dinsdag 21 oktober 2008


We have always tinkered with the forces of nature. But like The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1) we have a tendency of letting the dancing brooms run amok. We introduce exotic species that then become plagues, we reap forests along hilly slopes that then become landslides, we surface mine for idiotic precious particles and leave behind ruined and barren habitats, we produce toxic waste and store in the earth’s atmosphere. We seem to never quite get it right.

Recently large scale land reconstruction programs are taking place in the Netherlands. The Dutch have always pushed and heaped dirt around to contain water and these new excavating projects are no different. What is different however is the ultimate goal: recreating in a controlled fashion nature’s natural solutions to contain and manage excess waters. In stead of directing our river’s water supply in the speediest way possible straight to the ocean, we have come to understand the need for rivers to flood every once in a while. We don’t like flooding. We hate it with a vengeance. It must be in our blood or so. We thought for a long time that we could prevent flooding by raising dikes. It didn’t work as well as we envisioned. And we kept on raising dikes a little bit more after new and unsuspected rises of water levels. And we kept on seeing the land levels in our claylike country drop. If we were to continue in that fashion the Dutch would soon live in a country that lies for the most part below sea level and is separated by huge insurmountable dikes that go on and on for miles.

Vast land reforms in the Netherlands to better and more wisely manage our water surplus in the upcoming years.

The Dutch government has published a pretty impressive policy campaign: ‘Treating Water Management differently in the 21 Century’. In it plans are published to rethink water management on a grand scale. We expect seawater levels to rise 60 centimeter in the next century. We expect land levels in the Netherlands to drop up to 60 centimeters in the coming fifty years. We expect rainfalls to increase with some 10% in the following fifty years. And these are just the modest official predictions based on the least dramatic scenarios. Even so the calculations spell disaster if we don’t do something. And so we did.

Deepened river forelands and wetlands are being rebuilt as storage capacity in times of severe flooding. Dikes are actually being demolished in a controlled manner to give rivers and canals access to these storage areas. Free meandering of rivers and streams will be restored in many parts of the Netherlands. In polders (low-lying tracts of land enclosed by embankments known as dikes, that form an artificial hydrological entity) water storage areas are also introduced. All these measures will increase the potential surface water storing capacity. At the same time the final landscaping of these newly created environments is being left largely to nature itself. Wetlands and river forelands can and will for the most part depend on nature to introduce plant- and wildlife. The developing biodiversity will of course be monitored but it will not be managed. Although the Dutch are still the architect of the rough draft of these new landscapes, they are only re-introducing some of the clever solutions nature already had in place to counteract massive peek flooding. This was way before we started to outsmart nature. After the new landscaping has been done, the tinkering with nature will stop. We will watch and see. And learn I hope.

New water storage areas turn to wetlands where nature rules freely (for the most part). Bird Sanctuary Koudenhoek near Ouddorp in the Netherlands.

(1) L'apprenti sorcier (English: The Sorcerer's Apprentice), by the French composer Paul Abraham Dukas (1897), based on Goethe's poem ‘Der Zauberlehrling’, later used in the Walt Disney film Fantasia.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2008


Not all salmon we caught in the Togiak and Ongivinuk River in Alaska where released. This fresh silver posed and then made it as sashimi and sushi to the dinnertable, an exquisite treat I can say.

The clip [below] shows the drill of a nice lean rainbow trout, locally known as the 'leopard rainbow', that took the monster fly intended for a silver. We're in Alaska, on the banks of the Togiak River, september 2008. Dresscode: Patagonia rain jacket, Patagonia Watermaster II waders, Patagonia cap.

vrijdag 17 oktober 2008


Where else than Alaska to give your gear the ultimate test? The rugged environment puts a hurting on every item you’re hauling along.

We did a floattrip on the Ongivinuk and Togiak river last September and we fly fished for salmon, grayling and trout. The weather most days was so so and that meant living in your waders for the better part of the day. The breathable waders we wore came from Simms, Hodgeman, Modulus and Patagonia.

Let me lay it down for you up front: I wore the Patagonia Watermaster II (Long), one of the few waders out there my 6’6’’ long legged stature feels comfortable in. And this one didn’t end on the fire. The Hodgeman did as it started leaking along seam after seam. The Modulus did within two days with multiple pinpoint leakage problems. The Simms did the year before, and I’m talking about the Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot wader. It leaked heavily along the...stockingfoot.
Now I know full well that one buys a wader just to have it leak on you sooner or later. My Watermaster II however is still in prime condition after two seasons of rather heavy duty. All of my Patagonian stuff, from performance baselayers, to sweaters, to rain jacket, to duffel: they held remarkably well under Alaskan circumstances. I have definitely become a full blown Patagonia fan.

Now for the rods... We broke three # eight rods on Silvers that didn’t choose to jump but went straight for Dillingham and the open sea in one scorching run. I broke my Gatti three piece, a fine example of Italian rod builders craftsmanship but a tad on the fine side for those silver bullets in the Togiak River. So faired a new Sage TCX and a Dutch custom built eight rod that goes under the name of: ‘a fucking good rod’. My Redington Red.Fly and a Snowbee outperformed the brands with the big names altogether. ‘Dutch reels’ where used predominantly (what else?) along with a few System Two’s and the Dutch beauties did exactly what was needed of them. Simply fantastic reels, the whole series. I will spare you the details of all the knots that weren’t up to the power bursts of silvers and big rainbows, suffice it to say that in the end only true blood knots were used. Blood knots on strong tapered nylon leaders and 24 lb test fluorocarbon tippets. Stay tuned, I might be back shortly with more detailed info on our Alaskan adventure.

Power packed fresh silvers on the Togiak river in Alaska.

maandag 13 oktober 2008

DIG IT! That what must remain hidden

Archaeological remains define us. They constitute the collective memory of our culture. As pages in a book, layer upon layer of dirt harbours precious proof of what we once were. When dug up and studied archaeological remains tell us about our ancestors, our culture, our roots. But now we should stop digging?

Recently (2007) the Netherlands passed a law fully endorsing the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological heritage of Europe’, mostly referred to as the Valletta Treaty or Malta Convention. The treaty from 1992, aims to protect the European archaeological heritage ‘as a source of European collective memory and as an instrument for historical and scientific study. All remains and objects and any other traces of humankind from past times are considered elements of the archaeological heritage. The notion of archaeological heritage includes structures, constructions, groups of buildings, developed sites, moveable objects, monuments of other kinds as well as their context, whether situated on land or under water’. Sweden and the United Kingdom also passed laws and other European countries are following. In the Netherlands local city councils are responsible for the effective implementation of the new law. And problems arise.

The Valetta Treaty speaks about ‘in situ’ conservation of archaeological remains. Map it, sonar it, electrolyse it, photograph it, but leave it burried, the treaty says, and it will come to no harm. Vivian Smits, conservator at Studio Västsvensk Konservering in Sweden, who did a paper on the pros and cons of digging treasures up, states: ‘During the last decade or so, in situ preservation and conservation have been recognised as the most desirable course of action when preserving archaeological remains. That is, in situ preservation aims to preserve the heritage in a wider context, in this way establishing a greater understanding of the heritage in question’.

Once dug up archaeological remains have a tendency of quickly falling apart, rotting away, going up in smoke. Or they present valuable loot, a business opportunity, a bargain. For local (Dutch) governments however dug up remains present an altogether different and much more understandable challenge: a means in getting townspeople involved in the history of their habitat and thus sustaining a much needed social structure of a shared past. ‘Cohesion’ is the magic word here, and ancient bones or pottery may just contribute perfectly fine to that process of merging neighbourhoods and bonding people. According to Valletta however most of us will never see what lies under the grounds we tread.

Although a scientist herself Vivian Smits states clearly in her paper: ‘As for the archeological heritage, which should most definitely be well preserved and protected, this should be done in close cooperation with the public. Although this involvement might be employed in ways the academic world does not always approve of, it might be the right and only way of stimulating and involving the public in the preservation and maintenance of our common heritage’.

Getting us involved could mean a growing understanding and more enthusiasm for our cultural heritage, which would inevitably lead to larger funding and thus better preservation. A way of preserving archaeological heritage for all to see.

Archeologists of a company called B.O.O.R. at work at the new building site 'Parnassia' in the city of Hellevoetsluis, the Netherlands.

zondag 12 oktober 2008


We will empty the oceans shortly if we go on like this. All around the globe fish stocks are being depleted at an alarming rate. Europe's North Sea's coast is home ground for a number one sport fish ánd the most sought after species for the fancy dinnertable: the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), now dangerously close to the red list.

A distant cousin of the American striper (or striped bass - Morone saxatilis), the seabass is mostly a night hunter, feeding on small fish, polychaetes, cephalopods and crustaceans. They can live up to 15 years and can grow up to a meter (39.37 inches) and more, but lately bass seldom reach full maturity. It has come under increasing pressure from commercial fishing and so-called sport fishermen who do not practise 'Catch & Release'.

The bass has recently become the focus in the United Kingdom of a conservation effort by well organised recreational anglers. In Italy the seabass is subject to intensive commercial breeding in salt waters. The Republic of Ireland has some of the most strict laws regarding bass. All commercial fishing for the species is banned and there are several restrictions in place for anglers, notably a closed season May 15th to June 15th inclusive every year, minimum sizes of 40 centimeters and a bag limit of 2 fish per angler in a 24 hour period.

In the Netherlands some recreational anglers are rallying together with the Royal Dutch Sport Fishing Society in a joint effort to save the species from extinction in Dutch waters and the European seas at large. The current Dutch legal minimum size of 36 centimeters (14.1 inches) does seabass stocks more harm than good and is considered way to lenient. It takes a seabass four to seven years to reach maturity and mate for the first time. Generaly a mature fish that spawns for the first time will measure 35 up to 42 centimeter. A legal minimum size of 45 centimeter (17.7 inches) is therefore considered prudent and strongly supported. Banning commercial fishing altogether ánd not killing and selling fish under the pretext of 'sport fishing' would in the long run benefit the species much more though.

A fly-caught European seabass that swims again in Holland's North Sea.

DOES IT HELP? iPod therapy for the depressed

Suffering from depression (the number one mental illness in modern times) is no party. Suffering from recurring relapses into depression is even worse. What Prozac, Remeron or any other oral chemical substance from the gardens of Organon may not cure, is now being effectively tackled by a smart marriage of iPod and Mindfulness. Or so do suggest the trials.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is concentrated awareness of one's thoughts, actions or motivations. Recent research makes a useful therapeutic role likely for Mindfulness in a number of medical and psychiatric conditions, notably the prevention of depression (relapses).

Available in Mp3 format for the use on your iPod are various Mindfulness awareness exercises such as ‘The bodyscan’, ‘Breathing’ and ‘Mindful moving’. Recently these spoken meditations were translated in Dutch. There are a number of places on the Internet where one might download Mindfulness-based iPod meditations free of charge. Here is a link for the Dutch versions: Noud de Haas.

As a hardcore depression addict myself I have tried Mindfulness-based iPod meditations for more than a year now and I am stunned as to their inner workings. Much of it has clear and undeniable roots in ancient Zen and Buddhist meditation. Being a long time admirer of Alan Watts (‘Tao: The Watercourse Way’, 1975), Robert Pirsig (‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ 1974) and other pre-Internet explorers of the mind I did not find taking a little time a day to listen to these meditations difficult at all. As a matter of fact Mindfulness-based therapy has such a deeply consoling understanding of what the depressed needs foremost that such a soothing awareness in itself works therapeutical. Spoken for myself: ‘Yes, iPod therapy helps and it is very cost-effective at that’.

BIG DEAL IN HOLLAND - Lifehacking for the masses

‘Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better’ by Gina Trapani was launched yesterday in a Dutch translation. Lifehacking.nl together with A.W. Bruna Uitgevers presents Trapani’s much praised lifehacking tombola of tips and trics both as a paperback (ISBN13: 9789022958858 / € 19,95) and as a free pdf-download on www.lifehacking.nl.

Lifehacking has become a big deal in the Netherlands. Leading lifehacking guru Martijn Aslander, the Dutch Jamie Oliver of e-life and cooking with an inbuilt smart-bug, has effectively evoked a charm front that is quickly changing the Dutch ‘outlook’ on the love-hate relationship with our laptops. Martijn (connector, resourcer, lead figure within Elvenstone with a wink @ Tolkien) is the founder of lifehacking.nl and the first Dutch Lifehacking Academy. His seminars on networking in the new reputation economy are entertaining eye-openers for suits and geeks alike. Earlier this year Martijn Aslander co-authored with Frank Meeuwsen, Taco Oosterkamp and Sanne Roemen a Dutch book on lifehacking: ‘100 Lifehackingtips om prettiger en efficiënter te werken’ (ISBN (EAN): 978-90-8965-009-2 (9789089650092) / € 19,90 at Van Duuren Media) ánd a free pdf-download at www.lifehacking.nl). Lifehacking hacks on! Or Dr. Phil's merry oneliner: 'I want you to get exited about your life!'.

Dutch Lifehacking guru leads the way

Martijn Aslander at a seminar on networking in the new reputation economy for the joint body of 1nP Mental Health workers on October 4th in Den Bosch, The Netherlands.