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The Denial Of Death

Do you want to understand more about mankind ? Why do you believe in the nonsense of religions ? Why are we so violent ?

Well you could do no better than to read this book by Ernest becker “The Denial of Death”.

Trains: Nederlandse Spoorwegen Plan V

Nicky

Our oldest son Nicky (10) likes trains, he likes watching them, reading about them and learning about those he sees and understand why they are built like they are. He is fortunate in that my father is also a big train fan, he has a model rail layout in one of the big barns that takes up the whole barn ! Opa (grandfather) knows all about trains from most countries to one degree or another. As my dad had no sons we daughters acted as stand in sons and learnt about trains from him – you would be amazed at just how much I know about trains ! Now father has a total of three grandsons and they have been infected with the train bug.

NS Plan V pulling into Geleen-Lutterade on a foggy morning.

Recently a dear friend of ours from Norway, Karl, informed us of a programme on Norwegian TV that followed a 10 hour train journey in real time from Trondhiem to Bodo along the beautiful fiord coast. Nicky can now tell us all about every aspect of the Nordland Railway linking those cities, the design of the locos and trains and why everything is engineered the way it is. http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/Getting-here-and-around/Train-in-Norway/

As a little thank you to Karl Nicky has drawn his favorite Dutch train for Karl and now he is going to tell you all about the Plan V trains.

Judith vd R.

 

NS Plan V

After WW2 much of Dutch Railways (NS) rolling stock was damaged, worn out or stolen by the occupying forces and it was recognised that Holland needed new equipment so a series of long term investment plans were drawn up. Part of the plans was to continue with electrifying NS, which had been started before the war. Holland is a country with little coal, not much wood and no oil so electrifying railways made sense. The country is also small but with densely populated city areas which the government planned to grow quickly following the war so more efficient trains were needed.

 

The first were the  the “Material 54″ sets called Plan F, G, P, , M and Q, all based on a design that at that time were modern and stream lined. Very quickly they became known as “Hondekop” or “Dogs Heads”. They were comfortable units but rather heavy so when ten years later NS wanted more units the same basic design shape was kept, thought more effort made to reduce their weight, these were the The NS Mat ’64 or Materieel ’64 electric multiple units and were built by Werkspoor and later by Duwag and Wagonfabrik (later to become Talbot, then Bombardier) between 1961 and 1976. They were built in several batches from V1 to V13.

 

They have served all over Holland for over 50 years, carried millions and millions of people, bikes, school parties, soldiers and holiday makers. They have covered several million kilometres each in all sorts of weathers but they are wearing out. Many have now been taken out of service to provide spare parts to keep others running and in rail yards like Amsterdam, Amersfoort, Zwolle and here in Maastricht their are now long lines of them retired. Some have been rebuilt and sold to other countries like the Balkans but here by 2015 they will all be gone.

 

Now new trains with better and more energy efficient technology are being built. The new trains have much better steps that can extend and retract so that my disabled sister can use the trains more safely. You can see from one end of the train all the way to the other when you are inside. They have features like Monitors in them that show the train name, number, departure and arrival times, the route and if there is a problem so for those like my Mother and I who cannot hear train announcement still learn what is happening. They have brakes that do not make toxic dusts and that generate electricity to put back into the wires ! But they do not have the character of the Plan V’s. Perhaps character comes with age and so when I am my Opa’s age I will think the same of them. I will see.

Author: Nicky vd R.

Sigh No More

“Sigh No More”

Today it has been pouring rain in Gelderland so aside from going out to the barns earlier to tend to the animals we have all been stuck inside watching the waves of rain sweeping back and fourth across the fields and woods. These sorts of days always produce slightly restless and frustrated children so this afternoon we cleared my mothers big refectory dinning table and got out her paints and pencils.

As the children made a start I found a book of poetry and started reading one from William Shakespeare

 

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
    Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey nonny, nonny.
Sigh no more ditties, sing no more
    Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
    Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey, nonny, nonny.

From this my lovely little daughter Mariakse and I drew and doodled and doodled and………………………………

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Mariakse van der Roos & Judith van der Roos ~

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In het Nederlands:
Sigh No More, dames, Sigh No More.
Mannen Waren bedriegers Ooit,
Un Voet in zee, en un op de wal,
Om un ding constant Nooit.
Dan zucht niet zo, but Laat ZE Gaan,
En Wees JE Blij en bonny,
Het omzetten van al your Geluiden van Wee
Into hey nonny, nonny.

Sigh No More liedjes, zingen niet meer De
Van stortplaatsen Zo saai en Zwaar.
De fraude van de Mannen werd Altijd Zo
Sinds de zomer van eerste was lommerrijke.
Dan zucht niet zo, but Laat ZE Gaan,
En Wees JE Blij en bonny,
Het omzetten van al your Geluiden van Wee
In hij, nonny, nonny.

Author: Judith.

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The Gift Of Life: Two Years On

On this date two years ago Nina was heavily pregnant with Joost. This new addition to our family had been expected around the middle of December but was clearly finding his accommodations inside Nina to be very comfortable and so was in no hurry to leave. By Christmas Eve he was nine days over due but as all was well so there was no concern, besides people worry far too much about “due dates”, this modern obsessiveness has been brought about by over medicalisation of birth and is silly in so many ways. Our first pregnancy had over run as well, with Mariaske arriving 21 days late. Nina was still charging about, helping with our holiday guests, seeing to our other three children and generally making every other women sick with just how easy she made pregnancy look ! We were all wondering if Christmas Day would be the day, but happily that particular cliche’ passed without incident.

Mama Nina met Joost

Mama Nina met Joost

A we got closer to the day the longing inside me to see my child seemed to become almost physical, a sort of morning sickness of the barren and unfulfilled. At that time every mother and child I saw was a simultaneous moment of exultation and despair. I don’t why it is that we women feel such a deep need to create life from within inside ourselves, why we yearn for a time when our own flesh will bring us comfort, but I do. That’s an experience that most women, women with their own children , miss out on in life, the intensively female grief which accompanies the fear that through our baroness those little lives will never exist.

When Nina had been pregnant with Mariaske she had breezed along though it and I had been carried along in her wake without a worry in the world, but with Joost Throughout her pregnancy with Joost I could not stop watching Nina. I was much more tense, always feeling like I was holding my breath with thoughts of what could go wrong always in my mind. I was terrified that we was putting Nina at risk and for what, we had three lovely children already, my genes were nothing special ! However, I was scarred for this slim chance that I might, against all the odds, actually one day hold a child of my own.

Once a week on Friday nights our other children would have Mama ( “Nina is Mama, I am Moeder -Mother) stand in bra and panties against the measuring wall in their bedroom and carefully draw around her baby bump to mark the progress of our pregnancy. Outwardly I would be smiling and happy but inside I would be relieved that another week had safely passed for Nina and baby, my happiness coming from that.

 

It is strange how things come about. The reason Nina was having Joost because of of silly incident that resulted in me having a second intra-cranial bleed. This bleed had wrecked havoc on my visual cortex casuaing my visual problems. It was while I was in hospital recovering from surgery for this that a blood test revealed that I might still have a functioning ovary. An ultra-sound scan confirmed that not only was one ovary still present healthy and functioning, but that eggs were present. No doubt they had been sustained over the last ten years by my cousin Tyjardia’s wonderful efforts with bio-identical hormones to keep me from dropping into early menopause following the loss of my uterus when I was twenty years old. On learning the scan results Nina had instantly demanded that those eggs be harvested and stored, she wanted them and as soon as humanly possible – who was I to object ! Five months later, and two rounds of IVF, a kind donation from our very good friend Nik and the eggs raided from my very own larder and she was pregnant with a child of mine. Ever since loosing my womb I had never dreamed that I might still see, hold and nurse a real child of my own, but now here I was holding my breath, drowning in the enormity of what she was doing for me.

 

On December 31st 2009 we had been out for an a morning walk, stopping for lunch with friends at xxxx on the Vrijhof. Normally at this restaurant Nina would order their baked fish but today she just settled for a light salad. I looked at her and she just smiled back and I knew, and she knew I knew, and for just a little while we shared that little time, a private little secret that her labor was just firing off its first little warm up shots as we sat in that lovely companionship with friends and family. We had hoped to get back home without any fuss from everyone else, but then someone observed that Nina was not eating much. Our excessively bright and sharp daughter Hilke stated that “Mama is not eating because baby is coming”. I was never sure if everyone stopped because of the content of her news, because of the calm way she had delivered the statement, or because of the looks on Nina and my face that she had known all along ! Then the dam burst and the questions flooded in as we tried to re-assure everyone that it was just the barest of first contractions and that our newest child was not about to be born there between desert and coffee !

 

As it turned out it was some twelve hours later after an uneventful labor that Joost finally slipped from Nina’s body and into my waiting hands in our bedroom, watched by our three children, our midwife Anna, two dogs and a cat. As a throughly satisfied Nina sat back I placed Joost onto her chest and as I did I could feel myself unwind a little inside. As my son lay there and rooted about for a nipple another part of me unwound, he was fine and showing normal behaviour, just the after birth to be delivered and we were safely there. As is our custom here everyone in the bedroom stayed quiet and just left birth mother and new baby to get acquainted until her body was ready to birth the placenta. I do not think I had ever been so unaware of my surroundings as I was then, my entire consciousness was there with them on my love’s breasts, over her thumping heart, and my son. I drank in every detail of him, desperate to know him, to imprint on me. While Nina and Anna attended to the afterbirth I held Joost for the first time. With my blouse off I held Joost to my skin so that he would get to know me as well. I have grown up holding babies, my mother was a doula for 40 years so I have handled babies for longer than I can remember. All our children are precious to me, adopted, birthed alike but right there and then I was holding this beautiful little soul whoes loss I had already grieved over some ten years before when told my womb was gone – I wanted to yell for joy for what I thought I had lost but now was here in my arms, and I wanted cry with relief that Nina and Joost were safe and well – caught between these two mountains of emotion I did the only thing I could do. I sat on the floor and asked his brother and two sisters the come and say hello.

Much later, alone and out of ear shot I wept and wept until purged and when I was done I went to our son’s cot, scooped him up and put him to my breast. While he suckled I put my face to his head and drank him in, trying to fix this new reality deeply in my mind.

So here I sit on one of the couches in our living room typing this. On the opposite couch my better half is asleep on her side with Joost tucked up ever so tightly against her and her arms enfolding him. Together like that the painting “Mother & Child II” by Gustav Klimt came into my mind. I want to reach over and catch that little run of dribble from the corner of Joost’s mouth and lightly push the hairs of Nina’s fringe that had fallen across her closed eyes, but I restrain myself

 

In a moment I am going to save this file, put the laptop down, slip over to the other couch, put my face to my son’s hair and drink in his lovely smell once again.

With all my grateful thanks to my Wife for this most wonderful of gifts.

Judith van der Roos.

 

Christian Support of Torture

I was reading the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life(1) of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press illustrates differences in the views of four major religious traditions in the U.S. about whether torture of suspected terrorists can be justified. The study found that of those good american christians who attended church on a weekly basis 73% answered that the use of torture can be justified. That 73% was made up as Often / Sometimes / Rarely justified. 

I found this staggering.

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

In the New Testament the word “Witness” is the proper translation of the Greek word for Martyr, specifically someone who suffers for speaking out. In the mythology of the christian bible Christ was martyred on the cross for speaking truth to power & authority. The imagery of Christ nailed to a cross should be a constant reminder to christians of what torture really means. For us atheists we should always keep in mind that bearing witness is the fundamental tenant of what we today call Human Rights.

In the latin Vulgate translation of the bible in John 19.5  Pontius Pilate utters the words “Ecce homo” as he presents the tortured (by the scourge) Christ to the crowd – “Behold the man”. Given that this heritage is so deeply embedded into the christian bible I find it utterly stunning that anyone thinking themselves to be christian can in anyway condone even the merest thought of torturing a fellow human being, no matter what their supposed crime(s) might be. Shame on them.

In the west we think ourselves as Human Rights cultures (even though the evidence of our hypocrisy is all to evident – ref 3), so what has gone wrong ? I think Human rights in our liberal cultures has shifted away from witnessing the rights of our fellow individuals to institutionalising human rights into a larger term we call “democracy”. By making this shift some very clever people in power have accommodated the concept that individual human beings maybe tortured when it is part of preserving the so called “greater cause” of democracy because that is “the big picture of human rights”, it is seductive, especially to the non-thinkers, the mere followers, in society, but it is the road to hell because it is a Lie.

Human Rights (2) start and end with how each one of us bear witness to our fellow individual human beings. When we stop doing this the gateway is opened up for authority to commit whatever evil they wish and justify it as being something for the greater good (defence of the state/democracy/freedom). But the only effective way to achieve a greater good is for that greater good to be made up of many small goods, the good of the individual act of bearing witness.

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References
Reference One

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
<http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=51580>

Poll question wording: Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/The-Religious-Dimensions-of-the-Torture-Debate.aspx

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Reference Two

United Nations Convention Against Torture

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

Ban on torture and cruel and degrading treatment

Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict. Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials. The prohibition on torture applies to all territories under a party’s effective jurisdiction, and protects all people under its effective control, regardless of citizenship or how that control is exercised.Since the Conventions entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.
Because it is often difficult to distinguish between cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, the Committee regards Article 16′s prohibition of such treatment as similarly absolute and non-derogable.
The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating and punishing acts of torture.

Ban on Refoulement

Article 3 prohibits parties from returning, extraditing or refouling any person to a state “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”. The Committee against Torture has held that this danger must be assessed not just for the initial receiving state, but also to states to which the person may be subsequently expelled, returned or extradited.

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Reference Three
CIA Training Materials:

“Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983″
“KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963

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Reference Four

  • It allowed brutal and horrific tortures, including sexual torture, to take place over many months in Abu Grabe, tortures that including beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation (11 days), it allowed brutal tortures at Guantanamo Bay -sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging.
  • It allows it to continue today at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan – insects placed in a confinement box, beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation.
  • CIA Black prisons around the globe.The CIA seem to favour stripping prisoners naked, strapping them to a bed, in a very white room which is air-conditioned to be very cold – Cold Cell Torture – where a prisoner can be left for up to three weeks. They also use Sweatboxes and coubarils.
  • It allows countries that should know better to detain people without trial and cut off from family and friends for many years because this is just another form of torture. I could go on and on with examples but I hope you see my point.
  • It allows The use of Cold Cell torture in US prisons (Miami/Dade, Florida, 9th floor) and sheriffs stations (Sheriff James Cannon of Charleston County, South Carolina.).The US Military brigs, both in Charleston and Quantico, have entire wings of temperature controlled hypothermic torture chambers. At night Private Manning was (may still be) stripped naked and locked onto a cold metal slab. The air conditioning units blew 45 degree air into the cell at great speed. Private Manning curled into the fetal position and shook violently all night long. There was no way to sleep when the body sustains that level of pain. Torture.

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