Doomsday 2012 and the Sun

The Mayan Long Count calendar ended on 21-12-2012. Actually it did not really end, but a new cycle started on that date. So 21-12-2012 can be seen as Mayan New Year’s Eve. The next one will be on 26-3-2407.

Quite a few people expected that the world would end on this day. Sad. Suddenly Nibiru would show up behind the moon and destroy Earth, or the magnetic field of Earth would suddenly reverse, etc.

Here is a picture of the Sun, apparently taken just after “Doomsday”. It looks like the Sun is winking…:-). The picture comes from a recent newspaper article, personally I doubt if the picture is authentic, especially the “lips” I find suspicious.

Doomsday Sun

In the past I have published several posts about the Sun. It will reach a maximum in its 11-year sunspot cycle, next year. It is becoming clear now that this maximum will be very low. Here is a picture updated until December 2012.


The expected maximum of around 72 will be the lowest since 1906. Nevertheless Michio Kaku , the physicist “who would kill his mother to get publicity” (quote by me, LOL) is warning about solar storms that might create havoc on earth.

Christmas 2012

For the first time in decades I have celebrated Christmas in the Netherlands! The day before Christmas I traveled by train to Franeker to celebrate Christmas Eve with Pim and Nanda. Of course with a nice dinner!

Christmas Eve in Franeker

The next day the three of us drove to Groningen, where Ruud and Jur had invited us for Christmas. The weather was mild, no snow. On our way we passed the picturesque town of Balk. Here a picture of the town hall (1615)


In Groningen another nice dinner.  Did I say already that after I am back in Malaysia, I will go on a diet?

Christmas dinner

The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is called the Second Day of Christmas in the Netherlands. It is a day for family visits. The weather was nice, there was even a bit of sun. Good weather for a walk.


Ruud and Jur had organised a family brunch. It was nice to meet my two favourite nephews (both of them have visited me in Malaysia). And you can see how happy my brother is with his granddaughter..:-)


It was a nice and pleasant Christmas celebration. To end this post, here is a picture of the two Christmas trees, in Franeker and in Groningen. One is an artificial one, the other is real. Can you see the difference?

Christmas trees



Food for Body and Soul

Last week started with a concert on Sunday in the Grote Kerk of Edam. I went to a performance of the Christmas Oratory by Bach, sung by Inez and her choir. Beautiful music.The ambiance of a church is perfect for this kind of music. But you must wear warm clothes, as it was cold!

Christmas Oratorio

The Christmas Oratorio consists of six Cantatas. Here is the first Cantata, directed by Nikolas Harnoncourt, an unusual performance as all the vocal parts are sung by males. Beautiful!

After the concert I had dinner with my friend Lambert in a nice restaurant in Edam. I had  Duck Satay as a starter, followed by a Beef Entrecote. Coffee came with sweets and a small glass of liquor.

Dinner with Lambert

The next day I flew to Dublin, where Pat and Roger were waiting for me at the airport. They drove me back to Bailieborough, where their daughter Angela is living with husband John and kids Ciara and Roan. We had dinner (with my first Guinness) and then went to church again! For another kind of Christmas Oratorio…:-) Ciara and Roan were taking part in a Christmas musical, organised by their school, called “Nativity Rocks”. And rock it did!

Nativity rocks

For a detailed report  of my trip to Ireland, click here. The weather was rather dismal, although it enhanced the atmosphere of the Irish landscape.

Irish landscape

But the company was very pleasant and we had nice food.

Family dinner

When I came back to Amsterdam on Thursday, the weather was not much better. Here is a view from my living room the next morning. It was actually 21-12, the day of the predicted Mayan Apocalypse!

Apocalypse day

I visited Inez to have a drink and admire her Christmas tree.

Christmas tree

Yesterday I was invited for dinner by Nico, Paul’s brother. Interesting conversation, food for body and soul…:-)

Dinner with Nico

The weather remained awful. I came back home during a downpour. Here is  picture of me in the elevator. Look at my trousers. This is really not my favourite season.


A week full of variety.

Journal 14-12-2012

As usual I am suffering from jet lag, waking up in the middle of the night, feeling sleepy in broad daylight. Sniffy too, and coughing a lot. Cold! But no snow.
On Tuesday I was invited for dinner by Inez. I found a fleece and an old winter jacket in a cupboard, gloves, and a head cap. I went on my bike to Inez, where I arrived half-frozen.

Winter in Holland

But the company of Inez and the nice, typical Dutch dinner (and a few glasses of wine) brought me back to life soon…:-)






The next morning it was raining, and I seriously considered to stay in bed the whole day…:-) Here is the view from my bedroom window.

Bedroom window view

But in the afternoon the rain stopped, fortunately, because I had planned to go to the University, where an ex-colleague of me was giving a farewell/retirement party. It was nice to meet many people I had been working with, ten years ago.

Farewell party

I could not stay long because I had invited Yolanda, Paul’s sister for dinner.

Dinner Yolanda

And the next day my brother Pim came to my place, also for dinner. As I wrote in an earlier post, I will gain weight during these few weeks…:-)

Dinner Pim

Today I have visited the recently re-opened Stedelijk (Municipal) Museum of Amsterdam, my favourite Modern Art Museum. It was closed for renovation for about nine years. What a pleasure to see again many of the famous paintings of this museum, for example this Mondriaan. Click here for a detailed report


I will end this post with a bit of Malaysian news. Just before I came back to Amsterdam, I realised that my road tax and car insurance were about to expire. So I asked Aric to renew it for me. He came back to me with a shocking discovery!

Do you know that you have not  renewed it December last year? So for one full year you have been driving without insurance and without road tax. Quite a miracle that you have not been caught by the police!

Here is the old sticker, expiry date December 2011!

Car Sticker

Back in Amsterdam

Today I flew back from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. It is a 12 hour direct flight by KLM, usually leaving KL around midnight and arriving at Schiphol airport early next morning (time difference is 6-7 hours). Always a long tiring night for me, because I am unable to sleep in a plane.

Recently KLM started another option, leaving KL around 10am and arriving in Amsterdam the same day at 4 pm. I tried it and my first impression is positive.

This morning Aric sent me to the airport where we had our breakfast at McDonald’s.

The last few days the weather conditions in the Netherlands had been bad with lots of snow, causing delays and cancellations of quite a few flights, so I was relieved to see that my flight had only a 45 minutes delay.

During the flight I watched three movies, played many games of Tetris, and had a short afternoon nap. At Schiphol two of my brothers were waiting for me, the temperature was 8 ºC, hardly any snow left.

When I arrived at my condo, a surprise was waiting for me…:-). Yolanda, Paul’s sister, who had visited Malaysia a few months earlier had come to my place and left some Christmas presents for me. And switched on the central heating. So sweet…;-)

After a cup of coffee, I went out to the supermarket for my traditional first-day shopping. Herring, cheese, strawberries, bacon, bread. Delicious Dutch food…:-)

The last few weeks I have gained weight, a few kg, and I am afraid that these three weeks in Holland will add another 1-2 kg. When I am back in Malaysia I will have to start dieting!

Journal 8-12-2012

A few months ago, in August, when the health of Aric’s father was still quite good, we have been thinking about celebrating Christmas and New Year in Holland. It’s not my favourite season, but it might be interesting for Aric. Maybe even a White Christmas?

When the condition of his father became worse, we cancelled that plan of course and now that his father has passed away, Aric is quite busy with sorting out his fathers papers etc, staying often in Sabak Bernam. Why don’t you go to Holland to visit your family, he suggested, last weekend. At first I was reluctant to go alone, but a few days later, chatting with my brother, I changed my mind.

So, tomorrow 9-12 I will fly to Holland, where I will stay until 1-12013! And where it is winter at the moment. Here is a picture, sent by my sister, a view from her living room of her garden. Quite unusual, as officially winter starts only on 21-12 and generally January and February are the winter months.

The weather here in Malaysia is also unusual with lots of heavy rain, landslides etc. Global climate change! As a contrast here a picture taken from our living room of the hill opposite our condo. When we moved in it was a beautiful forested slope, now it is a noisy construction site..:-(

To end this post, a few food pictures, as this is Malaysia. Last weekend we were invited by friends  for a “real” Chinese dinner. And a delicious dinner it was!

And here I have lunch with IKEA friends. Location: Jalan Bellamy near the old Palace. A simple Malay shop, famous for its Mee Rebus.

It is durian season and these days they are very cheap. Even supermarket Tesco sells them, and for the first time in my life I decided to buy two, although I have no idea how to pick the good ones..:-). Later Aric’s cousin brought more, so we had a durian feast today.

Stabat Mater (Pergolesi)

The Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was only twenty-sex years old when  he died in 1736 from tuberculosis. In the year of his death he wrote a masterpiece, the Stabat Mater.

For those readers without a Christian background, the Stabat Mater is a sorrowful hymn, dating back to the 13th century about Maria, the mother of Jesus, during the crucifixion of her son. A mother watching her son dying is very emotional, also for non-Christians. It has been put to music by many composers, Vivaldi, Rossini, Dvorak, etc. If you are interested in the full text (Latin and English) of the Stabat Mater, click here . The singers are Emma Kirkby and James Bowman

Nowadays, with YouTube accepting video clips exceeding the ten minute limit, there is a wide choice of interpretations available. Here I will give a few links with some personal comments.

Originally Pergolesi composed the Stabat Mater for a male alto and a male soprano (a castrato!), customary in his days. Here is a performance by counter-tenor Rene Jacobs and boy-soprano Sebastian Hennig. Can you hear that actually two males are singing?

Beautiful performance, although the vocal parts are sometimes a bit loud, IMHO. Here is a traditional interpretation  by Dominique Labelle, soprano and Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano.

Alto, mezzo-soprano, counter-tenor, pick your choice. This performance is in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, walking distance from my former domicile. Soloists here are soprano Johannette Zomer en counter-tenor Maarten Engeltjes

Here is an interesting performance coming from Armenia(!), where several of the solo arias are being sung by a choir. Impressive!

Finally, here is my favourite. Performed by Les Pages & les Chantres de la Chapelle, conducted by Olivier Schneebeli. Also here soloists and choir. I like the instrumentation very much.

After listening to these five different interpretations of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, you may be in the mood to listen to something different?

Here is Andreas Scholl in the Stabat Mater by Vivaldi. My favourite counter-tenor.

Take care that you view the YouTube clips one by one, or it will become a chaos..:-)