weekend and talked to one of the care takers, who told me that the cemetery might remove the grave soon, as no one is paying for the plot, while the plot itself was emptied a few years after his death. The story of Mengele’s final days unraveled in 1985. A police raid of the house of the sales manager of the Mengele family firm in West Germany, on May 31st, uncovered coded letters containing information on Mengele’s death. The letter was sent by the family Mengele was staying with when he drowned. Under interrogation in Brazil, these friends revealed the location of the grave, but not before a Chicago Tribune article quoted Mengele’s second wife as saying that the atrocities ascribed to Mengele were all ‘lies and propaganda’, while it was not yet clear whether the remains were Mengele's. But, on June 10, Mengele’s son Rolf admitted that the remains were his father's. Forensic research confirmed this and, in 1992, this was backed up by DNA testing. It was only then that rumours were finally laid to rest. Even after Rolf’s admittance, Wiesenthal still believed Mengele was alive, while Germany still had a reward out for his capture, worth nearly 2.5 million USD. Mengele’s remains, exhumed, are now in storage at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, in Sao Paulo, and are, oh the irony, used as educational aids during forensic medicine courses at the University of Sao Paulo’s medical school. The exhumation was shown live on Brazilian television, just over two months after the country had left behind its military dictatorship of 21 years. The long shadow In the film The Boys from Brazil, the main protagonist, an ersatz Simon Wiesenthal, is played by Laurence Olivier, who won an Oscar for the role. In the film, Olivier consults an expert on cloning, played by Bruno Ganz, who of course put down an amazing portrayal of Hitler in Der Untergang. Olivier, three years earlier, was the antagonist opposite Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man, where he played an ersatz Josef Mengele himself and won the Oscar as well as the Golden Globe for best supporting actor. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1506 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1519 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 2 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 2 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.6492 [fLongitude] => -46.8493 [tLocation] => Ceminterio do Rosario [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20170416 ) [5643] => Array ( [iID] => 5643 [tTitle] => Getting lost in Paris and London [tSlug] => getting-lost-in-paris-and-london [iTime] => 1478991600 [iUpdate] => 1482172113 [tDescription] => After a short stop in Holland, and a quick lunch in Brussels, I was off to London, where Natalia, after spending a week in Italy with friends, showed up a few hours later. I needed to be in London first to do a presentation on Kompl at the London Meteor user group, then to manage a press event, also for Kompl, for journalists, who, sponsored by Eurostar, were going to travel to Paris to try out the app. It meant staying in Paris for a few days with friends, where I again discovered who unbelievably expensive Paris really is. On the other hand, the house we stayed in was rather unique, one of the features being one of Manu Chao’s actual platinum records hanging on one of its walls. Back in the UK, no visit complete without visiting friends in Brighton. This included a day trip to Chichester and Shoreham, which, perhaps, is host to the oldest 'purpose-built' airport in the world. Perhaps, because this page lists an airport in Maryland as being older while not listing the airport in Shoreham at all in its list of ten oldest airports in the world. London now has two cat cafes. Online reservation is mandatory and demand is high. Natalia didn't feel like coming along, and securing one slot was still a possibility. But, I was less impressed by the cafe as I expected. The cats, a bit over a dozen, were all very pretty, but the continuous attention also has made them much less keen on interacting with visitors. Then, the use of treats and toys, with all patrons brandishing cameras all the time, meant the scene felt quite a bit too contrived, artificial. The cats do respond to staff, who are the ones feeding them. But that also meant that, after feeding time some 40 minutes before closing, satisfied, all cats retreated for naps. We stopped by the grave of Karl Marx, in Highgate cemetery. With a bunch of famous dead people, not completely unlike Pere Lachaise in Paris, with the difference that, here, visitors have to pay four pounds to get in, something that surely makes Marx continuously spin in his grave. Other residents include Douglas Adams and Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian journalist who died because of radiation poisoning after what possibly was a Russian state sanctioned assassination. The latter is in a section of the cemetery that costs an additional 8 pounds to visit. Not because of the background radiation, but because his section of the cemetery is older and more fragile and visits are conducted only with a guide. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 830 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1496 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 48.8946 [fLongitude] => 2.38869 [tLocation] => La Geode [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20161113 ) [5638] => Array ( [iID] => 5638 [tTitle] => The final farewell for The Best Cat in the World [tSlug] => the-final-farewell-for-the-best-cat-in-the-world [iTime] => 1476050400 [iUpdate] => 1476149324 [tDescription] => On Sunday night, we said farewell to our loving, cuddly, sweet, beautiful, and old, cat Oliver, Oli. It was an intense week and a sudden loss. Even though Oli had noticeably felt bad and worse over the last few weeks, his change in the last week was rapid and bad. A vet’s earlier diagnosis was an issue with his kidneys, for which we were trying to provide, first with special food, then with medication, but a last-minute analysis showed a sever stage of diabetes. We were devastated. A few months ago, we had brought him with us to Rio de Janeiro, as we’re spending a lot of time for work there, but now, with his quickly deteriorating health, we decided to take him back to our house on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. A real house, as opposed to an apartment, quiet, and with a big garden. The morning after our arrival, he was in a terrible state, but after a last minute visit to the vet, where it was that diabetes was diagnosed, and where he was rehydrated, he became a bit more lucid, though could neither eat nor walk. We spent the last few days not leaving him alone for one minute, giving and receiving cuddles for days, until we both were present when he breathed his last. It’s with pain in our hearts and deep sadness that we had to let him go. Oli only adopted me two and a half years ago, when I came to Sao Paulo, while he’s been livening up Natalia’s life for more than 16. When he’d spot either of us sitting down, he’d demand to join us, either on our laps, or at least right next to us, touching. At my computer, I had a hard time to keep him away from sitting on top of my keyboard, though he would settle for snoozing inbetween my two screens. When we would not be at home, we’d leave the window to the outside patio ajar. There, he’d sit on a ledge, looking at, and charming, the people passing by, all taking a minute to give, and receive, some love from this gorgeous cat. When having dinner, he would require sitting with us. On our laps, sticking his head above the table to make sure we understood he was part of the team. In Rio, he had started to explore the three story house, on which we occupy a small room on the top floor. The house is used for events and, during the most recent event, Natalia was struggling to keep him from wandering onto the stage, always wanting to be the centre of attention. Then, afterwards, he made a point of sitting in the presenter's chair, presenting himself to the then dwindling audience. Much earlier, before I knew him, he was a bit of a fighter. A large cat, he was the king of the hill. So much so that someone, when he was only three, very nearly managed to poison the big man. He survived, and lived a good life. But, always, too short. A fantastic cat. The best cat in the world. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1072 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1489 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 23 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -23.5755 [fLongitude] => -46.8554 [tLocation] => The yellow house [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20161010 ) [5534] => Array ( [iID] => 5534 [tTitle] => Nazca lines [tSlug] => nazca-lines [iTime] => 1404684000 [iUpdate] => 1404684000 [tDescription] => Built on top of an old Inca capital, the town of Nazca was leveled by an earthquake in 1996. The central square, Plaza de Armas, the name almost every central square in Spanish speaking Central America seems to be blessed with, is pleasant, and though the town is reasonably lively, now, the city's primary reason for existing is the tourism industry surrounding the Nazca lines in the nearby barren desert. Recently, a series of pyramids were uncovered nearby, which could increase interest in the region significantly. Rediscovered by accident, on one of the first commercial flights in Peru's coastal region, the gigantic figurines etched in the rocky ground are impressive and, indeed, almost unnoticeable on ground level. On my first day, I tried exploring some of the lines on foot from a nearby town, but, without the overview, it was impossible to locate any. That said, some are viewable from a small observation tower, and those, smaller than some, would be noticeable at ground level, if you'd know what to look for and where to look. A second viewing point, from a central hill, reveals none of the figures, but does allow for seeing a bunch of the slowly fading straight lines that seemingly go on forever into sheer nothingness. With the discovery of the pyramids, the growing consensus seems to be for the Nazca lines to have been extensions of the religious functions performed at the pyramids, the individual Nazca figures perhaps representing individual peoples from the greater region. Perhaps not as exotic as Von Daeniken would have like, but still utterly fascinating for the scale of the whole project. Besides the lines and the pyramid, there's a nearby Inca burial ground where artifacts and mummies crowd the surface, as well as the tallest dune in the world, ideal for sand boarding. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1812 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1354 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462234733 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 10 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -14.6938 [fLongitude] => -75.1145 [tLocation] => The tree [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140707 ) [5384] => Array ( [iID] => 5384 [tTitle] => Into the lair of the beast [tSlug] => into-the-lair-of-the-beast [iTime] => 1338415200 [iUpdate] => 1338415200 [tDescription] => It was the smartass Meshrop Martots (spellings of his name, ironically, differ) just over 1600 years ago, who came up with the Georgian and Armenian alphabets. Somewhat based on Greek, but mostly his own invention, tourists from all corners of the world still struggle when coming to the Caucasus. The only advantage being that the alphabets are somewhat congruous with greek and Latin, meaning that most letters in both the Armenian and Georgian alphabets phonetically represent letters that exist in the Latin alphabet. However, it also means its not always easy to get around using public transport, where destinations are typically only listed in the local script, the occasional Russian alternatives being a welcome change. But, still, I managed to get to Gori, a village not too far from Tbilisi and home to the infamous Stalin museum. A bit of a must to visit, the museum has relatively little to offer in the little town that, at best, can be described as sleepy. Though that might change. Here, too, as in Tbilisi, half the buildings appeared to be in the process of being refurbished. The best aspect of the museum is Stalin's birth house, untouched, in a away covered by its own mausoleum, with the neighborhood that once surrounded it having been bulldozed, the old home now being the eccentric center of town. On the up, there now is limited attention in the museum for Stalin's (huge) dark side. Apparently, upto a few years ago, the museum still only saw the man in a purely positive light. Not so now. Though the guide, I suspect, still mostly tells the same story, in almost the language of your choice, specifically three large banners, in three languages, draw attention to the millions of deaths Stalin was primarily, if not solely, responsible for. also, the huge Stalin statue in front of the museum has 'mysteriously' disappeared. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2156 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1162 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462212044 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 16 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.9867 [fLongitude] => 44.1137 [tLocation] => Stalin museum [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120531 ) [5327] => Array ( [iID] => 5327 [tTitle] => Suicide rates VS internet penetration rates [tSlug] => suicide-rates-vs-internet-penetration-rates [iTime] => 1321743600 [iUpdate] => 1516124576 [tDescription] => Comparing internet penetration rates with suicide rates. You can find the data here, which was taken from Wikipedia. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4255 [iClicks] => 630 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 189 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462185975 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => -33.9032 [fLongitude] => 18.422 [tLocation] => V & A Waterfront [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5327 ) [5321] => Array ( [iID] => 5321 [tTitle] => Little Gem [tSlug] => little-gem [iTime] => 1320274800 [iUpdate] => 1320274800 [tDescription] => Award winning play performed by The irish Society of Tanzania. Effectively three related confessional monologues by three women, three generations of the same family. One of the actresses was also in the Society's previous play, Bold Girls, which I saw early last year. The actors needed a few minutes to get into their roles but, once this is done, all put down reasonable performances. The lack of men in the play, all three women's stories to quite some extent having to deal with the influence of men in their lives, is interesting, but doesn't add to the dramatic value and, perhaps, even takes away from it. The ending, with the break in style, is sudden and surprising, but feels rather artificial.  The author, Elaine Murphy, confessed that the three women in the play are composites of everyday women she's met over the course of her life. It's quite impressive, then, that Murphy managed to make this play somewhat interesting. Most people have very little interesting to offer. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1898 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 3 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 985 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462237586 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -6.76713 [fLongitude] => 39.2818 [tLocation] => Coco beach [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20111103 ) [5300] => Array ( [iID] => 5300 [tTitle] => Stock Check [tSlug] => stock-check [iTime] => 1317160800 [iUpdate] => 1317160800 [tDescription] => My submission for the first Information is Beautiful awards, themed Stock Check. The underlying data was provided, I aggragated them per industry, showing how, over the next 150 years, everything around us will slowly come to a halt. What do you think? [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2924 [iClicks] => 806 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1018 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462100227 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => project [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 1 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 8.47522 [fLongitude] => -13.27 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5300 ) [5266] => Array ( [iID] => 5266 [tTitle] => Gotta catch them all [tSlug] => gotta-catch-them-all [iTime] => 1312322400 [iUpdate] => 1312322400 [tDescription] => Ever since entering the European Union some two weeks ago, the weather has been more appropriate for a gloomy September than befitting a central European summer. Arriving in Katowice, the sun peeked out briefly, only to disappear again behind clouds and rain. I really would appreciate a bit more warmth and sunshine, if only for it helping my chances of shooting nice pictures. Close to Aushwitz, Katowice hasn't got as much to offer as, say, nearby Krakow, the city and area having gained economic ascendency through its industrial prowess. The town, more functional than historical, feels a bit like Antwerp or Rotterdam. Though pretty buildings can be found all over town, it's functional constructions from the 1970s which dominate the city. Interestingly, for a brief period during the 1950s, from shortly before to shortly after comrade number one's demise, Katowice was passed of as Stalin's city, Stalinogrod. The region, Silesia, is named after a local river and mountain, Åšlęża, of which the etymology has been traced back to the pre-indoeuropean Vandals, coming down from the Baltics in prehistoric times. Still, though it's not agreed whether Silesians should constitute their own nation, Silesian nationalism, or perhaps pride, is obvious, with the Silesian blue and white flag hanging all over Katowice. The Silesian language, on the other hand, is most often considered a Polish dialect, not a unique language. I'm staying in a very pleasant hostel which is clean, quiet and efficient. Katowice not being one of Poland's backpacker hotspots, the scope is limited, meaning that budget options were few, and I resigned to having to sleep in a dorm. Nevertheless, the attributes of the hostel make up for it. Arriving at four in the afternoon, I went out to take in a bit of the town, including what is said to be the largest monument in Poland, commemorating three Silesian uprisings, a good 80 years ago. I returned after chilling and some good food and drinks around ten in the evening, only to find a bunch of youngsters hanging out in the dorm, on their bunk beds, reading their tattered paperbacks. I took my bottle of Zubrowka, acquired at the Polish equivalent of Aldi, and headed down to the, very nice, common room to nerd and read.
What I don't get and see too often, grandpa mode engaged, is why these 'kids' prefer to read in their bunk beds, while they could be out having a good time for a pittance, or at least relax in a chair. Half a liter of beer at a fancy Irish pub, here, goes for just two euros. Meanwhile, walking down one of Katowice's main drags lined with pubs, bars and restaurants, I couldn't help but noticing scores of youngsters hanging out on and around the permanent furniture in-between the pubs, smoking and drinking their own beers and vodkas. There is little to discover on a dorm room. It's happening on the street! The great death factory tourism factory It's a must to visit Auschwitz, near Krakow, but nearer to Katowice. Last time I was in the area, Krakow, was 16 years ago and I failed this obligatory stop. Not so now. It's been observed that with ubiquitous access to information and flash tourism, it's the prominent tourism attractions that thrive, while the also rans slowly slump back. That's probably why though access to Auschwitz is normally free, in summer between 10 and 3, you can only access Auschwitz I, the main camp, on a guided tour costing you 40 zloty, about ten euros. Access to Auschwitz II, Birkenau, is still free, but the one and only 'Arbeit macht frei' sign can only be found at the former. And extremely busy it indeed is. English tours are held the most often, sometimes as much as every 15 minutes, but even then, my group was so big it still had to be split in three groups of about 20. The tour was decent enough, if too long, but also lacking. The tour guide was very good at going through, presenting, the logistics of running the death camp, sure. No problem there.
At the entrance of the first building, containing information on and photos of the transports to the camps, the famous quote by George Santayana had been put up, "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it". Obviously, we have not learned; Cambodia, South Africa, Rwanda, Yugoslavia being recent proof. But learning about the logistics of a death camp won't help anyone to understand the underlying causes of these sad events and won't foster the realization of it having happened before, when it happens now or in the future, for there is always the justification which will make it alright, in the eyes of the perpetrators, thinking that 'now' is different from before. However, if we, in this case visitors of Auschwitz, can understand the reasons for Nazi Germany to so abuse man and understand the fallacies in their thinking, we have a better chance at recognizing these fallacies in our own or others' thinking when they happen, hopefully being able to recognize the build ups to genocide before it occurs. Sadly, learning how efficient the Germans were is not going to do that. Getting to Oswiecim, the Polish name for the town, from Katowice, is a bit of a hassle, compared to getting there from Krakow. Only three direct trains a day do the trip, while several bus services ply the route as well, but all starting in different locations in the city and running infrequently. Real estate Believing in society as something that could be constructed, the early 20th century saw a number of (social) engineering projects, typically related to then, newly developing industrial projects. Many of these housing estates, often to a large extent self sufficient, were also often built along similar concepts and similar designs. One example is the Agnetapark in Delft, related to the Gist en Spiritus fabriek (yeast and spirits factory), later Calve, of peanut butter fame, now DSM. Another one is an estate I visited a few years ago in Budapest, Wekerle telep.
I love Nikisz
Quite similar in design and layout to the latter, but this one built in red brick, is the housing estate in Nikiszowiec, now part of Katowice's municipality. Nikiszowiec consists of nine ring shaped blocks, three stories high, with each surrounding a large courtyard, landscaped into a semi private park. A nice neo-baroque church complements the settlement, built for the workers of the nearby mineshaft, Nickisch, which started operating in 1906. For me, slowing down a bit on my schedule of 8 countries in four weeks, taking this extra day in Katowice, I was able to see a few sights slightly off the beaten track. Not only Nikiszowiec, but I also wandered around the city's modernist quarter, which includes a skyscraper of 14 stories which once was the highest building in the country. I also visited what was once the largest building in Poland, the former Silesian parliament, from when Silesia was, briefly, independent, or rather, an autonomous province of the interwar Second Polish Republic. In other news, finally, after some two weeks, the sun has been shining the whole day. It actually makes this industrial city rather attractive. The summer dress code does help with that. Still, its weird that for the whole week, the highs are predicted to be higher in Oslo, than here in central Europe. The sun started shining a day earlier, while in Auschwitz, but by the time I got back to Katowice, and stumbled upon Le Tour de Pologne, sunshine had turned into rain again. No bucket full of meat I've been trying to find one of the city's milk bars. No, milk plus is not served, here, these are low priced, almost communal, kitchens serving good food. Or so I'm told. I found one, but found it closed. Three times. Instead, I ended up at the vegetarian restaurant Zloty Osiol, smack in the middle of town. The food is SO GOOD, I had no choice but to eat there. Three times. In fact, the only meat I had in Poland was inside two kroket, indeed, written just like in Holland, though of slightly different texture, just before going on my tour of Auschwitz. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2530 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1107 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461708591 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 31 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.2596 [fLongitude] => 19.0219 [tLocation] => Rynek [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110803 ) [5032] => Array ( [iID] => 5032 [tTitle] => Twitter/FML [tSlug] => twitterfml [iTime] => 1290034800 [iUpdate] => 1516124343 [tDescription] => Putting some things in perspective and contrast. The tweets are real, though not from the (fake?) users in the images. The profile photos and background images are all available through Creative Commons (as are these composites). Source information is available with the photos on Flickr. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2782 [iClicks] => 572 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1018 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462107677 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => 8.47522 [fLongitude] => -13.27 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 1 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 1 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 1 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5032 ) [4965] => Array ( [iID] => 4965 [tTitle] => Death [tSlug] => death [iTime] => 1284933600 [iUpdate] => 1284933600 [tDescription] => Last Friday, Goal staff and many others, including myself, attended a memorial service for a Kenyan expat who passed away a good week earlier. The service was pretty bad, with the minister, during the service, advertising the church's services, listing various options for renting out the venue, as well as their individual cost. Contrary to popular opinion, Sierra Leone is extremely safe, as far as crime and violence go. It's diseases which kill people left right and center. Naomi, the Kenyan expat, hadn't felt too great for a few weeks, though doctors here weren't able to diagnose the problem. She went back to Kenya on sick leave, only to be admitted to intensive care upon arrival, where she passed away a week later, still, as far as I know, undiagnosed. Naomi's wasn't the only death in our vicinity since my arrival a good month ago. Since entering the country, it's come to my attention that... + The wife of one of the Goal driver's died. + The son of one of the house guards died. + An German expat intern, an acquaintance of the head of the Goal office in Kenema, though not working for Goal, died. + Naomi passed away. + A friend of the partner of one of the Goal expats died. + A Goal expat was helping out a young couple with HIV/AIDS and a kid. The husband of the couple died. + The father of a friend of the partners of two Goal expats died. + The brother of a hasher died. The only 'natural' death was the last in the list, a man in his seventies dying of cancer. The only other death for which, as far as I know, the cause was known, was the man who died of the consequences of HIV/AIDS. All the other deaths were of unknown cause. So many young people dying for unknown reasons is what I find worrying. If you're in your thirties, say, you're not supposed to die. You're supposed to live to a ripe old age. Of course, that's me looking at the world through the eyes of a privileged first worlder, which is exactly the reason I'm worrying in the first place. And it's perhaps also because death is so common here that few seemed to take offense at the minister hawking his services during his service. Downcast as the expats were at the death, the locals see it every day. Or at least, much more often. Case in point being the following. The infant mortality rate in Sierra Leone is around 80 per 1000 live births, among the highest in the world. With about 40 births per 1000 people and a population of about 5 million, there are about 200.000 births per year and, hence 16.000 children dying per year, or some 50 per day. To compensate, the country's fertility rate is 5 births per woman. Life expectancy is amongst the lowest in the world, at some 55 years, though this is still significantly higher than countries like Zimbabwe or Swaziland, where it's 45 and 48 respectively. It's a good thing that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is so very low here, well relatively to other sub Saharan African countries, estimated at under 2%, with less than 60.000 people living with HIV/AIDS. With the low quality of healthcare, a higher prevalence rate would surely kill of large portions of the population very quickly. Upswing On a more positive note, Niamh and I celebrated at the Freetown's hash annual posh nosh, more commonly known at other hashes as the AGPU, the Annual Grand (or General) Piss Up. Decent food, decent drinks, dancing and lots of fun. And an overly friendly (read: grabby) Lebanese cook. Rebuild After Disqus stopped working properly for most posts on my site, I figured it was time for another upgrade. For the initiated, I started using the Smarty templating engine. Extremely useful as it also allowed me to seriously tone down on the amount of code I need to maintain myself. The amount of work needed was minimal, perhaps one full day's work. Unfortunately, though surfing the web, on most days, here in Sierra Leone, is barely doable, actually uploading files to a server is almost always an impossibility. As a result, it has taken me a few weeks to get the work done. As a bonus, Facebook likes now seem to work properly again as well. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3124 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1026 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461892060 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 8.47661 [fLongitude] => -13.2839 [tLocation] => Chez Nous [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100920 ) [4914] => Array ( [iID] => 4914 [tTitle] => Going up Avala mountain [tSlug] => going-up-avala-mountain [iTime] => 1280786400 [iUpdate] => 1280786400 [tDescription] => Benno and I truly deserve a Delft Blue plate for walking as much as we're doing it. We started off by giving ourselves an easy time, taking a bus to the museum of the 25th of May which, incidentally, was closed. The star attraction there, however, is not the museum, but the mausoleum of Tito, or Josip Broz, one that's, for a change, quite a bit more timid, as opposed to some. Also, even though the man died only in 1980, at the extremely respectable age of 88, the honorary guard was removed from the site as early as ten years later. The whole thing is still a very reasonable affair, but clearly not as intimidating or revered as some other founding father mausoleums around the world. We followed this up by a walk towards the Sava cathedral which, under today's sunny blue skies, had a much more favorable appeal. Our objective was to get a tram or bus to Avala, a 511 meter high mountain outside of the city which has a 200 meter television tower on its peak. The mountain, hills are apparently considered mountains when they're over 500 meters high, or rather the base of it, turned out to be a whole 15 kilometers from town. Then, we still had to endure the two kilometer trek up the hill. The television tower is actually on a false peak, the actual peak being occupied by the tomb for the unknown hero. Reasonably impressive but primarily beautifully located, the black granite creation and the square around it was already degrading, also clearly no longer receiving the respect it did at some point in the monument's past. It made me wonder about oddly similar monuments in places like Thailand and Cambodia, where temples on top of hilltops also were slowly left to degrade, leaving us with the remains of an impressive history. Perhaps this tomb will be left a similar fate in maybe as little as a few decades time? Also, the tomb carried the inscription "1912 - 1918". What kind of first world war was that? Arriving at the bottom of the hill, which supposedly is a proper tourist destination for Belgrade, we started with a coffee and cakes at the bakery in the row of shops awaiting visitors. It turned out that it was Benno and myself who were the actual sights to be seen, the girl who was selling her buns going out of her way to try and talk to these odd apparitions in her shop. Her English being unsatisfactory, a chance visitor to her little queendom turned out to speak decent French, allowing the four of us to chitchat about trivial things. Surprisingly, Sandra, as she was called, never had visited the television tower herself, a mere two kilometers away. Carrying my iPad around, I'm trying to fine tune solutions for using the device and its abilities as an alternative to carrying around a Lonely Planet. Not so much to save money, more so for the potential increase in convenience it can bring. For one, Google Earth nicely caches visited maps, including embedded Wikipedia and other articles, but still requires an internet connection when doing searches. Belgrade has quite a fair share of cafes with free wifi connections, but is still not the most convenient if you're visiting a location where you don't have easy access to 3G. When entering the country, my mobile phone provider told me that 1MB of roaming data would cost me about 4.5 euros. Horrid. As mentioned earlier, with Evernote, I made notes of relevant webpages, related to Belgrade, before heading out to Serbia. However, it seems that Evernote for the iPad only properly works when an internet connection is present. Exactly when you're in the middle of nowhere, having to find out what's to do where, typically when you're without an internet connection, this is obviously a rather impressive bug. Alternatively, the PocketTrav app which specifically was designed to read Wikitravel articles on a mobile device is quite excellent, also caching visited pages, meaning that, in my case, all pages related to Belgrade are at my disposal, any time I need them. Of course, even though Wikitravel's Belgrade pages are quite reasonable, it is no Lonely Planet. A related application, though one that also doesn't work smoothly without a connection is Wikihood, which tells you nearby sights using Wikipedia articles which have been outfitted with a GPS location. Also, it mashes up all locations, many of which won't be of interest to a tourist, like a school or a nearby district. Lonely Planet offers their Serbia section of the Lonely Planet eastern Europe as a payable download. It's a PDF, meaning that, really, you just get a digital version of the pages in their paper based guide. The price is too high though, at 5 euros for the chapter. Given that the Lonely Planet eastern Europe has perhaps 15 chapters in it and sells for something like 20 euros, selling each country's chapter for 5 is really too much. Additionally, you don't get the bonus that digital media would allow you to have access to. I still won't be able to click a restaurant in the food section to see where it's located on the included map. Better yet, I should be able to click the restaurant and get directions to the place using Google Maps. Lonely Planet also sells proper digital versions of some of their guidebooks. I have no idea how they incorporate the possibilities of these new platforms for these titles, if at all, as the two locations I was interested in, Serbia and Sierra Leone, are not available as digital downloads. Anyway, one venue for food which was listed in Wikitravel was Malo Korso, which according to the guide was both cheap and serving huge portions. Located on the city's longest street, at some 7.5 kilometers long, it was going to be anyone's guess how far down the road number 468 was going to be. Indeed, this uncovers a major flaw with Wikitravel, the typical absence of an accompanying map very much limiting the usefulness of the incorporated information. It took us about an hour to trek to said venue, by which time I had started to doubt the validity of the crowdsourced information. My doubts were unfounded, and the place, decked out as a more upmarket restaurant while playing early 80s pop music, was empty but did exist. Regularly priced, the portions were exceptionally large and the food was quite decent. Recommended, even though it was way, way out of town. We of course took a bus back. Our last stop of the day was the Kalemegdan, the site of the Belgrade fort at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Somewhere on its grounds, BELEF, one of Belgrade's summer festivals, was organizing a showing of alternative shorts, movies. A bit of a challenge to actually discover the location, we wandered in just before the 40 minute introduction of speeches came to an end. Excellent. The movies shown were... + El Empleo, an animated short about people working as utilitarian implements for others. + Budka, a Russian short about the meaning of people working from booths in the Russian inner cities. Oddly, this short was cut short, leaving us without an ending. + A short by, where animations were, using stop motion, advancing along graffiti walls. + The sound of silence, about an industrial worker searching for quiet after a day's work, finding it in sleep. + Ghosts, about a refugee center in Tempere, Finland. + Alter Ego, a French short set in a park, where a pretty girl, waiting for her internet date, discovers that her eloquent and educated date is actually someone completely different. By far, it was this short which was the most impressive, having an excellent script, decent production value and some good acting. Plus it questioned implicit cultural assumptions, by design questioning who we are as viewers. We finished off with a night cap at the bar next to our hostel where the lovely Katarina has been serving us dupla palinkovac for the last three days. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3960 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1003 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462222870 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 9 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 44.6958 [fLongitude] => 20.5144 [tLocation] => Avala tower [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100803 ) [4911] => Array ( [iID] => 4911 [tTitle] => A wedding in Belgrade [tSlug] => a-wedding-in-belgrade [iTime] => 1280613600 [iUpdate] => 1280613600 [tDescription] => We started our first day in Belgrade with an unreasonable dosage of rain. Just after visiting what is claimed to be the largest orthodox cathedral in the world, the St. Sava cathedral, it felt like being submitted to a typical African monsoon. Sheltering under an overhanging roof only partially solved our predicament, and only for a while, and the rush, which followed, to the nearest coffee shop, Coffee & Factory, saw us getting pretty much drenched. Excellent coffee and sandwiches later, though, the sun started to regain control of the skies and we were able to head out to our next destination, the Nicola Tesla museum. Which was a bit of a disappointment. Tesla's genius is a bit of a vehicle for adoration by geeks the world over, so visiting the country which adopted him as its own, he was born in what was then the Austria-Hungary dual monarchy, meant we also had to visit the museum dedicated to his life and works. Or so it was claimed to be. The museum is a very small affair, where English speaking girl guides rush through a presentation of several of his inventions, before showing the sphere which contains Tesla's remains. On the upside, the girl doing our tour was not half unattractive. From behind. In fact, we soon realised that, in Serbia, girls look disproportionally good from the back. It seems to be a strong leitmotif amongst the Serbs. Our best experience of the day followed soon after. Slowly making our way to the site of the National Assembly, we passed by the Crkva Sv. Marka, the church of St. Mark, which turned out to be the place to get married. Inside, the Serbian orthodox ceremony took ages, with a small choir alternating with the priest taking the vows, both continuously singing. This was followed by pictures and well-wishing on the steps of the church, where several klezmer bands were competing for the most attention, hoping for spare change for their efforts. It was here that our earlier suspicions related to Serbian girls were confirmed. We were then hoping to continue our experience of Serbian weddings by, on a hunch, heading to where the Sava and Danube rivers meet each other, expecting that very spot to be the best place to take wedding pics after a music-infused ceremony. Unsuccessful, we ended up sipping local brandies and vinjaks while appreciating the views. The Danube, being downstream from Budapest, being even more impressive than in the Hungarian capital. Strangely enough, the city is really only developed on one side of the Danube, though the other side of the Sava is as much part of the city as downtown Belgrade is. Dinner was had at ?. That is not a typo, the restaurant is called ?, the question mark. The food was excellent, and to our surprise, sitting in the restaurant's courtyard, we were treated to the aftermath of a wedding, live music and all. After a day of militant tourism, my first impression of Belgrade was that it's not as interesting a city as Budapest, perhaps, but quite pleasant nonetheless. Architecturally, the city seems to have bloomed after the second world war, much of the architecture being done in a 50s and 60s slightly drab functional style. Nevertheless, the city's cafe culture is obvious, the streets are clean and quite well kept, prices are reasonable and, most important of all, people are friendly. On another note, I'm trying to use my iPad as a replacement for a more standard travel guide, like a Lonely Planet. I cached tourist information from Wikitravel, partially by saving pages to Evernote, but completely through the app PocketTrav. On top of that, by looking at the area with the Google Earth app, maps of the area, including embedded Wikipedia articles were also cached on my device. A good start, as I don't have continuous internet access, but also containing one flaw, by design. I can not use Wikitravel, combined with offline Google Earth, to find where specific sights, restaurants or bars are located. I still need an indexed street map, which is inconvenient. On top of that, I wouldn't mind a short list of useful phrases, like "I am really appreciative of your assets". A Lonely Planet for Belgrade, or even Serbia, might indeed be available for the iPad, but for my upcoming visit to Senegal, the Lonely Planet for western Africa most certainly is not. And the information, on line, for Sierra Leone, both on Wikitravel and Google Earth, is near abysmal. Perhaps I just found myself something to do while in Freetown. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 7862 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1001 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462183275 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 36 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 44.8104 [fLongitude] => 20.469 [tLocation] => Crkva svetog Marka [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100801 ) [5521] => Array ( [iID] => 5521 [tTitle] => Memes [tSlug] => memes [iTime] => 1264633200 [iUpdate] => 1516123941 [tDescription] => One-off gags and jokes. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6514 [iClicks] => 488 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1140 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462144575 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 19 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => 0.29893 [fLongitude] => 32.6227 [tLocation] => GOAL apartments [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5521 ) [3700] => Array ( [iID] => 3700 [tTitle] => We can not continue to die like this [tSlug] => we-can-not-continue-to-die-like-this [iTime] => 1180648800 [iUpdate] => 1516123155 [tDescription] => Ismail Farouk and I made a stop motion movie and selected four stills from the video to add to this work. It's for sale and on display at posi+ive.
Ismail also put the four works online at Flickr here. He also has some background info on his site here. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3003 [iClicks] => 754 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 421 [iOldID] => 2987 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462137180 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => -26.0287 [fLongitude] => 28.0151 [tLocation] => Shingara Sands [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=2987 ) [492] => Array ( [iID] => 492 [tTitle] => One year on [tSlug] => one-year-on [iTime] => 1164322800 [iUpdate] => 1164322800 [tDescription] => It's been one year since my father died. Here, you remember the dead at set days after their death. An important one is the 'one year after'. The Friday is an important and popular day to visit your departed loved ones, so today the family went off to Behesht-e-Zahra, Tehran's big cemetery, Not everyone's was there, however. Myself, my aunt Parvaneh and her husband Nader, from Tehran, my grandmother (my grandfather died a few years ago) and my uncle Husheng, his wife from Mashhad and her sister from Shiraz. The night before, Parvaneh made halva, a sweet, for at the grave, and prepared rice, for lunch at my grandmother's. It seems I've pretty much come to terms with my father's premature passing away as I've felt quite nonplussed about the whole thing for the past weeks, or months for that matter. The Sunday of his burial, one year ago, was easily the toughest emotional experience I ever had and the letters to my father appear to have been quite the therapy I needed. But still, they couldn't take away the anticipation I felt the evening before today's remembrance. And although I was surprised to find that, at the grave, emotions easily bubbled up to the surface, I was also happy to find today was not nearly as nerve wrecking as a year ago. Before arriving at the cemetery, we got some flowers for the graves, for we ended up visiting seven and lookde for even more, and rosewater, with which to clean sprinkle the graves. I'm not one to really appreciate these things too much, or more accurately, I don't care too much for them, but my grandmother more or less forced me to buy at least one flower for my father's grave myself. So I tried to get one flower, a rose, and was given one for free. I tried, last year, to be the one to pay for my father's gravestone but was unsuccessful as my grandmother insisted on footing the bill. Together with my aunt, we were able to put in our preference for the type of stone, green marble. I wanted something different so that, in the densely wooded forest of graves that is Behesht-e-Zahra, I'd be able to more easily spot the grave if left to my own devices. However, getting the right stone didn't turn out to be easy as, in the end, shortly after my arrival in Tehran some three weeks ago, Parvaneh and I had to try once more, after her and grandmother trying several times over the past year, to find a stone and a mason to work the stone. Cool as we were, we found one and were promised it would be ready within a week. That become three weeks, being put in place, on the grave, only yesterday, the remains of the original stone in pieces lying around it. At the grave, beside the halva, we also had fruits, dates and a few other snacks. The same cloth used last year to cover the cotton-wrapped body was taken out, first to cover the grave, then folded up for grandma to sit on. She actually talked to Farhang, my father, I suppose telling him some of the things that happened over the past months or year. When we left, she said goodbye just like she does after talking with her on the phone, or when saying your goodbyes after visiting her at home. During our one hour, or so, stay at the grave, a man with a receipt book stopped by, asking if we wanted a prayer said. I think it was Husheng who agreed and, not too dissimilar from a year ago, but much more laid back, we had a sad, touching, but surprisingly restrained song, prayer, sung for Farhang. As I mentioned, it's custom to bring food to a commemoration like this one. Our group was small, but some of the groups, remembering their dead ones, are much bigger or stay much longer. Besides tea and sweets, they bring blankets to sit on, tea and juices, lunch and sometimes even dinner. And it's considered extremely bad form if you don't bring way, way, way too much of everything. You literally continuously stumble upon people handing out food, be it sweets or soups or tea. One does not have to go hungry when at a graveyard. After visiting my father, we stopped by my grandfather's before visiting some of Nader's, my aunt Parvaneh's husband, relatives. His father was murdered by SAVAK, the former Shah's secret police, and the only reason he knows where he's buried, on the SAVAK's 'private' burial ground, is that his mother worked at a government institution and was given the site of the grave as a favour. Most of the graves at this stretch of Behesht-e-Zahra are unmarked. While strolling between the graves, in search for a few distant relatives in an older section of the cemetery, I found the many people remembering their dead ones a soothing experience. There's sadness, but there's also joy, friends and family coming together and having a good time, while explicitly not forgetting people they held dear and loved. However also, I passed what seemed to be a mother and daughter next to one particular grave, with fresh dates and some small snacks spread around them, remembering what seemed like a young man, I assumed the daughter's husband. And although they smiled while sitting there and lovingly offered me a snack, I also found the scene very touching, very sad even, this gentleman being left to only having two women to remember him. I suppose it reminded me of the fact that even the people who remember you, keep you alive, in a way, after you die, also at some point pass away themselves, leaving nothing but distant memories or vague stories before you disappear completely from the collective mind. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3566 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 496 [iOldID] => 861 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462144443 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 49 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.5362 [fLongitude] => 51.3702 [tLocation] => Behesht-e-Zahra [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061124 ) [4733] => Array ( [iID] => 4733 [tTitle] => Brieven aan mijn vader [tSlug] => brieven-aan-mijn-vader [iTime] => 1152568800 [iUpdate] => 1516121028 [tDescription] => Late last year, my father passed away, quite suddenly. I hadn't seen him in 26 years and was going to see him in January of this year. When he fell ill, I quickly changed my plans and went to Iran, where he was living. I arrived a day too late. I spent about four weeks in the country of my birth where I was extremely well taken care of by my family. During those four weeks and the months after, I wrote imaginary letters to my father. Combined with a bunch of photographs, these are those letters. "Brieven aan mijn vader" is Dutch for "Letters to my father". If there's enough interest, I might translate them to English someday. The reason why it has taken me so long to put these texts on-line, I think, is because by making them accessible, I also have to admit to myself that it is time to move on, which I haven't been fully sure of until recently. Update (February 2011): The website with the letters was converted to a downloadable PDF and moved to Scribd. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5999 [iClicks] => 2840 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 5 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 5 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462182975 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => 52.0109 [fLongitude] => 4.33628 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 1 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 1 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 1 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=4733 ) [439] => Array ( [iID] => 439 [tTitle] => Soccer, sad and Flickr [tSlug] => soccer-sad-and-flickr [iTime] => 1150408800 [iUpdate] => 1150408800 [tDescription] => Had a bit of a sad bout this morning while browsing through the Exclusive Books store in Sandton. I was waiting for the stationary store to go open and was overwhelmed by the many good books I'm never going to have time for to read. One interesting book, to me at least, was The Dead Man in the Bunker. For obvious reasons. Soccer fever is in full swing here, even though South Africa didn't stand a chance at making it to the final 32 at the World Cup. In 2010, SA will be hosting the event so at least, then, they will make it to the last 32. Now, on the telly at least, they're going crazy for every and any African team. Not that any are currently set to make it to the last sixteen, but anyway. Since I don't have too much work to coming my way, I'm upgrading several of my websites and creating some new ones. For one, I'm tightly integrating Flickr with my own site. The pictures below are stored on Flickr but can be seen here. This will allow me to move this website away from my current host and to the host where I'm currently hosting some 20-odd websites. Ask a ninja It should be obvious. I'm not all too busy over here in SA. But with a decent enough internet connection, I was able to stumble upon and check up on an old favorite. The rather interesting series of 'Ask a ninja'. As I also look forward to killing you soon, I very much loved this episode. Of course, because it features Dance Dance Revolution. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20060616 ) [3314] => Array ( [iID] => 3314 [tTitle] => Going to St. Ives [tSlug] => going-to-st-ives [iTime] => 1146780000 [iUpdate] => 1146780000 [tDescription] => A very interesting play. The mother of an African dictator comes to the UK for surgery and wants to have her doctor help her in killing her son. The doctor lost her only son in something of a robbery gone very wrong. The play is about the interaction between these two characters and their motives. The dialogues are good, but a bit too fast-paced, making them a bit unnatural. Interestingly, the black actress playing the mother of the African dictator is English, the white doctor is a South African actor. I thought the black actress looked just a tad too young for an aging mother of an African dictator, until I saw a picture of the actress, where she looked about thirty years too young to play the aging mother of an African dictator. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3032 [iClicks] => 2 [iRating] => 3 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 557 [iOldID] => 2583 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462108285 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.0289 [fLongitude] => 28.0297 [tLocation] => Montecasino [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20060505 ) [394] => Array ( [iID] => 394 [tTitle] => Very tough times [tSlug] => very-tough-times [iTime] => 1133132400 [iUpdate] => 1133132400 [tDescription] => The past week has been very tough. I heard on Saturday, last week, that my father had been moved to a hospital. Later it turned out he had had a heart attack and brain damage. I was going to visit Iran in January but decided to go on Saturday instead. Then, quite suddenly, on Friday morning, he passed away. Very tough times indeed. Yesterday, we buried him. I'm staying four weeks. I'm not sure if I'll be updating my blog much. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 8172 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 391 [iOldID] => 762 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462192493 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.7805 [fLongitude] => 51.364 [tLocation] => House of Nader and Parvaneh [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20051128 ) [2604] => Array ( [iID] => 2604 [tTitle] => Condolences with a twist [tSlug] => condolences-with-a-twist [iTime] => 1105657200 [iUpdate] => 1516117864 [tDescription] => I had this idea a couple of years ago, but never got round to implementing it. Maybe I will, someday, but probably I won't. So before this disappears into the farflung corners of my mind, I might as well right it down for posterity. I got the idea around the time these condolence websites were making a killing, if you pardon the pun. The idea was tomake a condolence website where visitors could burn a virtual candle for their dearly departed. The candle would burn for, say, a week. They then could purchase a virtual candle that would burn for a month, a year or longer. The coolnees factor would be increased by the collection of the candles burning for one individual to be collected into a virtual mega-candle. That way, the person with the most mourners would, in effect, have the biggest candle. Recently, I noticed a fairly new condolence website actually offering the burning of virtual candles. But they're not being aggregated into one big candle. Who knows, maybe I *will* find the time to create this website. Looking at the best and most popular Dutch condolence site,, this shouldn't be that hard. Update (13 June 2007): I stumbled upon a website with, more or less, the above setup, but simpler. It's quite popular. Maybe i should hurry? [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3801 [iClicks] => 2 [iRating] => 4 [iVote] => 10 [iVoters] => 3 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 5 [iOldID] => 1868 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462234883 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 2 [fLatitude] => 52.0109 [fLongitude] => 4.33628 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=1868 ) [284] => Array ( [iID] => 284 [tTitle] => Death of a prince [tSlug] => death-of-a-prince [iTime] => 1102806000 [iUpdate] => 1102806000 [tDescription] => Yesterday, Bernard, royal prince of the Netherlands, was buried in Delft As with the two most recent royal burials in Delft, one of which I attended, the casket was driven from The Hague to Delft, where Bernard was going to get his final resting place in the royal catacombs of the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) in Delft. Earlier this year, his wife princess Juliana (formerly the queen of the Netherlands) was also buried here. It is the same place William of Orange (Willem van Oranje) was buried. Betsy her father had come down for the occasion, all the way from Friesland, and although we arrived on the town square around 10 in the morning, some two and a half hours before Bernhard's procession would arrive there, we already had no choice but to look at people's backs, six rows deep. Later, we learned that the first of the 50.000 spectators had arrived around 6am. It was a good thing Betsy had brought a small plastic crate to stand on. It also allowed me to take loads of pictures of the many important national and international figures attending the funeral. Unfortunately, many of the pictures didn't work out well since I had to work with a large shutter time because of the gloomy weather and since I was trying to balance myself with one foot on Betsy's crate and another on the side of another crate of the girl standing next to us. Just before Bernard was carried into the church, three fighter jets and one spitfire flew over the market square in the 'missing man' formation. It was a good thing it wasn't that cold. Today, we went back to the town square, hoping we could enter the church and watch all the flowers on display for the funeral. Already mid-morning, 13.500 people had visited the church and such a large queue of people was waiting to get in, waiting times were two to three hours. In the cold, this was way too hellish to enjoy. Instead, we drove to The Hague to visit the Souterrain. Food and drinks Friday night I spent with friends, first drinking at Loos, then eating at Zinc and finishing off with some vodka at the Westelijk Handelsterrein. The drinks were on Stevie, for him buying a new home, the food was on Zwan, for him clinching the business deal of his life so far. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 7269 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 170 [iOldID] => 469 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462132145 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.0119 [fLongitude] => 4.35968 [tLocation] => Market square [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20041212 ) ) ) Keyword: death ::