Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fatherhood, again

Since this is a semi-public diary, it's also a semi-private diary. To quote Tweedledee (or was it Tweedledum?): that's logic!

And in that spirit, dear readers, I present to you one of the first known photographs of my daughter, A. Zola Sterling, born Monday.

Long may she run!

When I was registering her birth this afternoon, I received the following package from the city of Amsterdam; one can never begin too early with city marketing, apparently.

After the more: a Dutch-only joke.

De vrouw achter de balie gaf mij het pakketje aan en zei "voor de nieuwe inburger."

Freudian slip?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stop the Islamization of Europe! And Clowns.

The "Stop the Islamization of Europe" movement got a permit to hold a demonstration on the Dam on Saturday, and journalists outnumbered the demonstrators by a factor of about 5-1.

You see, international media smell a "Danish Cartoon" controversy in the making if right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders' film about the Quran is as explosive as he hopes _ and the Dutch government fears _ it is.

Of course, intrepid pudgy American reporters were on the scene.

On one side of the Dam, the "Stop Islamization"-ists attracted quite a crowd of reporters and police. Here's me trying to understand their point of view:

(looking across police lines)

On the other side, behind a row of horse-mounted police officers, were the people protesting the protesters. This young man's message was clear:

("All Racists Out Of The Country")

Got that straight? Now, the third party in the mix was a bunch of clowns.

To try to give an idea of the layout, I climbed a light post. Unfortunately the clowns had changed location, but I think this still gives a fair overview. I label the participants "Fascists, Leftists and Clowns," just as a kind of shorthand:

More pictures, including hot clown action, after the "More"

This guy was convinced Geert Wilders should go to jail for hate speech. He had kind of a Malcolm X vibe.

Some other objects of interest:

Here's a young woman (I think it was a woman!) wearing a burka. The number of women who actually wear burkas normally in the Netherlands has been estimated at less than 100, so you would be tempted to say, either her presence was an incredible coincidence, or she may have intentionally put it on today to make a point. I remark without further judgment that she was wearing jeans underneath.

Nice photo, no?

Here are some undercover cops. See how seamlessly they blend in?

Here is Ehsan Jami. He said he just happened to be walking by...

He also had a subtle security guard (far left), who looked capable of kicking some fairly major ass if the need arose.

I'd post a clip of Jami talking, but he was speaking Dutch. Also noteworthy: I believe the woman who was interviewing him is Metje Blaak, head of the prostitute's labor union. I have no idea what she was doing with a cameraman and microphone, but I'm curious to find out. She asked Jami a sneaky "one last question" _ namely, whether he had a girlfriend or not. Jami gave a roundabout 'no.'

There were a few heated discussions, but no fights. Except among clowns...


Thursday, January 24, 2008


Busy, busy busy MORE

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Red Light Fashion

(This is a model, opening the door at a fashion studio that was formerly a brothel).

One of the more interesting days I've had at work lately. I don't have much more to add to the AP story, but I wanted to paint the scene a little more.

There were dozens of camera teams out and wandering around in the Red Light, which is pretty much unheard of _ normally filming there is a good way to get yourself a black eye. I sneaked some photos, but it's unethical for me to publish them _ the "working women" are too easy to recognize. I'll just be keeping them in my *cough* private collection for the time being.

There was something very surreal about having fashion models, tour guides (with big white balloons) and the usual "who knows who they are" people that get attached to these kind of events running around amid the junkies and tourists; the streets in this part of town are extremely narrow and if just one person stops walking you get a mini traffic jam.

Plus it was raining the whole time so everybody had umbrellas. Anyhow here are some interesting tidbits from me:

This was formerly the inside of a prostitutes' sex chamber. The women I'm talking to are assistants of the designer who's taken it over. He was standing outside talking to reporters. You can see all his fabric stacked above the table; I believe the silky bench thing is original. It's hard for me to say, but I just bet it's not really the designer's taste.

Then again, I am "the rock against which the waves of fashion break."

Somebody said that about my father once, and I've been wanting to assume the mantle for some time now. Bij deze.

And here's the politician who's driving (or at least in charge of) the crackdown, Lodewijk Asscher:

Some insider junk about the Red Light after the "more"...

I love this photo. The Casa Rosso is one of the sex clubs now slated to be shut down, but the police and doorman still certainly have cordial relations: the cop stops to get a light for his cigarette.

Finally, a sex-room, still with authentic lighting (?). The mannequins are a nice touch.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Eveline Herfkens - UNDP - Millenium Goals


There's a story in the NRC today about Eveline Herfkens, the woman above, who I had never heard of before.

In short, she was asked to explain why she had received $7,000 per month, against U.N. rules, from the Dutch government for housing while she was a top official at the UNDP.

As part of my ongoing public service, here are some fragments in translation:

"Q: You were earning $160,000 after taxes. In addition (Dutch) Foreign Affairs subsidized your rent. How did that come about?
A: I went to the (Dutch) U.N. embassy and asked for help finding an apartment. I wanted three rooms, a hundred square meters (1000 square feet) and a balcony, otherwise you get claustrophobic in New York. And it had to be walking distance from the office, otherwise I'd lose time in the metro."

-NRC Handelsblad

My first reaction was that the paper was playing 'gotcha.' The longer I read, the more I could see that this was not a case of misquotation, but the rare instance of a public figure speaking freely and honestly in a way that she would very likely later regret.

People are very sensitive to (the appearance) of what Shakespeare called "the insolence of office."

(photo: dcmetroblogger)

Herfkens applied for a U.S. green card, also in violation of UNDP rules.

"The UNDP said, what you're doing is illegal, you have to quit your current contract... Everyone wanted me to stay, so they looked for a different form of contract. I started working unpaid, what did I care? I was paid retroactively eight months later.
I did that because I'm needed for the campaign that I build up from nothing in five years. The campaign succeeded in getting tens of millions of people in more than a hundred countries in motion to demand their governments keep their promises to stamp out poverty in the Millenium Declaration."

A nice exchange:

Q: You didn't know that as a U.N. diplomat you weren't supposed to accept gifts, especially not from your home country?
A: Of course not. Who would ever think that the Dutch goverment would do something against the rules. The Netherlands is such an un-be-lieve-ably goodie two shoes country. Why, should I have checked?
Q: It's in the code of ethics given to every U.N. employee.
A: Is that in there?
Q: Yes.
A: I just wanted to get going. What was my budget? How did I get a secretary? A phone? Sorry, eh, I didn't have time for that kind of thing. I had a feeling of urgency to get my work off the ground."

(photo: wiseacre)

In addition, she only flies business class:

"Of course I understand that some people think that's luxurious. Those are people who only fly for vacation. For me, there were practical reasons. If you fly economy class, you have to check in much earlier. I'm not going to waste any time on that...If I work fewer hours, if I'm less efficient because economy class is more tiring _ So I consider that too."


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Work supercedes Blog

(I had to pull my earlier post because it seemed like a conflict of interest for me to put the photos on my site while it's not clear who owns the copyright to them and they are newsworthy. Hopefully I'll restore it when this is "old news" again.)

AP story on Joran van der Sloot

Screen grabs of the incident are available on Francisco van Jole's flickr feed:

The film (in Dutch) is on:

Watch minutes 3-4.

Van der Sloot's mother was left to try to smooth things over:

Corrie Gerritsma

For a nice website on evidence in the Holloway case without any nutso raving, I recommend:


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joran van der Sloot loses temper after Dutch TV interview

(photos are copyrighted by francisco van jole, at full resolution on his Flickr feed

Friday night was supposed to be Joran van der Sloot's "final" goodbye interview with the Dutch press. He appeared with both his parents and left most of the talking to them. Nothing much interesting was said, or done, until the moment the "live" cameras stopped rolling.

Then, Joran threw his glass of wine in the face of one of the show's other guests, crime reporter Peter R. De Vries.

De Vries had zeroed in on several uncomfortable inconsistencies in Joran's story, and hammered on him being a liar. Of course Joran himself has admitted he lied to police in the early part of the investigation into Natalee Holloway's disappearance, but it apparently angered him to have his nose rubbed in it.

For background, De Vries is known in the Netherlands as kind of a real life "Tintin." He has a TV show where he cracks cases where the police have given up or failed. He went to Aruba to solve the Holloway's disappearance, but didn't unearth much new.

He does say he believes Van der Sloot knows what happened to Natalee.

An eyewitness account of the incident:
"There really wasn't very much discussion, because De Vries wasn't given any room for it by the hosts.
"Joran presented himself very calmly, but apparently he was boiling with rage within and couldn't control himself."
(after the wine was thrown:) Panic. De Vries yelled that it was stinging his eyes, his wife went to get water. Joran disappeared quickly from the studio with his father, and the audience was saying 'ooh' and 'aah' and 'why on earth'?"

Van der Sloot's mother was left to try to smooth things over:
(Quotes and photo from Corrie Gerritsma but it's Dutch language; for full resolution. De Vries is on far left.)

NOS news interviewed De Vries about the incident.

"This says something about Joran of course...he can't doesn't have complete control over his behavior. His parents did their best during the program to underline that he had manners, that he treated girls properly, and that there are some things that he really wouldn't do. Now, this is something that if you had asked them before the show, they probably would have said, 'my child wouldn't do that'."

Joran declined to be interviewed about the incident.

"His mother of course, looked very foolish. She had just done her best to protect him, to portray him as a well-raised boy; and at the moment that he does something like that, all their efforts are negated in an instant."
-De Vries.

De Vries was strongest when questioning why Joran decided to lie, and co-ordinate a lie, with his friends, from the very start.

Again, for a nice website on evidence in the Holloway case without any nutso raving, I recommend:


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hot Diggety _U.S. Politics!

(obama campaign)

When was the last time you heard someone say that?

I've been enjoying watching the U.S. primaries, and _ speaking as an American, and a reporter immune to *all* political preferences _ I've immensely enjoyed things so far.

First I had to endure hearing Dutch people telling me about how Americans were incapable of voting for a black person _ until Obama won in Iowa.

Then I got to watch all the U.S. polls be wildly, totally wrong about Hillary in New Hampshire _ which means, for years to come, candidates who are behind will be able to say _ legitimately _ that the polls don't matter. And that means, the press will have to take longshots more seriously.

I have to say I'm thrilled with a wide open race on both sides. I honestly think this is good for democracy, that candidates will have to slug it out for a nomination, instead of a coronation.

It's not hard to see scenarios where things are still undecided AFTER 'Super Tuesday' and then what? Guiliani, McCain, Huckabee, Obama, Clinton, Clinton, Edwards, Bloomberg, Gore (?!) Horse trading, joint tickets, cabinet posts promised...

And then, just imagine if in the general election, instead of choosing on the basis of which of the two politicians you hated less, you got to choose between which of two you liked more?

My cup floweth over:

(photos:sterik valens)

Okay, I'm jaded enough that I don't think that's very likely. But you never know.

Bragging rights:

Earlier post on my dad meeting Obama.

p.s. to make things politically level: my stepmom has met Huckabee...

Monday, January 7, 2008


Plural noun. Literally, "Oil balls."

Oliebollen are deep-fried dough balls. They are traditionally dusted with powdered sugar and eaten on New Year's Eve, then vomited early on New Year's Day.

Pronunciation: OH-lee-Bo-luh

A new year, a new project... MORE

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Years Eve attack in Rotterdam foiled?

(photo: miriam mannak)

Another day, another massive front page story by De Telegraaf somewhat spoiled by an outright denial.

The gospel truth is that three men were arrested in Rotterdam on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack.

De Telegraaf was way, way ahead of the pack, reporting in this morning's paper _ on the basis of anonymous sources _ that the attack was targeting Rotterdam's landmark Erasmus bridge.

However, after the men were arraigned today, prosecutors released the following statement:

"The suggestion in De Telegraaf this morning that the possible violent act was supposedly directed at the New Year's party in Rotterdam was fabricated out of thin air."

After the escaped gorilla story, you have to wonder what De Telegraaf _ the largest daily in the country _ is doing.

I wonder if this could be related to the latest data out today showing all major daily papers losing more subscribers (though declines were smaller this time).

Anyhow, watch out for those anonymice!
(photo: alBaqir)


That said, it's too bad to hear that the Dutch secret service thinks there are people out there trying to mount an attack. Just when things appeared to be cooling down a little in this country...


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy 2008 from Amsterdam!

This could be any street corner in the city last night/this morning.

The Dutch love their fireworks. NOS reported 176 hospital visits due to firework injuries in A'dam, R'dam, The Hague, and Utrecht alone.

I felt there was also a little violence in the air, and various news programs today are backing that up (as well as showing amazing footage of an old building on the Herengracht, central Amsterdam, burning down).

It's like, this is a country full of people are so repressed that when they get a chance to misbehave, they want to go nuts.

Actually, I guess it was that way in Paris too, around "La Republique," during their summer "City of Light" festival.

The location is Ceintuurbaan and Hemonystraat, one street over from the Amstel River, between "Taco Mundo" and "Cafe Bloemers."

Despite the poor footage, I was completely sober.