Monday, June 30, 2008

Spiritually unclean dogs ?

1. E-mail from Kaustubh
I received an e-mail from Kaustubh yesterday. He said that he encountered the following news in Times of India, and he asked my opinion.

Being touched by sniffer dogs 'unIslamic': UK Muslims
London: British transport police sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers after complaints that it is against the suspects' religion.

A transport department report has raised the prospect that animals should only touch passengers' luggage because it is considered "more acceptable."

In the Muslim faith, dogs are deemed to be spiritually "unclean", but banning them from touching passengers would severely restrict their ability to do their job.

The report follows the trials of station security measures in the wake of the 2005 London suicide bomb attacks. In one trial, some female Muslims said the use of a body scanner was also unacceptable because it was tantamount to being forced to strip.

British transport police last night insisted that it would still use sniffer dogs — which are trained to detect explosives — with any passengers regardless of faith, but handlers would remain aware of "cultural sensitivities".

Critics said the complaints were just the latest example of minority religions trying to force their rules and morals on British society. During the trials, passengers stopped in London had their bags checked by dogs. But in Brighton, dogs patrolled the station and were walked past passengers. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic human rights commission, said even dogs touching baggage would be an issue for a Muslim preparing to pray. But said it is fine to allow dogs to check passengers without physical contact. ANI

2. My personal opinion
The major problem in current muslim society is the tendency to interpret everything too literally. I do not see any logic behind considering dogs "spiritually unclean".

So, this must be just an exaggaration and misinterpretation of a religious tradition. The dogs in railway stations there are not used for fun, they are used for security purposes. If you are that sensitive as a muslim, then just wipe the place the dog sniffed afterwards :), that simple.

3. My search over internet

  1. There is a hadith by Prophet Mohammad saying that a container must be washed if a dog licks it or eats/drinks from it. I guess this is the basis of the reaction of british muslims to sniffing dogs. However, many hostorical islamic jurists argued that this was due to health reasons: to prevent disease spread from dog's saliva since it may contain viruses. This makes very much sense, and something to be appreciated: hygenity 1400 years ago!. So, nobody says that they are spiritually unclean.
  2. It is known that black dogs were seen as evils in pre-Islamic arab mythology. It seems that this belief later interfered the islamic belief, and led to "spiritual uncleanness" myth.
  3. Shia islam and three of the equally-respected four subsects of Sunni islam consider dogs unclean mostly based on the above hadith in 1st point.
  4. The other subsect of Sunni Islam, Maliki, says that dogs are clean, unlike the other three (based on 4th point below).
  5. There is no ban in Islam to use dogs as hunters or farm-keepers or shepherd-helpers etc. There is even this verse: "What is lawful to you is that which is good and pure and also what you have trained your hunting animals to catch in the manner directed to you by Allah." (5:4). For sure, dog is one of the hunting animals, and nothing was stated after this verse about not to use dogs as hunting animals. Additionally, since hunting animal brings the game on their mouth, this fact indirectly suggests purity of dog saliva. (basis for Maliki view).
  6. In Koran, the story of seven-sleepers and their dogs are mentioned in a positive way; and there is nothing condemning dogs.
  7. There is another hadith by the prophet Mohammad about a prostitute who was forgiven by God because of giving water to a thirsty dog.

  • So, in summary; "spiritually unclean dog" contradicts with islam.
  • There are muslims who follow other schools than Maliki. They can consider dogs as unclean. However, they must keep in mind that this was for cleanness. This was not an advise to hate dogs.
  • I do not agree with the reactions of Muslims mentioned in the article of Times of India based on the bullets above. For me, security issues must be the priority; and I guess there are examples of changing of rules due to such priorities in the Prophet's life, based on logic.
  • As Kaustubh commented, such things make people more suspicious about islam, and makes general opinion about islam worse. So, much care is needed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The board of the week

The above board photo is about two-weeks old. I took the photo and erased the board, also removed the Antilles-tutorial.

On the left is a barbecue drawn by Ewoud, a stick-man drawn by Maikel, and the smoke drawn by me. The drawings were made in the same day we had our BBQ party in Funenpark roof with the group. There are also some notes regarding my Cheesy epiphany. On the lower left is the names of magpies, crows and their dutch versions, due to a discussion with Maikel. Other drawings below the Antilles-tutorial is by Maikel I guess, I do not have any idea.

Filipe's board
Filipe had written a farewell-message to our board in office C7.12, in Portuguese. It is still on the board, and I asked Serge to take a photo of the board few days ago. Even the green drawings he made for christmas is partly there.

I thought it would be nice to put this here, to give Filipe another proof that he had really been here, spent times here..

BBQing again

I wanted to check the barbecue before going to shopping; but it was not anywhere in the roof! I told Vahid, and we had a search in the whole building, we could not find it.

We decided to use the tablegrill- the christmas gift of UvA. I called Emrah in the meanwhile. Then he called back and said that they will bring a barbecue grill.

They brought a newly-bought bucket barbecue. We have grilled lambs, sucuks, red paprikas, and marinated chicken wings I had bought from iranian supermarket at Dapperstraat yesterday. Or to be more correct, Emrah and Çağrı were our barbecue-guys.

We also had bulgur salad, prepared in my place with the help of Sara; and a pasta-salad by Sara.

How to marinate chicken
I took recipe from Sara, who took it from the guy in iranian supermarket. I modified it a bit.
  • Mix kip kruid (chicken spice) with olive oil so that they form a paste
  • Add a bit pomegranate sauce
  • Apply the paste to the chicken wings
  • Put the wings into a container with chopped onions
  • Leave them marinate.
Seven of us spent very nice time together in the roof, and later in my place for drinking tea and eating pumpkin seeds.

It was very funny to discover words which were common in all three languages: iranian, turkish and greek. Tiryaki (addicted) and hamal were two of them. Yorgos told me that they have surnames like "Kuyumcu", but people do not know that they are turkish words. They even say "yalanci sarma" (fake wrapping), an exactly turkish name, for rice wrapped with grape leaves. They call it fake since that dish does not include meat. Funny to know :)

I am glad that I met Yorgos. This was the first time in my life that I chatted with a greek person. He is such a nice person. Very open-minded, with very turkish appearance. I learned that he was from Mora peninsula, the hand-like part of Greece; and this part is actually an island now since there is a canal to make ship transport easier between western and eastern part of the country.

Gözde said that she was accepted to a program in Amsterdam for the next internship. It was also good to hear that she very much enjoyed the time spent together. I will talk to her to convince her to take more serious decisions on her future life :).

I found the following receipt in one of the bags Emrah and Çağrı:

Farewell Dinner of Walid

We gathered in Sara-Vahid's place yesterday evening at around 20:00 with Walid, since he was leaving Amsterdam.

I learned new things about Singapore and Iran.

At one time during the chat, Vahid asked me if we know "Leyla and Mecnun". "Of course", I said, "It is turkish!". Walid said "Really?, I thought it was indian.." To be honest, I guess it is arabic although I once read that the desert of Leyla and Mecnun's tribes were in Afghanistan.
I should ask Kaustubh if he heard this story or not..

I also learned that his name is after a Lebanese politician: Walid Jumblatt. His brother is called Yaser Arafat, and he has a cousin called Muammer Kaddafi.

It was interesting to hear from Walid that there were no clashes between groups in Singapore. Tamils, Chinese and Malays live happily in the country, without any integration problem. He said that in big buildings, a certain percentage of residents has to be from each ethnic group, which in a way "forces" the different groups to integrate. And it seems that this policy works.

One other thing is: the official language is English in the country. The education in universities is english. I was a bit surprised first. "Why are not your own languages promoted?" I asked. But it does not make sense since the question then would be: "Which of malay, chinese and tamil must be the official language?" In this sense, it is logical to select a language other than any of these three as official language, to prevent conflicts. But still, it is sad that the new generation forgets their own languages, and prefer to speak english in daily conversations, as Walid said.

Vahid and Sara talked about an Iranian poet with azeri origin: Shahriyar. I learned that there are actually two deserts in Iran. Also, one grandfather of Vahid was azeri; and his city Mashad was close to Turkmenistan.

It was also interesting to learn reasoning behind his surname. They also told me that women do not change their surnames when they get married. That was surprising at first; but considering that we and they did not have any surnames in the old times, getting the husband's surnames must be a tradition originating from the west since surname tradition comes from there too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

How to call your mom and dad if you live in Holland..

Mohammad had told me and Donatella on the JN Reunion day that he had heard that danish teenagers would call their parents with their first names. Donatella had said that that was not the case in Italy.

I had the opportunity to ask about this to Suzanne and Daniel just few minutes ago.

First I asked Suzanne how she called her parents-in-law. "Just with their first name", she said. I was surprised. She added that although many people use "ma" and "pa", it is getting more common to use their first names.

Then she said that even there are people (some of her friends) who call their own parents with their first names. Daniel and Suzanne, however, do not have this habit..

Over the chat in front of their office, I learned that this sunday Suzanne will be away from Fiona for the first time overnight. So, she was a bit anxious. By the way, finally, I dared to take Fiona to my arms yesterday for the first time.

In the meanwhile, I verified that Daniel's 85-year old grandma could use laptop to send e-mails. I said "even my mother cannot do it". To my surprise, Suzanne's mom cannot do it either :).

EK and Turkey

I watched Croatia and Germany matches, the first voluntary watching after the semi-final with Brazil in 2002.

I was in my office during Croatia game. I called Daniel after we scored the goal, and also talked to Saadet, sharing our joy. Then I called Maikel, and I was talking to him during penalties.

It was very pleasing to see turkish people around horning in their cars with turkish flags when I left UvA at around 11:30 PM for home.

The next day (the last saturday), I went to Studio-K to see Russia-Netherlands game. It is in Borneostraat, next to the Stayokay hotel.

For semi-final, I was in Mavi Köşk in Javaplein.
I saw the following car during the break, parked nearby.
It was an interesting experience to watch the game there; to see the people's reactions; much stronger than the reactions of dutch at Studio-K.

And the following photo was in the front page of yesterday's Metro: Turken in rouw. "Turken in Amsterdam zijn in rouw na de goal van Philipp Lahm" it says.
Today, the lady (echocardiographist) at AMC said that she was very sorry that Turkey was out of the cup. She added that she really would very much want to apply an echocardiographic scan to our coach :).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Word of my week: Cootling

Last friday, on the way to P-018 for the REC research seminar, Suzanne told me how she witnessed a heron swallowing a duck chick.

She used the word "duckling" to refer to duck chicks. I asked if it was the english name for it. "I don't know" she said, "I just use this word".

I verified this via internet. Now, I think that the chicks of coots should be referred as cootlings, to be consistent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Moses and the Shepherd

Maikel, Bea, Sara, Vahid and I gathered together yesterday in my place for a dinner and for chatting on beliefs, faiths.

I cooked yoghurt soup and dolma (stuffed paprika). Maikel helped for the mixing of flour and yoghurt for the soup. Vahid fried the cigarette pastries. After the dinner, we had Mangos by Bea and ice-cream by Sara as desserts. I always want to take a picture of dinner table in these occasions, but I always forget.

We talked about many things, nice moments. At one moment, Sara told us a story from Mevlana (Rumi)'s Mesnevi: Moses and the Shepherd:

A shepherd prays God: "My God, I love you, I want to kiss your hand, I want to serve you milk, I want to clean your bedroom, I want to wash your clothes....".
Moses hears this and gets angry "How come you can personalize God! You will make Him angry". And prevents him to go on with his prayer.
Moses gets a revalation just at the time by God: "Why did you separate my lover from me? Is your mission as a prophet to unite or to sever? Every person has his/her own way of approaching to me..."

Sara sent an e-mail to us today, and gave links to the english translation of the complete poem:

She quoted the following parts from the second translation:
"Don't bother with good manners anymore,
But let your heart express what's in its core!"

I would really want Kiran and Kaustubh to be with us during these discussions..

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chatting with Mehmet Şen, constructing bridges to my a-decade-earlier inner world

Yesterday evening, I prepared the stuffed paprikas (dolma) for my today's guests. While they were in the cooking-phase, I decided to call Mehmet Şen. It was about 12 PM (or should I say AM? Once we had discussed this with Maikel. I guess the correct way of saying is 12 AM for midnight).

I am glad that I did so.

He mentioned about many things. Listening to him was in a way making a journey to bachelor years, remembering the moments with full of tranquility spent with nice friends in nice places. I guess we stopped at about 1:15 AM when I checked the stuffed paprikas, and saw them they were cooked (meaning that I could sleep). He told me many things among which was to ask me to call Murat more often. He said that he works on the structure determination of a protein called Integrin.

Thanks God, I have such friends. Such friends that, even if we do not have any contact for a long time, I can call them I can talk to them very closely; I can feel the brotherhood in their voice... Thanks God!

And thanks to Lebara too, for making it cheaper to call US numbers :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Margriet, the Random

At UMC, they have organized an EK (european championship) pool within the department. I somehow did not participate, but my utrecht supervisor did. Margriet filled in two separate prediction sets: one based on her intuition/guess as everybody usually does, and one based on a random generator.

What she did was to count the number of zeros, ones, twos, threes etc. scored in the previous EK; and then assign scores to the games based on the probability of these scores.

And, now EK is coming to the end with all semi-finalists are already known. This morning, I have checked her random semi-final match predictions:
Russia- Spain
Germany- Austria

Unbelievable! She could predict the three of four semi-finalists and their matching, with only mistake being Austria instead of Turkey.

And, in the final updated list of the pool, she ranks the first among about 30 participants with her random prediction, even beating her intuitive prediction.

The all other 29 people must be feeling really bad; they predicted worse than random :)

This reminded me the day when Ewoud, Maikel, Filipe, Kaustubh and I gathered in my place in January for dinner, and played the card game take-5. Kaustubh preferred to play random cards in one round, and he was not the worst.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Dutch Teens & Dutch Centenarians ....

Interesting short news/statistics from this week's DutchNews newsletters:

Dutch teens again the happiest in the west
Dutch children are the happiest in the western world, according to a new World Health Organisation survey of 41 European and North American countries, quoted in Wednesday’s Volkskrant. Last year, a Unicef report also found that Dutch teenagers were the happiest in the developed world. The WHO report found that Dutch teens were the most pleased with life. They get on well with their parents and have a large social network. Dutch children are also particularly happy with their schools, the Volkskrant said.

The Netherlands had 1,486 people aged 100+ at the beginning of this year, up 91 on 2007. Only 193 of the centenarians are men, the national statistics office CBS reports.

sidelines- bus off
Today it emerged that bus users will have to pay a fuel surcharge from January 2009, like air travellers have done for years. This bizarre plan is apparently the government’s way of funding the 3.5% pay rise for bus drivers.
(my note: The regional buses, which operate between cities, were on strike for about 3 weeks. Finally, last week, they were given the salary increase they demanded.)

Inflation set to soar says central bank
The annual inflation rate will reach 3.4% next year before falling back to 2.2% in 2010, says the Dutch central bank in its latest quarterly bulletin on the economy. Higher oil, food and raw material prices will drive up inflation, the bank says. In addition, the shortage of skilled labour will boost wages. Higher taxes will also have an inflationary effect, according to the bank’s economists.

Paternal leave
Two out of five fathers do not claim their statutory right to parental leave because they think it will hurt their career, according to new research from the national statistics office CBS. Parents with children under the age of eight are entitled to 13 weeks of unpaid leave, spread over at least 26 weeks.

English lessons
The independent educational council (Onderwijsraad) is recommending that primary school children begin learning English as soon as they start school at the age of four. Most primary school children currently get some English lessons from the seventh grade, two years before they go to secondary school.

Second Dutch FARC guerilla found
A second young Dutch woman has been discovered fighting with anti-government FARC guerillas in Colombia, reports the Colombian paper El Tiempo.

Albert Heijn experiments with finger scans
Customers using the Albert Heijin supermarket in Breukelen are taking part in an experiment to pay by fingerprint. Once they have registered and their finger has been scanned, customers can pay for their shopping without cash or cards. The experiment will run for six months.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Stuff for Filipe

Filipe had arrived in September. Then, he was sad when the trees that we saw when we looked at outside from our office started to lose their leaves in autumn. The view was more or less like this:
And Filipe said "How sad, I won't see them to be green again.." He left us in January.

Few weeks ago, Maikel was looking at outside from office, and he said to me : "Hey, why don't you take pictures of these green trees and send to Filipe?"

I liked the idea and took the following picture..
Now, I will send him an e-mail. "Hey Kid", I will write to him: "No need to worry anymore. Check out this link and you will be happy."

Birding in Amsterdam

I went to my place for a short while to meet Alfonso since he is going for a long holiday, and also to have my dinner.

I prepared a for-me-unusual salad for dinner:
mix of boiled/squeezed potatos, tuna fish, iceberg salad, tomato, and mix of olive oil, lime juice and pomegranate sauce..

I plan to go for birding in amsterdam this saturday. I guess birding more means observing birds with binoculars; but I will do it by naked eye. I plan to borrow a camera with optic zoom function to photograph them.

List of birds that I already knew and that appear around

List of birds with which I met here for the first time
Egyptian goose (in vondelpark)

List of Birds I want to meet & see
Eurosian Jay
Great Grebe

Some of these birds are already everywhere, and some of them are in the parks in the city; about 10-15 min. of cycling from the center of Amsterdam..

In this sense, this is unbelievable for Istanbul. You can go to a distance of 15 min. cycling from a central place, and you see all of those birds? No way! ...

I was checking the turkish names of some of these birds; and just few minutes ago; I realized that starling was actually "Sığırcık" !!. I heard the name of this bird many times in stories, novel; but never seen it. The name in turkish means "little cattle"; so I always had strange imaginations about the bird. However, it is just a small cute bird!

I also found this very interesting video on the internet: the dance of starlings: from Kutahya in Turkey

Monday, June 16, 2008


The dutch football team is called "oranje" here. It is because the team is associated with the royal family, and one of the surnames of the royal family is oranje. (the other is nassau).

And, in dutch, the fruit orange is called sinaasappel. So, oranje refers to color, not to the fruit. Ironically, however, dutch football team is referred as "portakallar" in Turkey, after the fruit orange.

Now is the european championship games, and Oranje is doing very well, even to the dutch people's surprise. Almost nobody gave the team a chance to qualify for the second round, beating france and italy.

On June 7, we had to walk to the central station with Maikel to take the Thalys train to Paris. There was no tram that early on Saturday. And we saw a store on our way, selling refrigerators etc. They had put the following two fridges on the front window, in reference to the first match between Italy and Netherlands..

I have checked Buienradar for the rain forecast of Amsterdam on Friday. To my surprise, they had colored netherlands in orange, in reference to european championship.

Surprisingly, Turkey won against Chec Republic last night. It was 2-0, but we scored 3 goals in last 15 minutes, 2 of them in last 3 minutes. Today, Stan congratulated me for the winning, and qualifying for quarter final. Ruud also referred to it when we had research meeting in his office. Our secretary Monique asked me on the corridor if I had seen the game.

I read in today's Metro that turkish supporters were in Amsterdam's Mercatorplein last night, celebrating the sansational winning.

One nice thing would be to have the final game between Netherlands and Turkey. Let's see. The ball is round, you never know..

Johan killed my Jacobian baby

We had research meeting today. We talked about small issues regarding my manuscript.

Johan had suggested to skip the last paragraph of my discussion, and to make a short separate paper out of it instead. It was about the jacobian strength. I did not want to skip it, and we argued for a while. I said that it was like a child for me, and I did not want to skip it. Since he managed to convince Age and Margriet, I had to give in at the end.

Johan apologized, however, for killing my jacobian baby. Margriet comforted me saying that it will hopefully come back as a separate child (paper) :).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Coots Revisited

Coot family on floating garbage revisited..
I have checked the floating coot nest in the canal passing under our REC building close to Halverstad bridge..

To my luck, it was the time where mother and father exchanged roles for food-finding to laying-on-the-nest. Therefore, I had the chance to see their chick again (the mother or father always lay on top of it. That's why my previous attempts were unsuccessful). It is bigger now compared to previous size.

And very surprisingly, there were 3-4 more eggs on the nest! That's weird. They already have one chick of 3-4 weeks old. Did the mother make new eggs again? Probably this is the case; there was no egg on the nest. Let's wait and see..

I managed to take a video with my mobile during the exchange event; but its resolution is so low that it is impossible to see how they exchange..

We were at "Coot Day-Care Centre" at Gaasperplas
Alfonso and I have cycled to Kruitberg (literal meaning: {gun}powder mountain) yesterday. This was my longest cycling experience. Routeplanner showed the cycling distance as 8 km. However, we have made a wrong turn somewhere on the way. I guess it was at least 9 km. It took about 1 hour to arrive at Maikel's place at 5 PM.

He cooked zucchini soup: very tasty!. I will ask for the exact recipe. The other dish was risotto with salmon and smoked trout. Again, a nice and interesting dish. I learned that risotto was an italian rice type with more round shape, and a higher capacity to absorb water.

We had a walk to the lake at Gaasperplas after the dinner in Maikel's place. He took us to the park, and we saw a lot of rabbits around in the park! Their sudden movements were very funny. This was the first time I saw rabbits in natural life.
Then we walked to the lake. There was one mature coot feeding three other younger coots. Then another mature coot with a younger coot appeared, and it started to help feeding all younger coots. Maikel said that probably this was a coot day-care centre. The mothers are at work, left their young kids to here, he joked. He added that probably the two mature coots are paid by government. I said "then these coots adapted themselves to the dutch system".Yet another interesting coot nest
This morning, while cycling to university through Mauritskade, I saw this coot laying on a nest on the wheel in the middle of the canal.

"Are you going Dutch?"

I was scanning the dutch book I bought from the biggest book market of the world: Undutchables. I saw the expression "to go dutch" there.

I remembered the time when Alfonso, Bea, Maikel and I went to Castricum (Limme) for the non-commercial tulip garden Hortus-Bulborum.

The ticket was something like 3.5 euros; and in the payment process, the lady sitting there asked us "Are you going dutch?". We did not understand what she meant.

After getting the tickets, Maikel told us that it is an idiomatic expression in english, and it means "Is everybody paying by himself/herself"..

This probably originates from the fact that dutch are in general cheap people..

Friday, June 13, 2008

Drops Torture: the poor dutch people ....

Daniel showed up in front of our office with a box of what-he-calls "drops".

Drops are traditional dutch candies.. Well, it is probably wrong to call them as "candies" since they are not sweet.

He and Maikel encouraged me to taste two types of drops from his box: a pyramide-shape brownish one, and a black-man shape.

I bit a small part from both of them; and i had to throw the rest into the garbage bin! So strange taste! I have drunk water afterwards, and ate one Halley chocolate-biscuit; but still the strange taste was in my mouth!

In the afternoon, I was in their office, and Daniel told Suzanne how strange my facial expression was when I tried the drops. I told them that I really feel a pity for dutch people since they had to eat these disgusting-tasting candies. Daniel gave me some drops to give Suzanne after realizing that his pushings for me to taste it again would not work at all. So, I took some drops and gave Suzanne. She said that the way I hold them was very similar to the way she holds Fiona's diapers.

Suzanne made a search on internet and found out that they had found drops even in Tutankamon's grave. I reacted by saying "Then, we managed to produce the new tastes from then on over centuries and switched to them; but you poor dutch could not make any improvement and still have to eat the same thing."

Crazily enough, Daniel said that drops would be one thing he would really miss if he goes abroad. Coffee and peanut butter was the other two.

Actually, I remembered that I had tasted one months ago from Margriet. They include ammonium chloride. Its taste was not that strong; but still I did not like it at the time either.

Dinner at Komme Nieuwegracht

Age came to my office during the day and made the following sketch on the board, explaining me how to get to their place.They have a very nice house! The roof has a garden-like balcony. The tower of the famous church is very visible from the balcony, very close. They said that this will probably be the selling point of the house. They have a very big piano in the living room, whose fame I had already heard during the new-house-finding stage. Age told us how they had to get this huge piano inside through the window of the kitchen by first removing the whole window frame. At that time, he wanted to use the word "crane". He could not remember it and he brought a dictionary to the dining table. It was funny to have dinner with occasional dictionary checks..

One of the rooms had graffiti on one wall. Age told us that it was his nephew who asked permission for this, and he agreed; and he liked it at the end.

The house is furnished in such a way that one can think that they have already packed everything for moving to the new place. There was hardly furnitures around. I liked it. It is totally opposite of traditional turkish furnishing where houses are full of unnecessary things, leading to almost no place to walk around freely. This was also what I saw and liked in Inge and Hans's house.

It was interesting to see that the walls were full of interesting picture frames. Inge said that she found the picture in the bedroom very scary.

The dinner dish was very delicious too. Halal meat balls with tasty sauce, served with boiled potato, carrot and spinach. I also liked the dessert they served: strawberrries with a very tasty sauce: mix of a soft cheese type with lemon juice and honey. I will ask Margriet the recipe.

Together with Inge and Hans, we talked about many different issues. The chatting was about many different things from books to music to photography to alcohol dehydrogenase located in stomach... In the meanwhile, Margriet and Inge told the others how they had taught me how to make a typical dutch conversation using "Wat schuift het?" and "dikke neuse"..
:) ...

Inge and Hans talked about their french neighbour. She still uses ashes to make her bed warm before sleeping. "She leaves in 19th century" was the comment. It is interesting to hear that there are still such westerners.

Inge said that the dutch laws require that everybody has to have a certain office space. She said "For instance, I should have 12 m2 office space, and you 2" returning to Margriet. I was surprised why Margriet's space right is so little according to laws. "Probably it is because she has just obtained a permanent position" I thought. Then I realized that Inge had actually said "you too..".

The house had full of plants. I forgot to ask Margriet if she really does not touch any of them.

Overall it was nice moments.. We left at around quarter past ten, and I was home at 23:45, cycling from amstel station..

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DutchNews: Church-goers & Geese-gasers

Two interesting details from yesterday's DutchNews;

Statistics of the Day: Church-goers
The Netherlands has nine million people who say they are religious, but only 20% regularly go to church, mosque or other house of worship, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS.

Only 7% of Catholics attend weekly mass.

Geese cull
A court in Haarlem has given the green light to plans to gas 6,000 greylag geese on the island of
Texel because of the damage they cause to farmland. The aim is to reduce the number of breeding pairs on the island to 200, says news agency ANP.

Opponents of the cull say it is a waste of time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Notre Dame" or "Onze Lieve Vrouw"

I know the name "Notre Dame" since I heard about the book "the hunchback of notre dame" by Victor Hugo many times since childhood.

But I never knew that it was the name of a church.

Thanks to our visit to Paris with Maikel, I now know that it is the name of a very famous church in Paris, located on one of the small islands in river Seine. It has very nice and majestic look.
More surprising for me was to learn its meaning. Since the name was always associated with hunchback in my mind, I thought it was probably a person with a hunchback.

When we were inside the church, I saw the explanations in different languages; and my eye caught the word "onse lieve vrouw kerk" (our lovely lady church). I was surprised that they mentioned about a dutch church in the explanations. "Why" I asked Maikel. "What has this church to do with a dutch church"?

"It is this church" was Maikel's reply to my amazement. I did not get it. Then he told me that "Notre Dame" was the french word for "Onze Lieve Vrouw". How surprising!

And I realized that the novel by Victor Hugo was actually about the church. It was not a personal name...

Finally Back to Utrecht again...

Last monday, I was in Denmark. And we were in Wageningen on Tuesday for a small workshop. So, I did not come to WKZ at all.

And this monday, we arrived early from Paris; and there was NMC meeting in the afternoon.

So, today finally I am again in Utrecht after a while.

Margriet's "little poor plant"
I asked Margriet today if she had any plans to water her plant. Normally, it is almost always me who waters the littel poor plant 'zielige plantje'. She said "let me check"; and opened Microsoft Outlook calendar. Then, she joked that it was not in her agenda, so she won't.

Then, I told her that it would be better if she takes the responsibility to take care of the little hoya serpens.

By the way, Inge's hoya lacunosa is finally doing something: produced a new branch with 3 tiny leaves.

Giant Cow-Parsley
While we were walking outside with Tjeerd at noon, he pointed to a plant among the grasses alongside a canal. "These are called 'berenklauw' in dutch, meaning bear's paws; and they are poisonous" he said. He added that if I grab their stem, my hand will be very itchy.

We have checked from wikipedia when we were back from walking. Its english name is giant cow's parsley, or giant hogweed. The exact dutch name is reuzenberenklauw. I could not find any turkish name.

The following photo is from the internet.

Wikipedia says that:

-its sap causes severe skin inflammations. They form scars that can last several years.
- if eyes are exposed to minute amount of its sap, it can cause temporary and even permanent blindness.
- you should have head-to-toe covering while removing it.

Chasing a Typical Dutch Cyclist

In this morning, a lady cyclist appeared in front of me at Linneaustraat on my way to Amstel Station.
- She had shoes with heels,
- She was cycling with left hand,
- She was holding/supporting a bag at the back of the bike with the other hand..
So, a typical dutch cyclist..

I was already in hurry to catch the train, and I was cycling with my maximum speed. "I will pass by this lady" I decided.

But it was not possible at all. To my all efforts, I could not close the gap in between. She was very fast despite one-hand control, heeled shoes, and holding the bag behind.

Very close to the train station, she crossed the street when the traffic light was red, and disappeared on the way..

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I have collected new data on Dutch-Danish comparison

I had a three-day holiday in Denmark, and I used this opportunity to update my data on differences of dutch and danish people.

Some data verified my previous conclusions, but some required revision.

Verified Data
1. About 20-30% of danish cyclists use helmets. This percentage is less than 1% for dutch cyclists.
(On our walking tour to Bagsvaerd Lake on Jens Nielsen Reunion Day after lunch, Birgitte told me that there were plans to make it obligatory. A recent pool showed that 60% of danes said "We will stop cycling if helmets becomes mandatory")

2. 100% of danish pedestrians and danish cyclists obey traffic lights. They just stop at red light even there is no car/ no pedestrian in the visible distance. The percentage of dutch people (weather cyclist or pedestrian) , on the other hand, who wait at crossings at red traffic light even there is no cars around, is on the other edge: 0-5 %.
(I feel stupid sometimes when I stop at red light while cycling, and all other cyclists just pass by)

3. Danish people drink much more alcohol than their dutch cousins. Ana Paula had already told me multiple times that beer was even cheaper than water in Denmark. And during this visit, I had an extra proof. During the lunch in the hotel on Jens Nielsen reunion day, Birgitte told me that Danes call "bottle opener" as "beer opener". I asked Maikel after my return if that was the case for dutch people, and obviously not.

4. I was very surprised when I was in Denmark in 2004/2005 since, unlike Istanbul, there were almost no construction works going on outside such as constructing new buildings, new roads etc. I had the impression that this was the general european style. Definitely not. Amsterdam has full of construction works going on:
- as soon as you leave amsterdam central station, you see the construction works for renovation/ new metro line, which will take few years to complete.
- there are many new buildings being built within the city
- Keerwal, the small street at the back of Funenpark, is under construction for 7-8 months. I do not have any idea why they renew the road.

And, during this visit too, I haven't seen any such attempts in Denmark.

Contradicting Data

5. Danes are not tall anymore. After spending months in Denmark, I remember that I was surprised when I read somewhere that Dutch people were the tallest in the world. "How come?", I thought, "It is actually Danes."
However, this time, after spending months among Dutch people, I was surprised to see that Danes were not that tall. I even started to think that they are no different than Turkish people. There are outliers for sure, like Trine Bro.
(I guess this is what I will call from now on the "dutch effect". I have started to judge tallness using dutch people as my standard; and this will lead to the conclusion that all other people are noticeably short.)..

6. As an Istanbulin, I had not noticed the difference between crowdedness of the two countries/ two capitals. For me, it was the same: they are very small cities, very quiet cities. Now I realized that there was hardly people around in Denmark. It was very quiet there. And I realized that Netherlands was actually really crowded relatively.
(We have checked the population density of the countries from Wikipedia with Kiran on sunday. Netherlands is 25th in the world.).

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