Saturday, December 20, 2008

‘A lie can race its way around the world, while the truth is tying its shoelace.’ Twain.

A real blogpost is home made. The advantage is authenticity. The blogger, however, is in a vulnerable position: who is he to say the things he says, and what is his underlying motivation.
It is for these reasons and because I think humanity is taken down the garden path on an immense scale, that for once I'll just paste into this blog the end declaration from the 2008 International Climate Conference, not to be confused with the IPCC:

Mar 05, 2008
The Manhattan Declaration - from the 2008 International Climate Conference

"Global warming" is not a global crisis

We, the scientists and researchers in climate and related fields, economists, policymakers, and business leaders, assembled at Times Square, New York City, participating in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

Resolving that scientific questions should be evaluated solely by the scientific method;

Affirming that global climate has always changed and always will, independent of the actions of humans, and that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life;

Recognizing that the causes and extent of recently observed climatic change are the subject of intense debates in the climate science community and that oft-repeated assertions of a supposed ‘consensus’ among climate experts are false;

Affirming that attempts by governments to legislate costly regulations on industry and individual citizens to encourage CO2 emission reduction will slow development while having no appreciable impact on the future trajectory of global climate change. Such policies will markedly diminish future prosperity and so reduce the ability of societies to adapt to inevitable climate change, thereby increasing, not decreasing, human suffering;

Noting that warmer weather is generally less harmful to life on Earth than colder:

Hereby declare:

That current plans to restrict anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a dangerous misallocation of intellectual capital and resources that should be dedicated to solving humanity’s real and serious problems.

That there is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future cause catastrophic climate change.

That attempts by governments to inflict taxes and costly regulations on industry and individual citizens with the aim of reducing emissions of CO2 will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and progress of developing nations without affecting climate.

That adaptation as needed is massively more cost-effective than any attempted mitigation and that a focus on such mitigation will divert the attention and resources of governments away from addressing the real problems of their peoples.

That human-caused climate change is not a global crisis.

Now, therefore, we recommend

That world leaders reject the views expressed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as popular, but misguided works such as “An Inconvenient Truth.”

That all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith.

Agreed at New York, 4 March 2008.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blame Canada

Sometimes I read the weirdest things about Canada and the USA.
So weird I don't quite know what to make of it.
Take this movie for instance. Canada as the root of all evil?

Now I read that Harper has suspended Parliament! And then there is this strange article, about the US patrolling their border with Canada. Unmanned aircraft will be used. Not to stop terrorists surely?
Well actually it is meant to stop terrorists. They have tested it along the Mexican border since 2005 and what do you think? Not a single terrorist has entered the USA from Mexico since then, as we all know.

Normally I just might have said 'So what', but I have a few too many dear friends and even a brother in Canada.

Edit: This is my post that I published and then withdrew, the one Anne-Marie refers to.
To make easier reading, here is her comment:
"Koos, all you need to know is that the American government loves to blame us for the leaky land borders, especially after 9/11. I can tell you that as an air passenger, I always found airport security to be lacking into and within the US when I flew there, whereas Europe and Canada generally had the same higher standards. It all has evened out now, except you still find what Austin amusingly calls "security theatre" at many airports in the US (ie: it looks good but accomplishes very little in practical terms).

As for parliament, it seems out PM's pro-roguing manoeuvre has worked quite well in his favour. We have a new leader of the opposition, and things have been suspended until mid-January, where he hopes cooler heads will prevail and he can save his government from falling. His biggest problem is that he has acted like he's had a majority government and didn't think the opposition parties had it in them to fight back because they are essentially broke from the recent election and not terribly willing to head back to the polls. Nothing illegal about forming a co-alition, though, which blindsided him nicely. He is petty and partisan, and a bit of a control freak. Can you tell I didn't vote for his party? ;)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Please meet the amazing photographer Aleksander Prugar

No, the photo below isn't one I took, but those who are familiar with my photos had seen that already.
Neither is the man in the picture Aleksander Prugar, it is a photo taken by same Aleksander.

The subject is obviously a miner. *)
The photographer has published several series about miners and the mining areas in the South of Poland. Not only that; there is also a series about what it is like to live behind the huge ads that embellish the façades of Polish buildings these days.

Need I say I am in awe of Mr Prugar?
Maybe the reader of this blog has the time to see what this Polish photographer's take on Poland looks like.
You won't regret it, of that I am sure.

*) Alexander Prugar sent me a correction: the man is not a miner but a charcoal worker in Bieszczady Mountains.

Friday, November 28, 2008


And today's news is that I discovered I can easily upload photos from an internet cafe.
I suggest going back to my three earlier posts to enjoy the photos that now illustrate my little stories.
Do feel free to comment! ;-)

Alright, here is an example.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pushing My Luck

Today I had a real adventure. Through the 'back door' that everyone uses I intruded deeply into the dead forges area, the one I mentioned earlier.

Here is that back door, an open shunting area:

See, no fence between the streets and the railways.

Just when I had documented the most fantastic appliance - a device to tip a railway coal carriage sideways if not upside down, so as to empty it contents onto a conveyor belt - I was discovered by three serious-looking security men. Of course I attacked them furiously rather than to wait for them to attack me, but they must have had the karate black belt, or else I would have got away easily. They took me to their office and explained my rights in Polish, which was futile because I don't understand a word of Polish. This I explained in English, French, German and Dutch, but that was futile as well.

Then they pointed at my camera bag. Using only sign language now, I explained to them that this camera was very dear to me, that the lens was a present from family and friends for my sixtieth birthday, that the memory card contained over six hundred pictures, of which only about tweny taken on their premises, and that those premises were about to be demolished anyway so why all the fuss.

After all this explaining and their peering into my passport and mumbling 'holenderski'*), they more or less lost interest and decided to let me go.

Oh no, just one more thing sir, why that index finger you pointed upwards so rudely? That means 'one', I sign-languaged.
What great relief on their innocent but serious faces: 'one' in Polish is not index finger up but thumb up.

After promising I'd never make that mistake again, we shook hands warmly, and I was escorted to the heavily padlocked front gate, which was opened especially for me.

Here is that fantastic railway freight carrier upside-down turner:
Update: It is called a
Wagon tippler

Play the movie below to see how such a Wagon tippler works.

*) Correct spelling thanks to Andreas | 虾猊食

Late edit (October 2009)
I found a very elaborate movie about the entire process of unloading coal wagons in Philadelphia on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More pleasurable absurdities

The Poles are collectively convinced that in their country more absurdities can be found than elsewhere, and maybe they have a point.
The river Wisla (Vistula in English) was to be made fit for navigation by barges.

It is one of those slow rivers that need locks and dams to create a navigation channel that is deep enough. Thus was started a project of canalisation. Any other developer would have started near the sea and work upstream gradually, or start working on all the locks and dams at the same time.
Not so in Poland though.
Only in the upper reaches there are now five or six locks and dams - and that's it.
The rest of the project was abandoned or maybe postponed, don't know.
Now this region cannot be reached from the sea and there is no connection with other waterways.
The locks are in perfect working order, and I saw maintenance people busy today.
It seems as if a barge could arrive any moment, and it is as if the lock keeper has his hand on the swith to start the lock operation.
But nothing happens.

The lock keeper must be in there somewhere...


See also the photo group Only in Poland/

Grotere kaart weergeven

Monday, November 24, 2008

Upper Silesia Revisited

I have mentioned this earlier, I am in Poland again! Yippeeee!

I am visiting the same region as earlier this year, the coal mining area around Katowice in Upper Silesia.
Why I came here in the first place? Listen and shudder.

Someone wrote that one of the darkest experiences in his life was leaving the spooky Central Station in Katowice and feeling the menacing presence of obviously unemployed dark figures on the badly lit station square.

Aha, I said to myself, that's the place for me.

And it is. I wouldn't mind living here for a few years. Heaven, sort of. I haven't seen any dark figures yet, but give it time.

This region has one of the last surviving interurban tramway networks in the world. This is the main reason for my visit this time.

Today I took the tram to Bytom, a place I visited in March when it was raining. That was good for the mood, of course. Now it was darker, colder, definitely stinkier than the first time.
Moody Bytom
I had a field day. Especially the smell of coal smoke is everywhere now - in Bytom, that is. I even discovered an old-fashioned coal merchant, loading up his horse-drawn carriage at one of the few remaining pits that are still active.

Coal merchant near Bytom, Poland

Oh, and that man who found Katowice dark, obviously hadn't been to Bytom yet.

Did I take pictures? You bet.

Anyway, that tram network is so vast that I'll need to go back to
Bytom tomorrow, Tuesday, to 'do' the rest of the tram riding in Bytom. I might even find out how to change to the line to Zabrze and eventually Gliwice. Strange as it may sound, the printed map of the entire tramway network here, which is listed
on the internet, picture of the cover and order number and all, isn't available anywhere at all. No sir, out of print.
Amazing Poland, amazing Poles and may this week seem endless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet The New Boss

Under The Old Boss about half the population felt it was necessary to hand over their liberties in exchange for a very urgent protection from terrorism.

After the election the other half of the population is now near euphoric that this terrible experience is coming to an end. There is new hope. Wonderful.
Will the New Boss repeal the Patriot Act? If so, why didn't he say so?
Will he make sure America is going to mind their own business instead of continually going to war? No, or else he would have promised so.

The new boss believes that Planet Earth needs to be saved. About half the population agrees with him. The consequence will be a further restriction of liberties*), which then will be handed over voluntarily, because people expect the very urgent protection from the danger of global warming.

I try not to be negative about these things. I'd much rather be gently amused, and describe the flow of events as "ding dong".

Maybe it is high time for me not to worry and just be happy too.

*) Just Google "Agenda 21" and the consequences of the IPCC studies.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

So much to blog, so little time

Tomorrow (June 30, 2008) I'll be 60 and I must admit it shows in the pace that time passes. Yes and also in my face. So although I have lots of time it seems like there is very little of it.

Quickly on to the current affairs then: what started so well ended in elimination of the Dutch football team. Too bad, very sad, better next time.

But that's yesterday's news isn't it?
VallyP has given her report of the first half of the trip. I did the second half alone, which also meant half the fun. Much of that second leg was over wider waters, which I now know are not my cup of tea. You've seen one mile you've seen them all, when the waters are wider than say 500 meters.

Luckily de river Vecht more than made up for it. That is a stunning little meandering gem of a river from IJsselmeer to Utrecht, a city you cross through old canals like those in Amsterdam'.

Like Amsterdam, Utrecht has an elaborate red light district, not in houses, however, but in houseboats. Here are a few of them, neatly and uniformly arranged along the quayside of the river. And 'to keep the customers satisfied' they all have air conditioning units on the roof.

All the photos I took on that part of the journey can be seen in this Slide Show.

Back in the house Westdorpe I decided I needed some real photographic input, so I spent Saturday on my motorscooter for a visit to my beloved Maubeuge, a former industrial town on the river Sambre in northern France.

Here an example of the 180 photos I took there.
The rest of them can be seen here in a slideshow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

All That Good News

Firstest of allest, Val is back from South-Africa, the land that easily makes her look at least five years younger.

First of all, now the Irish have voted against further loss of souvereignty to the EUSSR. I celebrate that, although the rulers have enough tricks to have their way after all. But at least We, The People of France, The Netherlands and Ireland have spoken up against this Euro Nonsense.

Changing the subject to more Good News: the Dutch football team now steamrolls its way over standard tournament winners like Italy (3-0) and France (4-1). These are results unheard of in football history.

There has to be a twist.
Here it is: the Dutch mail order company is a very active sponsor of the Dutch team, but not in the way of nourishing our own players, but by exhausting the opponent.
Watch this YouTube film and see how they weaken the French players by invading the team's hotel, using the best Dutch secret weapon: pretty girls!

As all wise football coaches say: no sex before the match!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'New' in our collection

We found this wonderful little ship on the Dutch version of e-Bay: A ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEAR OLD small freight barge converted to a very handy, almost live-aboard mobile floating home, or pleasure craft if you like.

We are very busy finding a marina in the area where the house is. That may take a while, but we are confident we'll find a place where she's welcome.

Here is the rest of a series of photos I took of the barge when I went to buy.
And an extra photo by the former owner - but still the bow isn't completely visible.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Too many good things for one post

May 8th was one of those days when just too many attractive images came up in front of my camera.
Here are three of my favourites of that day.

Some of the objects that keep attracting me are traffic mirrors. Here is one with an extra: the Human Factor, very unusual in my photos. Anyway I prefer them to just an anonymous car.

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Another recurring theme is the railway crossing. This was on a busy line in Belgium*), so within minutes I could capture this passing freight train. An impressive experience.
*) Belgian trains keep left.
View it large

Here is a landscape photo that had it all in it, but that 'all' took a few minutes of Photoshop activity to appear.

View it large

All the photos I took that day can be found here in a slide show of the May 8th, 2008 images

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flare is a disadvantage?

But first the Big News: VallyP and I have made a tiny little ditty for Dale, to celebrate the friendship we feel for her. It is appropriately called 'No Substitute for Dale'.

At the beginning of April VallyP gave me a very impressive wide angle zoomlens for my photo camera. Reading the user reports I noticed lots of praise except its tendency to show flare when pointing at backlit subjects.
For those who have no idea what lens flare is, I have taken this picture in very a very extreme backlit situation. In fact the sun shone almost straight into the lens.
Here it is.
Who's afraid of lens flare
View large version
This reminds me of the good old principle that a disadvantage is only that if you forget to turn it into an advantage. I think this photo looks stunning thanks to this so-called lens fault.

Sometimes a picture I have taken surprises me in spite of the very clear feedback that a digital camera has to offer.
This one had a dreamy quality that I hadn't really noticed at the moment of shooting. In fact to me it looks more like a painting by Carel Willink than a photo.
I sent a little thank you to up the authority in charge and here it is for all to see.
Standing guard
View large version

If you want to see more of my recent photos why not follow the link below.
Koos_Fernhout's Photos on Flickriver
Or the photos most highly rated by users of Koos_Fernhout's Most Interesting Photos on Flickriver

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I can feel a bit lost in a tourist place among hoards of others carrying cameras. What on earth can one do to make a distinction from all these others taking pictures of the world famous architecture in stunningly beautiful Ghent, Belgium?

I did not want to go the easy route of not taking pictures at all until I was in the gloomy outskirts, which are always a great hunting ground for me.

Then a few very 'different' shop windows caught my eye. There were several shops carrying the most improbable knick-knacks. They in themselves were worth a few pictures, but they also reflected the world outside the shops - and there were my images of Ghent façades in a slightly different way.
Just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Iffy weather

What to do when the dog needs walking, we need some fresh air, but the weather is very instable? Just go out and see what happens. We took the car just across the border to walk along a nice canal called Langelede. We still had to endure some rain, but the reward was huge. The setting sun broke through the clouds and treated us with the most amazing play of light and shadow.

Luckily at least one of us had thought of bringing a camera. Below you find some of the images we were rewarded with.

In the end the rain stopped, and a very pretty countryside was shown in the warmest, richest light that nature has in store for us.

DSC 1266
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DSC 1313
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Quite often, the clouds themselves make a great subject:
This time was no exception.
DSC 1262
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This was our view from the back garden.

Friday, April 11, 2008

About coal and billboards

In my previous post I mentioned coal and billboards, but then I couldn't upload pictures.

Here is an example of a billboard announcing that you can have your own billboard in the same place.

Ad space availableView it big

Here's a tram that hides its rather transformer-like looks under a layer of printed pvc advertising.
View it big

I noticed a surprising way to deliver coal in an otherwise very neat neighbourhood.
Just dump it on the pavement...
Delivery of coal for domestic heating
View it big

Koos_Fernhout - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sights and smells

Those who have stayed in a Paris hotel probably know that the front may look great, but the view at the back can be quite horrible. Polish housing estates are different from this. As a rule the front looks horrible, and the back is a shocking wasteland of mud, cobblestones, burnt-out pvc wastebins (imagine the smell) and rubbish containers. Talking about smells, this is coal mining country where not all the pits are closed - yet. Coal is still used for home heating, so every now and then I catch a sniff of coal smoke. Nice if they don't overdo it!

Added to this, and changing the subject abruptly, here's a slide show I found. It's about The Who of course.

Here's Katowice on a misty Wednesday

I have a few moments to spare before going out for new discoveries.

The Poles are great believers in advertising. This seems to be connected with their fondness of the USA, which is understandable because more Poles live over there than in Poland!

Do you have a facade you don't like? Put a huge textile billboard over it. Do you have a facade you do like? Do the same as above. Shame to let the opportunity pass.
Same with trams. Cover them in printed pvc foil, perforated over the windows, and make a few Złoty announcing the latest offer in cellphones.

For Margie
Here's my cryptic answer to your question about pronunciation yesterday: say quickly "Oz witch I am" (Oświęcim for those who missed it). Jam instead of I am works even better, but somehow lacks the pun(ch).

Discovered I lost my printed form with the flight info.
No problem. Internet cafe, look up, choose English version and Bob's your uncle.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Quick One While I'm Away

Can't upload pics in Poland, so here's a fave of mine from South Africa
Hermitage, ZA
Or view it bigger here

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A fond memory of Poland

Northbound combined tow, near Wroclaw, Poland
Click pic to see Flickr page, or here to view the image Large

Visiting Poland last August, I came across this convoy on the river Odra. The towboat pushed the hull of a newly built tugboat backwards towards the sea port Stettin. The superstructure of the new boat lay in the barge at the front of the convoy, due to limited height of the bridges and locks. The helmsman of the towboat couldn't see over the convoy, but was assisted by a man on the roof behind him who told him how to manoeuvre.

Saturday I'll be flying to Poland again, to explore the waterways and the industrial area around Katowice. I am looking forward to that 5-day trip and I might come home with a few photos...

Monday, March 24, 2008

We thought spring had sprung...

This morning, three days after the beginning of Spring 2008 we were surprised by this view from The House.

Westdorpe, Spring 2008
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Spring 2008
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Kitchen, Spring 2008
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