Monday, October 27, 2008

Credit Crunch

The financial world as we know it is falling apart. Apparently capitalism is failing, the markets are crunching and savings go up in smoke.
Since I have invested my money the last few years, and especially the last year while living off my own money without income in Geneva, in one thing that will become more valuable over the coming years, namely myself, i think I am quite a good investor.
Better than those who put their money in an axis-of-evil bank because they thought it gave them the best interest rate possible (my thought: since when is there something as a free lunch...). The bank puts insult after injury: on the platform of the London tube station I was waiting on yesterday is the following add displayed, about three weeks after the aforementioned bank fell: KER-CHING. Moewahahaa.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Holiday at home

Since I will only start working on November 1st, I have some time on my hands. My thesis done, no work except for an book review to write and lots of time on my hands, I have the opportunity to go on a holiday in what was once home, and is now home again: Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is not a metropolis like NYC, Singapore, Paris or London, but it has a big city feel enough, and it is generally a cool city. A nice place to call home. It has some of the best muesums in the world (provided that you like paintings and Dutch Masters, both modern and old). Someone gave me a museum jaarkaart,an all access card for 440 museums in the Netherlands. So I decided to go the museums you went to with your parents as a kid, but never went afterwards en which are really worth vistiting: het Rijksmuseum, het Stedelijk Museum, which is a museum for modern art, het Scheepvaart Museum, a shipping Museum. Those are some of the main attractions of Amsterdam. But believe it or not, they are all being renoveated at the same time. And renovations of museums take time. I am not talking about weeks or months, i am talking about years. So the main attractions of the city are not or only partially acessible. Unbelievable.

However, please do not let that stop any visitor/reader from coming to visit. In times of crises the governement is urging everyone to spend. So just come to Holland and buy the art you want to see; Christies is still selling like there is no tomorrow. And art is a great investment. Better than investing in our banks...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Woosh, the mother of all hang-overs has finally died. It took me over 24 hours of nourishing, sleeping, pampering and patience to get her out of my system and to let her die out.

On Friday my publishing house threw a party for it's 75th anniversary. As writers do, I drank too much. Not just a little bit, but over the top, all the way, hammered. On my way back home I managed to fell of my bike, hurting my knee and injuring my pride. The girl I was with was not impressed, and the next day neither was I... However, I was not the only one who got smashed. I was in the company of others, as writers do.

Thank god I spoke to my editor and to the woman who is trying to sell my book to foreign publishing houses while sober. This week is the Frankfurter Buchmesse, and both of them are going there. Being rock 'n' roll when you are an established writer: ok. But being rock 'n' roll while nobody knows you is a bit daunting. So we talked while I was sober, we agreed that I would translate a sample of my book and that they would try to pitch it somewhere.

That in itself was enough for me to celebrate. Hence the hang-over yesterday...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Politics for the young

Ok, I admit it. I am a member of a political party. For over 5 years already. I am not an active party member, I do not always agree with their views (I am on the right flank of this left-ish labour party), but I do believe in the basic thought of social democracy (although I am deep down inside a social liberal, I guess), namely that people are not equal, but should be treated equally and that it is up to the government to take care of this.

Last Friday two party members (I like those words, 'party members'. It has a very communist-style cold war feel to it, those words) came to my parents' house (where i am staying until this afternoon. I am moving to Amsterdam today...) to interview me for a Party magazine (a regional one) about my book. We had an interesting conversation about my views, politics, politics in the Netherlands, politics in the Netherlands following hypes etc etc, and about the question why political parties lose the interest of the general public. I don't know the answer to that question, but one might be because people tend to think, based on how politics was done ages ago, that being a politician is a job for a lifetime. And young people do not want to make lifetime job decisions anymore.

What a lame answer, my answer. Is that all I can come up with? I am afraid so. But if that is really the main reason why people don't want to be involved in politics, than there is something wrong with the image of politics. If someone who reads this can prove me wrong, I'll be indebted to him or her...

Saturday, October 04, 2008


My thesis is done! Thank god. All I still have to do is to edit it.
Conclusion: in the civil proceedings at the ICC (read: reparation proceedings) class action suits can be very useful tools to ensure that the litigation proceedings do not get clogged. It took me 53 pages to explain that. Obviously I could have done it in less (this blog entry has 6 lines, and I am saying exactly the same...).

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Friesland is farmland. Although the bigger part of Dutch farms are in other provinces of the Netherlands, it feels when you drive trough the region of Friesland where my parents live, as if every second house is a farm.

The street where my parents live on is long, winding, and has only two non-farm houses. From the windows on all sides of the house you see the archetypal Dutch landscape: mills (modern ones), cows, meadows. And clouds. Lots and lots of clouds, like the ones you see in paintings of Dutch Masters.

No matter how much I like this view, I also wonder what the use of all those farms is. Apparently
agriculture makes up for 5% of the Dutch economy. The total amount of farmers in Holland is less than 30,000. Although I am a big fan of regionalism, (just because I like the concept of local food made in a traditional manner), I do believe that it makes sense for countries in Europe to focus their economy on things that they are good at. In The Netherlands that would be services. And since the Netherlands is paying already quite a large sum to the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU (which means, de facto, that they are paying a lot of subsidy money to farmers abroad), it seems like some people in The Hague seem to agree with this idea. However, this idea would effectively put my parents' neighbours out of jobs.

So my parents have strictly forbidden me to ever raise this subject outside of the walls of their house, since they are sure that voicing this opinion will be a serious impediment to their popularity in the hamlet they live in. So I am being censored, and my freedom of speech is limited for the greater good, they say. Because my freedom of speech will interfere with their freedom to settle in Friesland, which they consider to be the inalienable right of any senior citizen. And besides, my father sneered, "shouldn't you be writing your thesis, instead of steering up local politics, kid?"

Aaahhh, wellll. Ok. I'll keep my mouth shut. But I be brave on the internet, and break the shackles of my forced silence. Ha! It is tough being a whistle blower....

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Where do the winds come from?

They come from Friesland, where my parents live. Friesland is a country on it's own; it has its own language, its own cultural heritage, its own history. It is in the north of the country. This northern part of the Netherlands, close to the Waddenzee is flat like the prairies of North America. The winds here are strong, stronger than in Geneva, and it makes the people who grew up here talk loud, even indoors. They are used of having to talk louder than the wind blows, hence the volume of their voices.

Life here is slow pace, and it is ideal for writing my thesis, which focuses on class action lawsuits before the ICC. There has been no articles on this particular issue, nor does the practice of class action suits exists in the dutch legal system, so it is challenging to write about it. Challenging sometimes equals boring, I have to admit.

The research I am doing is good practice for my new job as a barrister at a criminal defense law firm in Amsterdam. I'll start working on the 1st of November. So better get my thesis done soon, or otherwise i will not be able to take a much undeserved holiday...