Friday, December 19, 2008

Silver statue fragment

Silver statue fragment, originally uploaded by Susanne Boger.

Photo by Leighton Cooke
Part of a series of designs by Susanne Boger

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Leighton's Ray Bans

Cookiemouse Ray Ban's, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.
Today the weather was rather mixed, so I only needed my trademark Ray Ban's for part of the afternoon. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Manjushri, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

The other day I passed by the Palbu Tibetan craft store in the center of Amsterdam, where I saw this beautiful thangka of Manjushri, the Mahayana Buddhist bodhisattva of wisdom.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giovanni Sollima plays biennale cello

This new cello was built during the Amsterdam Cello Biennale.
Giovanni Sollima played "Terra Aria" to try out the instrument for the first time.
It would be varnished at a later date.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Amsterdam photographer Danielle back to back

Amsterdam photographer Danielle Cornelissen also likes to be a photomodel as well as a photowoman. She has a great sense of humor as this spontaneous street shot shows.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Marshall McLuhan understanding blogging

The universe decided to give me the Marshall McLuhan classic "Understanding Media" yesterday. We are starting a blogging workshop in OBA this coming Sunday, starting at 3pm. This is one picture option for the flyer.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amsterdam Cello Biennale

A short animated slideshow of some of the photos I made recently at the Amsterdam Cello Biennale.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cookie Mouse winks again!

Cookie Mouse winks again!, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

The little winking Cookie mouse has had a makeover, boosting the color a bit and cropping the right and bottom edges.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rick Sammon's Top Ten Digital Photography Tips

Some practical tips on how to take great photographs. Get in close and fill the frame is my photography mantra. Rick has some good advice for us on how to improve the quality of our images.

Green Tara

This beautiful Tara can be seen in the Temple bookstore, Prins Hendrikkade 20-21, Amsterdam (opposite the Centraal Station)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Giovanni Sollima

Sollima tries out the biennale cello in Amsterdam last Saturday in the Muziekgebouw aan 't Ij.
Works, Hell I - Giovanni Sollima

Monday, May 26, 2008

The open society and its enemies in Amsterdam

In 1945 my mother was evicted from the miner's cottage she grew up in, shortly after the death of my grandfather. The trauma of being thrown out onto the street stayed with her all her life. The year before, my late father-in-law took part in Operation Market Garden during which many Allied soldiers lost their lives while helping to liberate the Netherlands. This was a history lesson I had to give a Dutch TV reporter today, when he asked how many Poles were in the building that was illegally evicted early on Saturday morning. As it happens most of the occupants were Dutch. Very early in the morning on the Eerste Oosterparkstraat in Amsterdam Dutch riot police entered the apartments while most people were sleeping and dragged them out onto the streets. The police also used pepper spray to pacify people, and according to witnesses who spoke to me, two were badly beaten. 51 people were arrested and 15 are still unaccounted for. So far only three have been given access to a lawyer. Everyone that was there had all of their property taken from them and it was only after a loud noise demonstration outside police headquarters that an agreement was reached so that the property would be returned. According to an eye witness, the riot police banged in the door and asked for someone's ID. It is not a legal requirement to carry ID inside your house in Holland (at least not yet) so the ID was not shown, with the result that the squatter was dragged out onto the street and arrested, as were 51 others. These apartments are still the subject of a court case and the eviction by the police was illegal. Today at 3.30pm I was denied access to the press conference given by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, so I did not get the chance to ask him the reason why this had to happen.
The police claim to have discovered weapons in the apartments such as a hockey stick and some knives. Most houses have knives to use in the kitchen, and I'm not aware that playing hockey is illegal. They are trying to spin this story as some kind of "war on terror" action, rather than what it really is, a typical Dutch cock-up. In the newspapers there is a nice list of the different nationalities that were present in the building and these included British and Polish nationals. My father-in-law was British and served his country well in 1945. Many Poles lost their lives in the Battle of Britain. This is a sad tale of media hype to paint a picture of a squatting movement intent on violence and disorder. Perhaps, Mr Cohen, you should think of the positive contribution that the alternative scene has made to the international image of Amsterdam as a tolerant and open city.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We're the famous Cardiff City and we do the Ayatollah

They say you can take the boy out of Wales, but you can't take Wales out of the boy. Which is why this Saturday I will be glued to the box watching Cardiff City playing in the FA Cup final at Wembley. The last time Cardiff won the cup was in 1927 (that's nearly half past seven!) so it is high time we taught the English the Ayatollah! As always on these great occasions of local patriotism music is part of the action. Cardiff is a media capital so we all have to do our bit to support the "Bluebirds Flying High" by James Fox. Maybe we can get it to number one in the charts by Saturday? Over to you Chalky!

There is a beautiful Norwegian church in Cardiff Bay and as Saturday is the Norwegian National Day we should also remember that many Cardiffians have Viking blood. Cardiff City Supporters of Norway is preparing a double celebration.
Norwegian TV celebrity Tore Stromoy, who was at the semi final said: "It's quite fantastic [for Cardiff City] to be in the FA Cup final. And the best is that it's on Norway's national day, the 17th of May." Maybe I can persuade Milena to start a Croatian Cardiff City fan club? Were there any Vikings in the Adriatic? They made it as far as Sicily so you never know.

It's a proud moment for a Cardiff boy. All I need now is a six pack of Brain's SA and a City T shirt, and it's sorted, clarts! It's gonna be tidy! We're the famous Cardiff City and we do the Ayatollah!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Join decision making

Why do people join groups? Why do people buy stuff? According to Darren of ProBlogger because other people do. He calls it social decision making and says it has improved his affiliate marketing sales. There is a book about a guy who put an ad in a newspaper and said just "Join me!" and people did. I've not read it yet, but I'm going to keep a look out for it.

Maybe we should put an ad on Craigslist and say "Join us!"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Whatever happened to Polaroid?

Technology comes and goes, and often stuff gets left behind and becomes no more than a nostalgic memory. So it is that I've become sentimental about Polaroid, even though I never owned one of their cameras. Still I now have the possibility to produce digital Polaroids with a mouse click. Derivative art, post modern kitsch or call it what you will. Where are the boundaries of the real? Recently I've got into the habit of reading books again, curled up on my couch with a cup of green tea, without a care in the world. Pining for B&W film on a recent visit to Enschede in Holland I came accross The Impossible Project who are making film for Polaroid cameras, so Polaroid lovers, check them out!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tibet Amsterdam demo, 31/3

On Monday, March 31 there was a demonstration on Dam Square, Amsterdam on behalf of Tibet. These two videos show the speech made by Tsering Jampa, director of the International Campaign for Tibet in the Netherlands. The demo was part of a worldwide day of action.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eyes of the world on Beijing...Free Tibet

Tibet has a right to self determination. How can we hold the Olympics in Beijing this summer, when human rights are being abused in China?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prayers for a free Tibet!

Prayers for a free Tibet!, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

Peace and freedom are indivisible. In the year when China wishes to hold the Olympic Games, they should show mercy and justice to the Tibetan people. This picture was taken in Monmouthshire, Wales.

Update: China has closed Tibet to the media and is censoring and blocking news websites. Here is the letter sent to the Chinese embassy by the editor of the Guardian. How can anybody now justify holding the Olympics in China?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Green and fairtrade shopping online

Shopping and caring for the planet is relatively easy in a big city, where there are lots of specialized stores and products available. But what do you do if you live in a remote area? Shop online? Well now there is thepurplebook green, an eco-friendly guide by Hillary Mendelsohn to shopping online. There are over 400 store listings, keyed with little helpful symbols denoting fair trade practices, recycled materials, and the like. You can also visit our new Cookiemouse Store which has a section on recommended eco-friendly and fairtrade products. More and more people are doing their shopping online and there is a growing need for useful information on products that can help to reduce our environmental footprint. Did you know that just by turning off the water when you brush your teeth can make huge savings. Also not getting a receipt from ATMs could save thousands of trees if everybody did it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

German police dogs get shoes

Today saw the beginning of the end for German Parmesan as the European Court of Justice dealt with the question of what is Parmesan. The German government argued that in Germany Parmesan was a generic name for hard cheese. However the court said that only the authentic product bearing the name "Parmigiano Reggiano" could be sold using the name.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet." said Juliet. It is an old trick. A specific product is given the name of a similar, but better, more exclusive product in the hope that more people will buy it. Sherry, champagne and feta cheese all have their names protected for the same reason, to prevent cheap imitations spoiling the reputation and the sales of the brand. But how do we decide on the names of things? By common consent or after a struggle over markets and definitions. What would happen if I called my cat "iPod?" Could Apple sue me? Of course not. Often the naming process ends up with the top brand (such as Hoover or Biro) ending up being the general name. (Don't worry by the way. We'll get to those police dogs in a minute.) Thus we google as well as search. In the future the German consumer will not need to worry about where the Parmesan came from. Words have power, and so it is that people will go to great lengths to protect them. Not just consumer products but also ideas are subject to the same struggles over ownership. Copyright and patents are the subject of much political and legal debate at the moment. One issue in particular is of vital importance to future generations. As a result of the trend by biotechnology companies to patent seeds, much of the world's food diversity is being put at risk. Recently India and Pakistan have taken steps to protect the name and the genetics of Basmati rice from attempts to patent them. Brand recognition means big bucks and so the temptation to deceive is also great. But what about the German shepherd dogs with shoes? Well they got them because of an idea maybe. The dogs are being given shoes in Dusseldorf because of broken glass on the streets in the famous Altstadt where the Cookiemouse has drunk many glasses of Altbier, one of the best beers in the world. Some years ago, in order to help the environment, the German government put a deposit on cans of beer, and so the glass bottle became popular again. Sadly it seems that the habit of throwing the empties on the street also caught on to the extent that the poor police dogs now need boots! Last night I had to walk home because a piece of broken glass punctured my bicycle tyre. So a plea to drunks with empty beer bottles to dispose of. Can you maybe think of the dogs and bicycles who have to deal with the consequences of your throwaway mentality? Ideas tend to develop a life of their own. Now it seems that as well as giving a dog a bad name, we can also damage its paws with our carelessness. To close on a positive note here is some random Berlin photography that's well worth looking at, and a Lhasa Apso snowdog in Central Park. Wonder if he needs boots?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chalky!

Happy Birthday, Chalky!, originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

Do you know who was number one when you were born? In 1950 when I saw the light of day the best selling song was "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino. On my birthday Nat King Cole was number one with "Mona Lisa" which is still one of my all time favourites. Chalky shares her birthday with Nina Simone, which seems only fitting for the writer of a blog called Terrible Love Songs and so Chalky, I would like to wish you a great day, and thanks for the tea tips!
Here is my Nat King Cole favourite, with George Shearing on piano. This song cures all known ills, at least for me!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some random search and browser numbers

After the recent takeover bid for Yahoo I thought I would check some of the search and browser numbers for the Cookie Mouse blog. Almost 99% of my search traffic came from Google, while just under 2% came from Yahoo. No wonder Yahoo must be worried. MSN was nowhere to be seen. Then when I looked at the browser numbers I got another surprise. Check this out:
Internet Explorer 48.92%
Firefox 41.35%
Safari 9.19%
Opera 0.54%
Now for me the Firefox number is the big surprise, much higher than I would have expected. These are the Wikipedia web browser stats which give Firefox a much lower percentage. OK, my little blog may not be representative but I'll be following this trend. Open source seems to be far more widespread than media reports indicate. So here's a little promo for the browser I use most myself. The other one I use is Safari as I have a MacBook.
Firefox 2
The most popular pages were, hardly surprising, the chocolate pages and I must say that I can think of a few worse niches to be in.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Polaroid...instant art moves on

Polaraude..., originally uploaded by Cookiemouse.

We must say goodbye to the Polaroid picture as the company announces that it will be ceasing production of the film for its cameras. The technology that produced this picture is what brought it to an end. Digital is instant so the demand for instant film has disappeared. Nowadays we upload via our mobile phones. The image has become ubiquitous. Yet it was Polaroid that first got rid of the middle man and allowed us to see our pictures just after we took them. Speed mattered more than quality. When I was small I had my picture taken at the beach with my mother(left) and my aunt. The photographer sent us the picture later, through the post. Polaroid changed all that, and now, like the cassette tape Walkman and the VCR, has become part of the history of technology.

The ability to produce instant content and publish it from just about anywhere is one of the forces that is driving the information revolution. Words and images become memes that spread virally, self organizing and building new connections. Sonia is back blogging and has posted a book meme, which is also a form of instant art that depends upon the speed of the spread of ideas. Most of my philosopher friends are not post-modernists, but somehow the news of the demise of the Polaroid after such a short period (around forty years) does leave me in a mood to deconstrust my world view and to realize how transient it is.
My Polaroid Blog

Thursday, February 07, 2008

tuttobene... innovative design collaboration

The Amsterdam public library had a presentation about innovation in the city today. Young designers showcased some of their new ideas on the various floors of the building. Tuttobene were on the ground floor. Their website says that they like "design with guts, that is visually challenging and tells a good story too.

Tuttobene believes that design has a strong influence in making changes, not only visual changes, but also in a cultural or social way.
The environmental and social consequences of many items that we produce cannot be neglected. But we are consumers too and are seduced by beautiful objects. Therefore Tuttobene stands for design that contributes to a economic, ecological and social sound world, design that initiates from designers that are aware of the consequences of their actions and that suits a wide range of our human demands."

Amsterdam wishes to promote itself as a knowledge capital and centre for ICT. The Dutch have always been famous for design. I like Tuttobene's ecological approach and was happy to see that some of the products they had on display were made with recycled materials, including this bag.

The project follows the "cradle to cradle" design philosophy invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same title. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not only efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical material that can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality, or biological nutrients that can be composted or consumed.

Chinese Buddhist New Year, Amsterdam

Kuan Yin receives the new year offerings at the Mahayana Buddhist temple on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam's Chinatown. The traditional new year service started just before midnight, and afterwards we all received some small presents as blessings for the coming (Cookie)mouse year, which the nuns said would be good for prosperity and success. It was a lovely moment and I was quite moved by everyone's quiet sincerity and devotion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cookie mouse year mission statement

This is ground control to Major Tom. The Beatles went "Across the Universe" yesterday. Thanks to Chalky's Terrible Love Songs for putting me on to this event, as well as introducing me to Cat Power. Here's one of their laid back tracks:

Now to the mission. Cookie Mouse already has a fair trade, organic mission statement. Now Cookie Book needs one too. With the Chinese and Tibetan New Year almost upon us this seems like a good time for some more resolutions as well as a few fortune cookies. More green issues again maybe, or how about some art? Photography would be cool as it is one of my passions. I feel the need to focus on something that is creative but also allows me to dabble in the music and ideas that I like. So if anyone out there has any ideas I'm open to suggestions. I'm looking for another niche and the challenge of trying to find and develop it. While I'm fascinated by the internet I'm no expert and at best report ideas developed by others in that field. So don't be shy. What would you do with a blog that has a middling page rank but needs a sense of direction?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

HitTail, the long tail of natural search

For some time now I have been using the HitTail keyword long tail search service. HitTail works on the principle that it is the long tail of infrequent natural search hits that can be built upon to build traffic. This video by the developer explains how it works. I have found it to be a most useful tool in helping to understand just what my readers were looking for.

Do you like nostalgia? The Superimposers are a Beatles/Beach Boys duo featured today on Chalky's Terrible Love Songs. "The Superimposers are Dan Warden and Miles Copeland, a London based duo (not American as I originally thought). If you haven't heard The Superimposers before, I'd describe them as The Beach Boys meets The Beatles meets Air meets something in 1950's America-there are a lot of other hints and flavours in their songs but I can't quite put my finger on them yet... worth a listen." says Chalky.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

To be or not to be...symmetrical or asymmetrical

Symmetry or asymmetry? When I saw these two books together I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of titles. The one book says that we exist because of asymmetry while the other says that the beauty of symmetry shapes the world. You pays your money and takes your choice. Could it be that Newton found the symmetry and quantum mechanics the asymmetry? I have just started reading both books, by Frank Close and Nobel Laureate Christopher T. Hill, so I'm not yet ready to give an opinion but I'm somehow fascinated by the possibility that they are both right. Here we go down the rabbit hole with Alice. It's like that in music too. Harmony and disharmony together in a dance. I'm listening to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as I'm writing this. Is it not the interplay of opposites that makes the whole dance possible? Thesis, antithesis and synthesis and...
Don't think I'm gonna sort this out tonight so I'll just listen to Diana Krall and Tony Bennett. They have the world on a string.

A last word from William Blake perhaps:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Leonard Cohen miracle worth waiting for

This year the maestro will be on tour. Thanks to Terrible Love Songs for this great news. Apparently he is heading for Europe in the summer. Leonard Cohen Forum The first Cohen album I bought was Songs From A Room and that was A Long Time Ago. Leonard Cohen is my favourite musical poet. For me his music is timeless and unique. Now that Oscar Peterson is gone he must surely take the crown as Canada's national treasure?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Talking Teddy Afro with Ethiopian friends

This evening I had supper with some friends from Ethiopia. The food was simple Italian and we drank of course good Ethiopian coffee and the mood was convivial. We spoke of the politics and culture of the country, but mostly we spoke of food and music. The track below and in the sidebar was the one my friends spoke of most. I am a big fan of Ethiopian music though the language barrier means I don't know much about it. Thanks to my friends, though, I'm picking up some tips that I can share with my readers. Sometimes we need to get into another cultural orbit to experience new ideas and to appreciate things from a different perspective. Today I also made another nice discovery thanks to a comment left on Chocolate Covered Vegan by Lizzy of Trying Veganism. I found her interesting Street Art in Kreuzberg on Picasa, which got me thinking that maybe I should put together a nice album on Google's photo sharing platform. At present my pictures there are just a cluttered mess. Sometimes I think that, just as in life, we leave behind a trail of unfinished bits and pieces on the internet. Like all those unread books that one day we will get around to reading we have a blog here, a social network there, gathering virtual dust. Every day I postpone the inevitable upcoming internet spring clean. Does anyone else have a trail they left behind on the web that they feel is in need of a cleanup? I know I won't make a start today. The weather is too bad and I want to listen to some nice music.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mr Scruff and why the internet is lovely

Finding something new is always exciting and for me finding exciting new music is always cool so I am grateful to Terrible Love Songs for helping me find Get A Move On as well as a lot of other cool stuff. I woke up the Amsterdam public library when I clicked on her blog and music blasted out of the MacBook but nobody noticed here on the fifth floor where most of the students sit. This is an amazing building and much more than a traditional library with lots of desktop internet terminals, and ongoing art exhibitions and events for both children and adults. In fact there are so many lovely distractions that I hardly get to read a book! It's no longer as quiet as in the picture, which was taken just after the opening.

I did manage to find a book to read, James Gleick's biography of Isaac Newton, without whom I would not be writing this now. Newton seems fitting reading, surrounded as we are with all of the technology whose very foundations lay in his ideas and contribution to science. Thanks to his laws we must keep on moving. The internet is indeed lovely! Would the world be a better or worse place if Newton had never lived? Joli weekend, mes amis!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pirates fight copyright's brave new world

Chalky (of Terrible Love Songs)and I were just commenting on synchronicity and once again I found myself looking back at another of my oldest Penguins, Huxley's Brave New World. Thanks to Josef's United Diversity I came across this Google video on the brave new world of copyright and patent law. (Below)
The subject is the connection between copyright, patent law and civil liberties. I know from the Navdanya seed saving project in India and the Monsanto terminator seed fiasco just how scary patents can be (in that particular case patenting the very seeds of life itself!) but this was the first time I was made aware of just how central copyright laws are to our basic freedoms. The Pirate Party is based in Sweden but is also part of a worldwide movement that wishes to reform copyright laws so that we all have the right to our privacy and to end the commercial exploitation of intellectual property rights to the detriment of the freedom of information.
"The fight against copyright aggression tends to focus on economic aspects of the shift to a networked economy. Rick explains how this conflict is much more important than that: the fight against the copyright regime is about the right to fundamental civil liberties - down to the postal secret, whistleblower protection, freedom of the press, and the very right to an identity. Rick Falkvinge is the founder and leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, as well as the founder of the international politicized pirate movement. His leadership and vision took the Pirate Party from nothing into the top ten parties in the last Swedish general election, without a dime in the campaign chest. His personal candidacy came in at rank #15 out of over 5,000 candidates for the 349 parliamentary seats." writes Josef on United Diversity. Watch this video if you value your liberty!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

La Nausée

This book was one of the very first paperbacks I ever bought. The Sartre classic seems these days to belong to another age. This is the 1965 Penguin Modern Classic with the Dali cover that was still being used in 1972 and I remember this seven year period of my life as being the time when the world changed forever. I was living in London at the time and had a French girlfriend who was also very much into Sartre and Chanel, a combination that was irresistible. As I said in another post on Cookie Mouse
"No book was ever more seminal in my development and as I return to it again over forty years later I realise what a profound effect Jean Paul Sartre had on both my thinking and my unconscious mind. Like an individual archetype he stands colossal in my memory and in my mind's eye. The English Penguin edition was my most prized possession and when I later learned French it became the paperback I used to pose with on the rive gauche. Avec Gaulloises, naturellement! It so impressed the first love of my life, Josette, that she asked me to a party in London and I got my first bottle of Chanel Pour homme for Christmas, 1968."
It amuses me to think that "la nausée" is the second most popular search keyword for my blog. Is Sartre still so popular or are a lot of French speakers not feeling very well at the moment?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Small is Beautiful...

Yet a another new title for this blog. The last one was the same as a web design company and could end up leading to confusion. Wanting to stay somewhere near Cookie mouse I googled Cookie book and the search result was promising. Only the other day I was thinking it is time to read a few books and when I saw a new comment on my Satre Penguin photo it made up my mind for me. So I'll be off to the bookstores more often in the near future to look for a good read. We all spend a lot of time online these days so it is perhaps a good idea to balance that out with something different. Books are old school IT and a very different way of thinking about and interacting with the world of ideas. So Cookie Book it is.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

DP Logo with slogans

DP Logo with slogans, originally uploaded by Chris Saad.

Scoble Facebook account disabled

Uberhacker Scoble has been chucked off Facebook. I picked this up on Mashable and nearly wet myself laughing. After all the old rascal is asking a fair question as to to who owns your social graph, you or FB? They offer us a free service and we offer them loads of free content and free information in return, but they don't seem to like it when someone tries to move their stuff elsewhere. All this happens just when I decided to add my sparkling new year mugshot (to your left) to my FB profile as I thought it looked shady enough for Zuikerberg's pot of gold. Ah well, nice one Scoble, and keep up the good work. Some of these issues are being adressed by a site well worth checking out. Somehow FB seems so last year these days, but the lemmings keep on signing up. I'd rather stick with blogging and work for myself, thanks. But first I need some coffee, fairtrade and organic as ever.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 will be a very good year!

On the streets of Amsterdam the Champagne flows as 2008 comes in with a bang as usual. Manon turned up for our end of year dinner which was fantastic. It was very Italian. Peppers stuffed with goat's cheese and olives stuffed with peppers as antipasti followed by Bruschetta and onion soup and spaghetti pesto genovese (to celebrate Manon's new Italian base). Cosy as we were with our bubbly, pasta and espresso we had to check out the big Dutch New Year bang. And bang it did loud and clear. Our poor dog was terrified by all the loud noises. When I tried to take him out yesterday afternoon a banger went off just outside the door and so poor Freako ran terrified back upstairs and hid in the corner till it was all over. We went to the Nieuwmarkt, which was terribly crowded as always, and it all went boom, boom, boom! At midnight we celebrated with of all things cans of Heineken as we had run out of bubbly earlier on. One Welshman, one Italian and one Dutch girl in a crowd of happy and crazy revelers said cheers and welcomed in the new year. Some of the fireworks were so loud that you could feel the force of the explosion. Someone gave me a bottle of Luxembourg Cremant which was very tasty. The year started lucky and happy so I think that 2008 will be a very good year. I thought of taking my camera with me downtown but then decided not to under the crazy circumstances. After all, if a picture is a thousand words then a thousand words could make a picture. People with mobile phones were all taking loads of pictures anyway. I'd be curious to see what some of them turned out like in the dark and jolly chaos. Someone asked me if I had made a new year resolution. To be happy I replied and afterwards I thought of our dinner table chat the evening before. We talked about how young Dutch kids no longer know what to believe in a world overloaded with information and how to keep the nasty big picture at a distance and create your own world. I was as usual ranting on about the big picture and upon reflection found myself agreeing with the Dutch point of view. Holland is a peaceful country and we are lucky here to still enjoy tolerance and freedom. As one particularly loud bang went off and its shockwave hit me for a brief moment I counted myself lucky that it was just a firework. My resolution? To look for and tell the truth within my area of competence and to create that positive small world that my Dutch friend described. Have a wonderful 2008, people, and let the heart be with you!