Monday, January 25, 2016

Rotterdam - Places of pilgrimage - 5

I'm building a mental map of meaningful places in Rotterdam. There is one rule: I have to remember the place myself, without artificial memory aids. I cannot use my photo archive and I cannot use books. It has to be personal.

The previous lists of pilgrimage destinations are here: part 1part 2part 3 and part 4. And there are
also these pages about specific destinations: a park, another park and an allotment garden.
The complete map can be browsed on Google maps.

Surprising how difficult it is to locate these places on the map of Rotterdam. In my memory they're stored like a chain of places: A > B > C, how to travel from A to C. Not: where am I on the map. I have to re-travel this path to re-discover the exact location.
I had to search my archives to locate these places. I still don't have the map of Rotterdam in my head.

Building personal Google maps is very processor-intensive. Too hard for my old laptop. I need a stronger computer.
  1. The strange school tower, Den Hertigstraat - This is a spooky tower on a school building. It has no visibly obvious function (probably stairs or elevators) and has face-like windows at the top. Like some abstract, but ominous guard.
  2. The strangely truncated poplar trees, Millinxpark - These trees have been cut through the middle, leaving them shapelessly decapitated.
  3. The glass display case, Millinxstraat - I think local children can display their treasures here. I saw porcelain animals and model trains.
  4. Strange school tower, Blazoenstraat - Several schools in this area have towers, chimneys or stairways that look slightly threatening. Like some abstract, but ominous guard tower.
  5. Strange school and tower, Zwartewaalstraat, Gaesbeekstraat - This large old school has towers (chimneys, stairways or escalators) that look slightly threatening. They are topped by tiny houses. There are also a few free standing utility-buildings shaped like tiny houses. A strange ensemble.
  6. Strange school tower, Hoogvlietstraat - This large old school has towers (chimneys, stairways or escalators) that look slightly threatening. They are topped by tiny houses.
  7. The passage between the churches, 's-Gravendeelstraat - A green passage between two old schools/churches. American-style evangelist congregations are housed here (I think). It is a peaceful place, not accessible for cars.
  8. The telephones, Oostendam, Lange Hilleweg - Behind the glass, inside this cluttered antique shop several old telephones are gathering dust. Massive Bakelite dials and buttons, textile covered cables. Reminds me of the cold war and Dali. Would this shop ever sell something? How long will it last?
  9. The playing cards, Oostendam, Lange Hilleweg - Here I found several playing cards laying in the street. Scattered by the wind, moistened by the rain. It's not rare to find them scattered in city streets. I always wonder what happened.
  10. The dark, massive school building, Lange Hilleweg - A large, dark school building with an arched entrance. Inside there must be long tiled floors and high tiled walls and massive stone stairways with metal and wood railings. Something to haunt your youth. Later I found out it was the convent of St. Francis.
  11. The ornate lingam, Paul Krugerstraat, Afrikaanderplein - A postmodern obelisk, well-made, coloured, ornamented. Many different materials. Looks out over the park and echoes the crescent moon above the dome of the mosque. Later I found out it's the "Monument for migrant workers".
  12. The magpie tree, Hoogvlietstraat - A tree on the corner where once I saw a gathering of more than 20 magpies.
  13. The convent, Putselaan - It is also called "The convent" and has two saints guarding the front entrance.
  14. The ornate fence around the playground, Putselaan, Hillevliet - A low fence made from thick metal bars. This looks more like something from Paris than from Rotterdam.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Conversa #51 background material

Thomas Walskaar - My Hard Drive Died Along With My Heart
Had a wonderful evening at Conversa #51 with:
  • Thomas Walskaar (My Hard Drive Died Along With My Heart)
  • Petr Kazil (The Materiality of Cloud Technologies)
  • Sijing Zhang (Translation Intuition)
Below is some background material for the cloud talk.
Picture credits Oana Clitan and Berenice Staiger
James Bridle has several interesting essays on the materiality of the Internet:
And he has a longer and more detailed description of traceroute:
Amsterdam datacenter tour with Tijmen
These are nice books on the materiality, economics and power-relations of the Internet:
This is a great site on High Frequency Trading and its microwave towers. There are many parts to this story, among them:
Amsterdam datacenter tour with Tijmen
And two good books on HFT and the underlying technology
A few relevant weblogs about cloud and mobile technology:

Idea for projects - if anyone thinks this is fun, then contact me through Facebook:
  • Visiting the landing sites for the undersea cables - probably nothing to see there
  • Finishing the tour of Amsterdam datacenters - more boring steel boxes
  • Publishing the "26 Amsterdam datacenters" booklet
  • Visiting the Rotterdam telecom substations - more boring utility buildings

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Datura search

In my university days I discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Inspired by him (and though I don't think his writings are "true") I bought the book Gift und Arzneipflanzen in Mitteleuropa (Poisonous and medicinal plants of Middle-Europe) for a more scientific insight into this fascinating subject. Since then I've been actively looking for edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. And especially for Datura Stramonium, the thorn-apple, because it is beautiful and uncanny.
Datura Stramonium along a parking lot in Wachendorf, Germany
It took years before I saw my first datura. This was a tiny plant in the Rotterdam harbour growing along a deserted warehouse. Nowadays this place has been gentrified and the ecology has been erased.
I collected the seeds and later planted them on my balcony and along the railway embankment on my way to work. Both plantings prospered but neither had staying power. No plant returned the next season. Now I suspect that the soil was too rich and the ecology too friendly. This fiendish plant likes fiendish surroundings.
An egde-land area reminiscent of the Amsterdam Datura sighting.
The following years I had a few rare sightings of Datura. In Germany I saw many plants in bloom at the edge of a parking lot, but it was too early for seedpods. On the outskirts of Amsterdam I saw a beautiful ripe plant, but I was on a business trip and couldn't visit managers while carrying a dry poisonous bush.
Datura in bloom in the dunes of Hoek van Holland.
Recently I discovered many vigorous datura plants in Hoek van Holland. The first time was frustrating because the plants were in bloom and the seedpods were green and closed. But in December I revisited this area and collected many ripe seedpods. This is not easy, the stems of the plant are extremely tough and the seedpods are hard and very prickly.
I hope that the many families with children that visit the dunes stay away from these plants, they are surprisingly abundant here.
I will never try this and neither should you! - I think you should never experiment with Datura. It is highly poisonous and the margin between a deadly dose and a hallucinogenic dose is very thin. And the concentration of active ingredients is highly variable. So you never know how much you ingest. Finally Datura is a deliriant drug and many Datura trips are highly unpleasant.
Just looking at this plant and reading about its scary properties is sufficiently mind-bending for me.
I intend to plant the seeds somewhere out of reach of humans and especially children. I now have a better idea of the ecology this plant likes: highly disturbed and recently disturbed sandy soil. I know a few places where it could feel at home. We will see what happens next.