My favorite books read this year

Below I want to mention in a random order a few books I read lately. these are really worth reading and highly recommended! Most of the books I read in Dutch, since that’s my native language.

The Rosie Project by Greame Simsion (writer from Australia) is a story about love, life and lobsters…
This is really a pleasant and funny book to read, good for a summerday at the beach.  It is a funny story about an autistic professor, Don Tillman. He tries to find himself a wife and has a long questionnaire intended to weed out anyone who’s unsuitable. When he meets Rosie, one thing is for sure, she isn’t suiteble for his ‘wife project’.

The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun-mi Hwang (writer from South-Korea). This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own. An anthem for freedom, individuality and motherhood featuring a plucky, spirited heroine who rebels against the tradition-bound world of the barnyard. A lovely fairytale, opening a window on civilisation in Korea.

The taliban cricket club by Timeri N. Murari (writer from India). It is a story about a female journalist, Rukhsana, in Afghanistan living under pressure of Taliban. about how important freedom is, worth fighting for.

One day she has to come to the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. She thinks she has crossed a line, a law she didn’t know of or something like that.  The Minister announces the Taliban’s intention to hold a cricket tournament. However, the Taliban could never embrace a game rooted in civility, fair play and equality. And no one in Afghanistan even plays cricket—no one, that is, except Rukhsana, the female journalist.


The tea lords by Hella Haasse (writer from the Netherlands). This book and the book of Helga Ruebsamen I stumbled upon reading in ‘De Gids voor wereldliteratuur‘ by Pieter Steinz (a guide for world literature, only available in Dutch) looking for some books about indonesia. It is a family story, portraying three generations of Dutch colonial experience in the East Indies. Rudolf Kerkhoven takes ship for Java and plunges into the uncleared jungle foothills of the mountains of west Java to follow his father as a tea planter. Beautiful written pageturner, gives an insight on how you can not plan life.


The Song and the Truth by Helga Ruebsamen (writer from the Netherlands) is a beautiful story about a girl growing up in Indonesia, with the mysteries of indonesian nightpeople. because of something she says the family moves to The Netherlands right before WW II starts. In the war the girl has to hide because she is jewish, total opposite of the freedom in Indonesia.  Not a happy story, but a beautiful one!

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (American writer, now Italian) is a story about two brothers who grow up in Calcutta, India. One of them gets involved in a local communist guerrilla group the other moves to America and pursues a peaceful life of scientific research. With the extremist brothers untimely death, the American brother returns to India and marries his brother’s pregnant widow, and takes care of raising the child.


I run into Jhumpa Lahiri books when she had a tv interview about her last book, in altre parole,(in other words) which she wrote in italian. This is also a good book by the way, a novel that could be a biography of herself.

Hallo muur by Erik Jan Harmens is the only book in this list I think only is available in Dutch but I still want to mention. Hallo Muur in English means hello Wall. It is a really beautiful written description of someone recovering talking all his stories to the wall of his room. except having been an alcoholic, he had a burnout, lost his dad and some of his friends and got a divorce. a real and impressive story!


Inhabit the world, vernacular architecture. 

The earth is the serving bearer, flourishing and prosperous, florid and fruitful. Endless wide fields of stone and water, giving place for growth to plants, animals and humans. Human beings living on the earth, brought to peace, building and cultivating the earth. Us mortals, we inhabit the world, we dwell and we live on the earth.  How we live in or inhabit the world goes back till before ancient times. So the story tells, after tohu vavohu man lived in paradise, in harmony with nature.

After the first agricultural revolution people had enough food to stay in one place for a longer time, long enough to build them a shelter, a home. These were simple huts from natural materials such as adobe, clay, stone, straw, wood, animal skin or a mixture of those. This is where vernacular architecture started, as shelter for wild animals and weather conditions around a fireplace for cooking and warmth.  Having enough food for a group of people, they got time to do other things than taking care of food. Trading, writing, money and cities developed, civilisation started. This civilisation started in several places at about the same time: in Mesopotamia, India, China, Egypt and with the Maya culture in Meso-America.

Cities grew in a natural way (along a river, around a holy place or temple) and there were actually two types of people: those who lived in or around a city/village and those who travelled around (nomads, traders, etc). This was the situation till right before the industrial revolution, when trains, cars and airplanes made traveling available for everyone.

Even before the industrial revolution there is a strong call for authenticity. Society or civilisation should be less appearences, show, extravagance and more simple, honest, real and transparent. One who had a large influence on that movement was Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), who plead for going back to nature. (In French: retour à la nature). This in basic romantic thought had a large influence, not only on his contemporain (baroque) architecture, but also on modern architecture of the 20th and 21st century.


As Frank Lloyd Wright puts it (1910): the true base of every study about architecture taken seriously still is the aboriginal, humble building, which is for architecture what folksongs are for music, fabels and fairy tales for literature. Lots of aboriginal architecture is earthly and natural. Their functions mostly refer to the inner life of humankind, true and honesty, intimate and connected to the context.

So in order to go back to the original idea of living in nature with architecture as shelter one might consider going forwards to an architecture which uses local and natural building materials and techniques, where the plan is functional (without need to look for symetry or other forced modes of esthetics)  and ornaments not part of the structure are left out, still creating a unity in form and enclosed space.  Contemporain architects working with vernacular architecture are for example Glenn Murcutt (Australia, picture below) or gunnar Daan (The Netherlands, picture above).

glenn murcutt


Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one


Himmel über Berlin

I just saw the movie Himmel über Berlin -Heaven over Berlin- which was recorded in Berlin in 1987, two years before the collapse of the wall, before the end of the cold war. It gives a beautiful insight of Berlin in that time, and is a story of angels watching over the poor, lonely and sad people in the city. One of the angels, Damien, falls in love with Marion, a human trapeze artist.

Following poem from Peter Handke is part of the film. I like this! beneath the English version is the original version in German.

Kind Regards,


ps. for all of you all the best wishes for 2015!!

           English version:
Lied vom Kindsein (song of childhood)

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging.
It wanted the stream to be a river
the river a torrent
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child
It didn’t know it was a child.
Everything was full of life,
and all life was one.

When the child was a child
It had no opinions about anything.
It had no habits.
It sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair
and didn’t make a face when photographed.

When the child was a child
it was the time of these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Isn’t life under the sun just a dream?
Isn’t what I see, hear and smell
only the illusion of a world before the world?
Does evil actually exist,
and are there people who are really evil?
How can it be that I, who am I,
didn’t exist before I came to be
and that someday
the one who I am
will no longer be the one I am?

When the child was a child
it choked on spinach, peas, rice pudding
and on steamed cauliflower.
Now it eats all of those
and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child
it once woke up in a strange bed
and now it does so time and time again.
Many people seemed beautiful then
and now only a few, if it’s lucky.
It had a precise picture of paradise
and now it can only guess at it.
It could not conceive of nothingness
and today it shudders at the idea.

When the child was a child
it played with enthusiasm
and now
it gets equally excited
but only when it concerns
its work.

When the child was a child
berries fell into its hand as only berries do
and they still do now.
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw
and they still do now.
On every mountaintop it had a longing
for yet a higher mountain.
And in each city it had a longing
for yet a bigger city.
And it is still that way.
It reached for the cherries in the treetop
with the elation it still feels today.
It was shy with all strangers
           German version:
Lied vom Kindsein

Als das Kind Kind war,
ging es mit hängenden Armen,
wollte der Bach sei ein Fluß,
der Fluß sei ein Strom,
und diese Pfütze das Meer.

Als das Kind Kind war,
wußte es nicht, daß es Kind war,
alles war ihm beseelt,
und alle Seelen waren eins.

Als das Kind Kind war,
hatte es von nichts eine Meinung,
hatte keine Gewohnheit,
saß oft im Schneidersitz,
lief aus dem Stand,
hatte einen Wirbel im Haar
und machte kein Gesicht beim fotografieren.

Als das Kind Kind war,
war es die Zeit der folgenden Fragen:
Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?
Warum bin ich hier und warum nicht dort?
Wann begann die Zeit und wo endet der Raum?
Ist das Leben unter der Sonne nicht bloß ein Traum?
Ist was ich sehe und höre und rieche
nicht bloß der Schein einer Welt vor der Welt?
Gibt es tatsächlich das Böse und Leute,
die wirklich die Bösen sind?
Wie kann es sein, daß ich, der ich bin,
bevor ich wurde, nicht war,
und daß einmal ich, der ich bin,
nicht mehr der ich bin, sein werde?

Als das Kind Kind war,
würgte es am Spinat, an den Erbsen, am Milchreis,
und am gedünsteten Blumenkohl.
und ißt jetzt das alles und nicht nur zur Not.

Als das Kind Kind war,
erwachte es einmal in einem fremden Bett
und jetzt immer wieder,
erschienen ihm viele Menschen schön
und jetzt nur noch im Glücksfall,
stellte es sich klar ein Paradies vor
und kann es jetzt höchstens ahnen,
konnte es sich Nichts nicht denken
und schaudert heute davor.

Als das Kind Kind war,
spielte es mit Begeisterung
und jetzt, so ganz bei der Sache wie damals, nur noch,
wenn diese Sache seine Arbeit ist.

Als das Kind Kind war,
genügten ihm als Nahrung Apfel, Brot,
und so ist es immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
fielen ihm die Beeren wie nur Beeren in die Hand
und jetzt immer noch,
machten ihm die frischen Walnüsse eine rauhe Zunge
und jetzt immer noch,
hatte es auf jedem Berg
die Sehnsucht nach dem immer höheren Berg,
und in jeder Stadt
die Sehnsucht nach der noch größeren Stadt,
und das ist immer noch so,
griff im Wipfel eines Baums nach dem Kirschen in einemHochgefühl
wie auch heute noch,

eine Scheu vor jedem Fremden
und hat sie immer noch,
wartete es auf den ersten Schnee,
und wartet so immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
warf es einen Stock als Lanze gegen den Baum,
und sie zittert da heute noch.

Wharfs of Utrecht (Netherlands)

The story of the wharfs in Utrecht starts with the digging of the canals, around the year 1100 AD. The ground excavated was used to raise the sides of the canal, to reduce the chance of flooding. When the city’s system of locks was finished in 1275 the water level was constant, enabling the creation of permanently dry cellars and new quays at water level, hence the typical wharfs (Dutch: werven) below street level. The quays were (and are still) at the same level as the cellars of the canal houses. Merchands who stored their belongings on the quays or wharfs started digging a tunnel from the wharf to their houses underneath the roads. The wharfcellars so grew as an initiative of inhabitants of the city to create storage for their goods. Slowly but surely all these cellars were locked with a fence or with a wall and door, how we get to the wharfs we see today. This process of building was finished around the year 1500 when al wharfs in the city Utrecht, along the ca 4 km long canal system, had their own cellars on both sides of the canals. Since this was an initiative of local owners, every cellar is unique, not one the same.

     wharfs end 19th century

At the end of the 19th century, when transport over land became overhand more important, the wharfs felt in disuse, lost their function. With this they got into decline. Right after WWII society urged for refurbishment of the quays. This was very difficult because lots of owners were involved with different interests. The local authority decided to buy all wharfs and quay walls, not the cellars behind it. In 1949 project was started to refurbish the wharfs and quay walls. This project was finished in 1979 with the removal of all kinds of fences that had separated the different sections of different owners.

The image of the city changed dramatically with that intervention. For the first time in all those centuries a public street along the canal at water level was created. This meant that people could enter the wharfs and use them as public space. With the refurbishment of the wharfs and quay walls the job was not finished. Also the wharf cellars needed refurbishment. to resolve this problem, the local authority made an alliance with the owners in 1993. A start was made to the refurbishment and making the cellars waterproof. In the following nine years almost all of the about 700 cellars were refurbished!

  wharf cellar inside

At this very moment the cellars serve as space for restaurants, musea, brewers, and other kinds of public spaces (in the picture a flex office).

‘Smoky World’

Beautiful series of photos!! words too short for it! telling a hard, disgusting but true story.


The suffocation is unbearable in the dark. The smoke is so intense that you cannot breathe for a few seconds. When you will be able to see something then you will realize that hundreds of people are working attentively. Suddenly you will hear the sound of coughing by some small kids; very soon you will be discovering that half of the people working in the area are children, as young as they can be. The faster they work the more they get paid. But their production rarely increases and their payment remains in the same range: 100-150 taka daily for 12-16 hours of work. Still, all of them are continually trying to do the only job they know.

Tobaco fgactory (159)

Tobaco fgactory (124)

Tobaco fgactory (38)

Most of the poor villagers are dependent on this job. Small kids sometimes forget their surroundings and start to talk to each other. Parents swiftly scold them or punch them in their…

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for Christmas: the littlest Christmas tree

a Christmas poem which I like.
text claimed by Amy Peterson, family friend poems

The littlest Christmas tree,
lived in a meadow of green,
Among a family,
of tall evergreens,
He learned how to whisper,
the evergreen song,
with the slightest of wind,
that came gently along.

He watched as the birds,
made a home out of twigs,
and couldn’t wait till,
he too was big.
For all of the trees,
offered a home,
the maple, the pine, and the oak,
who’s so strong.

“I hate being little”,
the little tree said,
“I can’t even turn colors,
like the maple turns red”,
“I can’t help the animals,
like the mighty old oak”,
“He shelters them all,
in his wide mighty cloak”.

The older tree said,
“Why little tree you don’t know?
The story of a mighty king,
from the land with no snow?”
Little tree questioned,
“A land with no snow?”
“Yes!” said old tree,
“A very old story,
from so long ago”.

“A star appeared,
giving great light,
over a manger,
on long winters night.
A baby was born,
a king of all kings,
and with him comes love,
over all things.”

“He lived in a country,
all covered in sand,
and laid down his life,
to save all of man.’

Little tree thought of the gift
given by him,
then the big tree said with the
happiest grin,
“We’re not just trees,
but a reminder of that day,
there’s a much bigger part,
of a role that we play!”

“For on Christmas eve,
my life I’ll lay down,
in exchange for a happier,
loving ground.
And as I stand dying,
they’ll adorn me in trim,
this all will be done,
in memory of him”.

“Among a warm fire,
with family and friends,
in the sweet songs of Christmas,
I’ll find my great end,
then ever so gently,
he’ll come down to see,
and take me to heaven,
Jesus and me”.

“So you see little tree,
we are not like the oak,
who shelters all things,
beneath his great cloak.
Nor are we like the maple
in fall,
who’s colors leave many,
standing in awe”.

“The gift that we give,
is ourselves, limb for limb,
the greatest of honor,
in memory of him”.

The little tree bowed,
his head down and cried,
and thought of the king,
who willingly died.
For what kind of gift,
can anyone give?
Then to lay down your life,
when you wanted to live.

A swelling of pride
came over the tree,
Can all of this happen?
Because of just me?
Can I really bring honor?
By adorning a home?
By reminding mankind,
that he’s never alone?

With this thought, little tree,
began singing with glee,
Happy and proud,
to be a true Christmas tree.

You can still hear them singing,
even the smallest in height,
singing of Christmas,
and that one holy night.

Stranger in Jordan

Jordan, what a beautiful country! I visited Jordan twice until now, and I absolutely want to go another few times! Aqaba, wadi Rum, Petra (this is a must go, very beautiful!), the kings highway, Madaba, Jerash and of course Amman. Jordan has very nice people, and in spite of the wars in neighbor countries it is very safe there. Queen Noor, wife of late king Hussein, had a big influence on the country, making people more open minded than in surrounding countries. If this is only because of her I do not know, but that they are more open and easy going for western people is a fact. (compared to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon)

Aqaba is definitely the perfect location to go snorkeling or diving! We went a few miles offshore to get to the right spot, and it was spot on, wonderful!! In the city lots of nice restaurants, and try the fresh baked baklava from the bakery, delicious!

     Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a beautiful place, desert, full of colors, where you can make a tour with a camel or with a Jeep (or other 4 wheel drive car) and we slept a night in a Bedouin tent, under a starry sky.

Petra is one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. buildings in the rocks. First time I went there we did the most touristic walk, and second time we took another trail, which was even more overwhelming. such beautiful colors, impressive buildings or what is left of them. Solely Petra already makes Jordan a must go! One of the visits we encountered a group of Asian tourists (I thought they were from Korea), who did an excursion to Petra running. What a pity for them!!

     Mosaic map in St.George’s church

From Petra we went to Karak, a place with an impressive ancient crusader castle. I really can recommend going there. From there it is a small distance to the red sea. The story of a man reading the French paper ‘Le Monde’ in sea is true: one does float on the water enough read a paper without sinking.

The next must see town is Madaba. You can see lots of beautiful mosaics there, one I want to mention in particular is a map on the floor of St. George’s church. It is a map from around the year 560 AD showing the biblical sites in the area (from Egypt to Lebanon). Really impressive!!!

From there we went to Amman, but not before visiting mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have seen the promised land and died before entering it. There is a memorial church, a large bronze memorial, a monstrous plaque that the pope visited the site and a very beautiful view over the surrounding area.

    Ruins of Jerash 

From Amman you can easily travel to Jerash, where are through time well reserved ruins of a roman city. Again a very beautiful must see. I am aware I have used this words very often in this piece, but that’s what you get with such a beautiful country. Final words on this post should not be else than the very strong advice to go there and see and experience it yourself!!

IV society 2050…(trend 5,6 and 7)

First of all, what I did not write in my earlier post and do want to mention is that elderly people often are alone and may need a place to socialize. Having contact with others when you do no longer have a job is very important. For instant communities like church are very helpful at that point, although you also can visit a church for other obvious reasons (but there also are bridge, pool, sport, read, …,  and other clubs people can go to). But to remain to the social aspect for a moment: not only elderly people need social contacts. In a world where virtual reality, digital contacts become more standard everybody needs a place to meet people face to face.

Relating to that, in order to say something useful about the future, we should not forget people who are not connected to internet, not even have a computer. People that do not want to have one or are not able to afford one.

Places should be created where those people can go to use a computer, and maybe ask someone else to help them or look something up for them when they are not able to do it themselves. This might even go together with places to socialize.

The far going computerization and robotification of the world makes the distance between poor and rich larger, and a vast need of people who now their electronics and mechanics. Besides that I think lots of people will become lonely, what makes space for re-socializing the more important.

Having said that, I come to the last trend: renewable or sustainable energy. At this very moment lots of renewable, sustainable forms of energy are available. The only problem at this stage is that economically seen it is far more preferable to use traditional resources (mainly oil, gas and coal). Governments earn to much on taxes.


But for example for electricity one can use wind (windmills), sun: photo voltaic cells, water: energy from current water, energy from waves, energy from tiding. Main problem at the moment I think is good storage of electric power.

For heat one can use sun, there are very good sun collectors in different types on the market. Heat is much easier to store in for example heat and cold storage in ground water wells, or molten salt thermal energy storage. Also in building there are several solutions to make a building energy efficient.

Actually I think with some investments we can easily use 100% green energy. A good push in the right direction came lately from Eon, a west European energy company, which decided to replace all traditional resources to sustainable ones.

I also want to mention here Ms Leslie Dewan, an USA citizen and nuclear scientist who did research at MIT on clean and safe nuclear energy using nuclear waste and a salt solution to control the process. The idea was use of low radiant nuclear waste, which resulted in enough energy an waste which had to be stored for 300 – 400 years in stead of 30.000 – 40.000 years.