Suto Photos: Blog en-us Thomas G. Cooper (Suto Photos) Sat, 24 Mar 2018 18:07:00 GMT Sat, 24 Mar 2018 18:07:00 GMT Suto Photos: Blog 120 120 Ann in Amsterdam We have a friend from the Dutch language class that we took in Boston before our trip here. Her family had come from Netherlands but they did not teach her to speak Dutch. She still has family friends here also. So she is learning Dutch. She spent five days at an intensive language school, Regina Coeli, colloquially referred to as the "nuns," bu the nuns are no longer involved. Lucky for us she was able to visit with us before and after her week of language.  

Ann in AmsterdamAnn in Amsterdam She is a thoughtful person who speaks carefully.  She has a very expressive face, which I tried to show here. She shares our views of the current president.  I expect most people who have an interest in and respect for other people and cultures would share many of our views.  

(Suto Photos) Sat, 24 Mar 2018 18:06:41 GMT
What I Said When I Retired from Smith Duggan I worked at the law firm Smith Duggan for 22 years. I retired on October 31, 2016, when I had just turned 66 years old.  Ever since I started working at age 16 I had dreamed of retirement when I could do whatever I wanted every day. Smith Duggan gave me a very nice dinner at which I gave a little speech. I just re-read it, and thought, "Wow, that was pretty good."  So I thought I would share it.

    Before I go I thought I should share some of the important things I have accomplished during my legal career.

    1.  I have filled out 6,053 time sheets with 30,256 entries.

    2.  I have spent 29,920.3 hours in front of a computer.

    3.  I have sent 330,921 work-related emails, on a private server, and received 167,510 desired emails, plus 2,787,133 spam emails.

    4.  I have traveled to numerous nooks and crannies of American geography, including Joplin, Missouri, where they had the foresight to specialize in lead and then asbestos, Fresno, California, Mankoto, Minnesota, in the winter, Ashland, Kentucky, where the steel mill has been idle for a year due to lack of orders, and Chouteau, Oklahoma, where they have two massive, dirty, noisy, hot coal-fired generating plants, and I have stayed in some of the country’s smelliest hotels.  I have been frozen by wind and rain in Iowa.  I visited, several times, a town with more oil refineries than book stores, back when there were bookstores. 

    But enough about my accomplishments.

    When I was about 25 years old, I was a volunteer in the Big Brother program. My little brother, George, aged 11, spoke so poorly that many people could not understand him; he was normally covered with dirt of some kind. But he was so sweet and friendly that everybody loved him, including me. One day we went to see the movie Swiss Family Robinson.  It was a matinee in an old theater in Troy, NY, and not crowded on a Saturday afternoon. George was very engrossed in the movie. In one scene, shortly after a lovely girl named Becky had appeared, also marooned on island, the rivalry for her affection culminated in a fight between the Robinson brothers, wrestling in the dirt.  By this time, George is no longer sitting, but standing because of his excitement. Then Dad enters, the boys jump up to face their father, who demands to know “who started this?”

    George instantly shouted ‘“I did”.

    My work life has been an effort to experience the kind of total immersion and intensity that George exhibited that day, where we are so intensely involved in what we are doing that no distractions can penetrate and where time disappears. The greatest enemy is boredom.

    This kind of intensity has been found in a series of problems where  figuring out what happened in an accident was needed. Some lawyers are concerned more with what a jury might later perceive has happened, but I have been lucky enough to have had a client who was willing to have me pursue what did happen.  It has always made more sense to me to live in the real world; how can we improve things if we deceive ourselves about the world around us? This kind of self-deceptions is rampant today, where, for example, a large part our fellow citizens do not accept the theory of evolution, one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. Or where everyone pretends that free trade is a bad thing even though it has brought many benefits far outweighing the losses.

    I have spent hundreds of hours studying photographs and, in one case, caught an expert flat out committing perjury about what he had done.  Advocacy at times has run amok and the self interest of the participants in the judicial process can distort the goals we hold for it.

    On some days you could find me spending hour after hour trying to understand engineering drawings, to see how something was supposed to work, why it did or did not.

    Certainly every experienced attorney, including me, has encountered lawyers and experts who were completely despicable and avaricious, and those who were completely trustworthy. We have encountered lawyers who were so poor at what they were doing that we felt bad for their client, and I have encountered others who were better than I was, in which case I felt bad for me. 

One scary crazy guy was Tom Keefe, a lawyer in the legal hellhole of southern Illinois. He prided himself on the ability to get a defendant to lose it at some point, and he started with his email address of “”  Keefe was another breed, needing constant feeding of his ego and “winning” every encounter.

    We had a scheduling hearing with Keefe.  The hearing was scheduled for 9:00 am along with 50 others. The courtroom was filled with lawyers.  In walks Keefe, not through the doors for the public, but through the door that leads to the judge’s lobby.  He was wearing a worn out, white, v-neck t-shirt, faded orange running shorts, and Dockers with no socks. 

    He asked “what were we doing sitting out there; let’s go se the judge.” He led us back through the door, which led to the hallway where the offices of the judges were located. We followed him into several offices, where he introduced me as his friend from Boston and told each judge that I had gone to Harvard.  

    Finally, we saw our judge, where Tom apologized for his clothes by saying that he had spilled mustard on his go-to-court clothes and this was  all he had. Nobody said a word to him.  Fortunately, he was an outlier.

    I have seen many people weeping when asked what happened to them or to someone they loved. Some witnesses have been so frightened by the deposition that they could barely speak, and others who got angry.  And regarding emotional responses to depositions, I have one regret;  I have never gotten an expert to cry in a deposition, even when I though they should have.

    I know it may be hard to believe, but I have never been very concerned with clothing.

    I worked along side a GE engineer in one case in which a GE employee was shocked badly while working on GE switchgear. GE’s engineer-investigator had flown to the job site the next day, interviewed every person who knew anything about the accident, and gathered and studied hundreds of pages of material. After learning all this and thinking about it, he found several factors that contributed to the accident, and he prepared a plan to try to prevent it from ever recurring. He did this in 30 days after the accident. So how long do a lawsuits take and how much do they cost to get to the same level of understanding. He was not seeking to blame anyone, or determine who should pay for the accident.  Why, I wonder, don’t we treat every serious accident this way?  We would have more accurate and more consistent results for far less money.

    And many times I have wondered whether being a lawyer was a good thing, should I have done something else? and the answer is always mixed. At times attorneys are rude aggressive inconsiderate. But the profession usually encourages one thing: it helps individuals and our society cope with the kind of accidents we are dealing with. People eventually accept the results, even if they do not agree with them. After witnessing some ugly behavior at a political event, George Saunders wrote these words in a recent article in the New Yorker.

    “This . . . is why we practice civility. This is why, before we say exactly what is on our minds, we run it past ourselves, to see if it makes sense, is true, is fair, has a flavor of kindness, and won’t hurt someone or make someone’s difficult life more difficult.”

    So I leave you with two sentiments:  I hope you as often as possible experience work with the kind intensity that George felt watching the Robinson brothers fight, and that we all strive to demonstrate and find in others the civility that Saunders described.


(Suto Photos) Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:03:47 GMT
Nieuwjaar Dag 2018: Gek Vuurwerks On New Year's Eve night, Izzy was very unhappy. She does not like loud noises. The fireworks have been going off in our neighborhood for hours (it’s about 1 am now). They sell over €100 million of fireworks in the Netherlands. They can legally be set off from 8 pm until 2 am.  Many people are walking around with open bottles and glasses.  One death so far and many car fires. The fire department has asked people to put out fires themselves and not call them unless it’s a car fire or life is in danger.  It is quite crazy. On New Year's day, the news reports the number of injuries, burns: one fourteen year old lost his hand.  An opthamologist on TV showed photos of very ugly eye injuries and urged people to use safety glasses, but I did not see any of my neighbors doing so. The sound was amazing. My neighborhood has many blocks of brick faced buildings five stories high, so the sound reverberates. Here’s a little sound file outside our apartment this evening.

 Here’s a little sound file outside our apartment this evening.


Amsterdam has lots of lights and and crowds. In Dam, there is a Kerstmis boom (Christmas tree), with lights.  Several streets have lights strung over the street. Here's a view. 

New Year's Eve 2017 6New Year's Eve 2017 6 New Year's Eve 2017 5New Year's Eve 2017 5

Here's the tree at Dam.  Underwhelming, no?

New Year's Eve 2017 1New Year's Eve 2017 1 New Year's Eve 2017 2New Year's Eve 2017 2

For as long as I can remember I have felt the same about New Year's Eve:  I don't get it. The selection of this day for drinking to excess, spending ridiculous amounts of money, listening to the same corny songs, staying out way too late, driving drunk, is arbitrary.  Susan and I have most often on New Year's Eve visited the national wildlife refuge in Concord and walked around the ponds.  Traditions can be nice, but I think we should have better ones and maybe we should intentionally examine them and decide what is good and what is not. 

(Suto Photos) Tue, 02 Jan 2018 09:20:15 GMT
Amsterdam Motif By looking around, you can see the enormous number of cameras and photographers in Amsterdam, especially in the center city. I was lured there by the architecture, lights, stores and people. This run down building has an interesting looking door. It would make a nice photo, I thought. While I was there adjusting my camera and moving around using my sneaker zoom, two other people also photographed it. Sigh.  It's just another standard tourist shot. I only post is as an acknowledgement of the difficulty of original looking photographs in Amsterdam.  One must look carefully for the unusual. Anyway, I like the photo even though many others have done similar ones.


Amsterdam Motif 329Amsterdam Motif 329

(Suto Photos) Fri, 29 Dec 2017 15:26:56 GMT
Hortus Botanicus Leiden Hortus Botanicus in Leiden is right in the middle of Leiden University, an old and prestigious institution here, founded in 1575. That was even before Wayland was founded (1636 or 1638).  Visiting in the winter is excellent because of the lack of crowds and the numerous greenhouses stuffed with plants.  I go there to find interesting photographic subjects, and I think I did. Here are the ones I like the best from my first visit.

The first photo shows a plant that emits sticky stuff to attract and catch insects. You can see an ant fell prey to this ploy. 


Hortus 3Hortus 3 Hortus 9Hortus 9

Here's the bark of an interesting tree:

Hortus 00Hortus 00

The bird of Paradise flower is one of the most spectacular on earth, but they almost always look a little ratty when I see them in gardens in the warm parts of the US.  This one was a perfect specimen.

Hortus 6Hortus 6 Hortus 7Hortus 7

Many plants have gorgeous leaves and this was one of the best.

Hortus 14Hortus 14

(Suto Photos) Mon, 25 Dec 2017 13:28:15 GMT
Amsterdam Winter Solstice Instead of any thoughtful commentary following astute observation of Dutch society, I can offer comments on the weather. Of course, this is of paramount importance to me and Susan. We knew in July that we would pay the price for the glorious summer days, when the windows were open 24 hours per day and it was light when you went to bed and when you go up. Now we have dark, cloudy, rainy, misty, and occasionally glimpses of direct sunshine.  We just passed the winter solstice, and we have survived. The Nederlanders seem to cope without a hiccup.  The bikers still bike. The builders still build. The scooters still suck. I admire moms and dads who cycle to work and carry their toddlers on their bikes when it is drizzling rain.  

Rijksmuseum and SkatingRijksmuseum and SkatingMuseumplein skating, December 2017

Above the "e" in Amsterdam, you can see the tunnel that goes under the Rijksmuseum.  It is ode to geometry and a view that I love, with the line of columns, lights, and vaulted sections.  The best part is no cars here, only the pedestrians, bikes, and scooters.  

Rijksmuseum TunnelRijksmuseum Tunnel

Amsterdam is banning the gas-powered scooter in favor of electric scooters. The rules are being phased in. And the scooters are being banned from the bike paths because of the number of accidents.  Yesterday, a scooter went by me that was so noisy and I could smell it after it passed.  The city will be so much nicer  after these changes are fully implemented. The government here can do things like that and they are accepted. Isn't that interesting? 

(Suto Photos) Mon, 25 Dec 2017 13:07:17 GMT
Dark, Rainy, and Windy Before we came, I expected Amsterdam to be dark, rainy, and windy. So far, however, the weather has been fantastic, the days long, and a moderate amount of rainfall. That is giving way to different conditions. 

MuseumpleinMuseumplein Evening TrainEvening Train

When I used to walk Izzy, it was light after 9:00.  Now it is dark.  Fewer bikes, but the riders apparently want to move about undetected, since they have no lights, no reflective clothing, don't use their bells. And the scooter drivers often feel free to speed along on the sidewalk, not just in the bike path which is bad enough.  

On Sunday, the pet store owner told Susan that it was the last nice day for months. 

The meteorological data shows that October is historically the month with the highest rainfall.

The last two evenings it was very windy when I took Izzy out for her evening walk, and it was already dark by 8:00.

The result is far few people, which is okay.

(Suto Photos) Tue, 03 Oct 2017 14:05:39 GMT
Texel vs. Cape Cod We took simultaneous photos of each other.  Susan and were on Texel, and island on the north end of the Netherlands. You can get there from Amsterdam by taking the train from downtown Amsterdam, then a bus (or walk) to the ferry, the take the ferry to Texel, then take a bus on Texel.  Since we have no car and we are very thrifty, that was great.  

Texel has dunes and beaches.  They were similar to Cape Cod beaches, so fantastic in my opinion.  We saw only the ocean side, so I cannot compare the bay sides.  The sand Texel might be considered better than Cape Cod. It is very find and soft to walk on.  

You can rent bikes and cycle along bike paths through the dunes. We did just that, and reached a place where we parked and walked toward the ocean. There is a spot where bird-watchers like go, and we met some Dutch vogelaars there, three brothers and a brother-in-law.  They had among them a beautiful telescope, which they let us look through.  Much better than the one we have.  We saw, among other things, spoonbills (lepelaar), a cousin of the roseate spoonbill that we have seen in Florida. Beginners luck maybe. 

We cycled too far for out-of-shape and out-of-practice people.  Susan fell off her bike on the way back when she hit a patch of mud left by a machine that was cutting the bike path for some reason unknown to us.  But she has recovered and may bike again.

Tom on TexelTom on Texel Susan on Texel2Susan on Texel2

Texel has its share of kitsch, as you can see.  Like Cape Cod does. Cape Cod has the National Seashore that protects some of the beaches.  The kitsch is kept back from the dunes and beaches, so Cape Cod has that advantage.  But overall, it's a fantastic place. I want to return in the winter when it will be free of visitors and will be gray and windy I suspect. 

Dining on Texel BeachDining on Texel Beach Texel TchotchkeTexel Tchotchke

De Strand HutDe Strand Hut ChocomelChocomel


(Suto Photos) Fri, 08 Sep 2017 15:28:03 GMT
Dissemination of Knowledge The City of Amsterdam maintains 270,000 trees. You can find the location of each one of them, along with their size, stage of life, and age on a website that the city maintains.  Because of that, I know that this photo shows the seedpod from a corylus colurna. It stands in front of 11 Nicolas Maesstraat and was planted in 1956.  You can eat the seeds; they are hazelnuts. In Dutch it is named a boomhazelaar.  You can learn more about the tree on Wikipedia by searching the Latin name. 

Boomhazelaar 2Boomhazelaar 2

Also, did you know that the tiny country of the Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products.  They have been very resourceful. They have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.  Apparently having a high tax rate does not equate with unproductive economies. And everyone has health insurance for reasonable prices.  And people are free to live however they like. Almost the entire population speaks more than one language.  I think the US could learn something from the Netherlands.

(Suto Photos) Sat, 02 Sep 2017 14:05:02 GMT
Strange Fruits and the Virtue of Laziness in Moderation In Nederland, there are many things that I cannot explain.  Does the football season ever end?  Will elected members of Parliament ever form a government and why does it matter? Why does the water leak into our apartment during a heavy rain? What is this strange fruit? (See update below.)

Susan found this on the sidewalk near our house, but could not find the plant that it came from in spite of looking. It was mildly interesting to photograph, mainly because of the color.  But the inside was even more interesting. The whole thing is about 2" along the long axis.  The insides have structure similar to melons, eh?  But those red things are a mystery.  Melons have seeds but nothing quite like those red things.

Quite by accident, I learned that laziness may have some benefits. Many times now I have discovered that leaving a piece of fruit or a vegetable on the counter for several days, utterly neglected, even after cutting it open, lets it dry up and shrivel in interesting ways.  The results occasionally are far more interesting than the original.  This strange fruit is a perfect example, I think. So here's to laziness and neglect.  But remember to practice it in moderation.

Dried FruitDried Fruit

*It's a passion fruit.  When mature, all the little seeds had grown into the red thing, and you can eat them. Like a pomegranate.

(Suto Photos) Thu, 31 Aug 2017 11:05:12 GMT
Irony and Crime 20 August One member of our family has consistently warned the other about the risk from zakkenrollers, i.e., pickpockets. Amsterdam has a reputation for an active community of them. One can effectively guard against them, largely because others become the low-hanging fruit. In an ironic twist, the one who consistently gave the warnings, rather than the one who consistently pooh-poohed them, was picked.  The thief took keys and wallet, which had been attached to each other. 

Tram #5 is like the green line in Boston: it can be very crowded.  It was the scene of the crime, somewhere between Spui and Leidseplein.

Our appropriately distraught crime victim called the police, but could not navigate the Dutch auto attendant (this was not the emergency number, where they are multilingual).  So he or she visited the police department the following morning, where the office said, in essence, why bother with a report?  They did not even want to count the crime. (They apparently discounted the possibility that the items might be recovered and the police might need to call the victim with the happy news.)

Colorful stuffColorful stuff

After starting all the steps to recover from loss of keys and wallet, a miracle occurred.  The police called and said that they had the stolen items, but the money had been removed from the wallet. It turns out the someone found them on the ground in Leidseplein and turned them in to the police. The police already had the relevant phone number because that person was a witness to an accident and gave a statement to the police then. 

So we have now witnessed two crimes in five months; a drunk driver hit a cyclist, and a pickpocket picked a pocket.  The photo?  It shows urban detritus and is here to stand in for crime and its effects.

I was interviewed about a week ago in Spui, where we had just visite a bookstore. The interviewer was asking about crime in that neighborhood, whether I liked having surveillance camera, whether I wanted more police. I professed not to be worried at all about crime, and I still have no idea how much crime there is in Amsterdam.  Maybe I should look into that. 

(Suto Photos) Sat, 19 Aug 2017 20:25:54 GMT
Evolution of the Eye and Human Knowledge 10 August I have heard people argue that evolution cannot explain the human body because some parts, such as the eye, are so complex that there is no series of evolutionary steps that could lead to the eye.  I think the better argument can be found in the writings of Richard Dawkins, who is excellent at explaining the power of natural selection to evolve increasingly complex forms.  The alternative, advocated by the naysayers of evolution, is that a higher power created the eye's design. The eye, ergo, god. If you believe Dawkins's arguments, then do you conclude no god? 

The bubble 1The bubble 1

If a creature of infinite knowledge and power created the eye, then I have some complaints about its performance, based on personal experience. My eye went out of focus at an early age. Since I was born in the 20th century, corrective lenses and contact lenses fixed that. Then my lenses in my eye clouded, i.e., cataracts.  Since I developed this problem in 2013 and later, I got my natural lenses removed and artificial lenses inserted. The procedure for this is not in the Bible, koran, or other mythology. It can only be found in books of science. 

But the story does not end there. My left eye started to fall apart, when the retina got detached from its intended substrate. (Een netvlies loslating.) This condition will lead to blindness in that eye unless treated. I knew the symptoms because a person of science had warned me about this risk. My luck has continued, because this happened in 2017, when advances in eye surgery make this a fixable condition. I live in an advanced western civilization, the Netherlands, where the latest in medical care is available.  I was assigned to Dr. Hoog at the Academisch Medisch Centrum.  He, with the help of other doctors and medical people, made tiny holes in my sclera, removed the fluid and goo from the interior of my eye, wiggled the retina back into place, and tack welded it there with a laser. One hour, no pain.  Wat leuk! Then he filled my eye with gas, including nitrous oxide and sulfur hexafluoride (also used as an insulator in high voltage electrical equipment!). (You shouldn't fly on a plane with gas in your eye; they didn't say why but I imagine it would explode and make a mess.) The gas is temporary and is absorbed by the body and replaced with vitreous fluid. The ratio of gas to vitreous changes over 2 weeks or so. After two weeks, I have a small bubble of gas left, which has made my evolving vision unusual and somewhat interesting and annoying simultaneously.  When I tip my head forward, the gas forms a circle in the center of my vision, with a heavy black circumference, and blur in the middle.  I tried to re-create the sensation in the photo above. The day after the surgery, everything was a complete blur, but has changed over time and hopefully will be back to normal within a few more days. 

Once again, science has shown it is the best way to understand the natural world. This seems so overwhelmingly obvious that I think almost everyone will want to promote science, except apparently those in the White House and EPA and similar places. They prefer the dark ages.

(Suto Photos) Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:56:03 GMT
Burgundy Friends 22 July Paul turned 80, but does the daily NYT crossword puzzles in a few minutes, except Saturday, which stumped him this week**. He speaks multiple languages, is an expert woodworker and metal worker, was a sailor and a journalist for the Boston Globe. He interviewed, among others, Henry Kissinger, who would not answer Paul's questions, in the way a politician does, where words come out but the question is not responded to.  He is an expert cook and knows about wines.  He lives mostly in Massachusetts but partly in France.  And he immigrated to the USA.  Lucky for us. I hope that anyone would agree that we want people like Paul if they want to come here. He knows tons about European history. He talked about Cathars and Etruscans. These are only the topics that were evident last week when Susan and I visited Paul and Barbara in their home in Burgundy.  

ThoriseauThoriseau Their house is in a place called Les Menages, near Druyes-les-Belles-Fontaines Yvonne.  That part of Burgundy is agricultural, with winding roads, villages with streets wide enough for only one car in many places, and lots of fields with wheat or sunflowers or other crops. The wheat is being harvested now, and many fields were dotted with large round bales of straw. I now know that straw is the part of the wheat that is left after the wheat berries are removed.  You can put it in a barn and it makes removal of the animal poop easier or better in some way.  The houses and villages are very old. We visited a church in Vezelay which was big and old, but still functioning as a Catholic Church. They let visitors come in and photograph it. In the crypt is a spot with some part of the remains of Mary Magdalene.  Let's just say I am skeptical of that claim.  But the church was quite spectacular.

There was obviously not much money being made in that part of France. When we drove about, we encountered relatively few cars, and many buildings were showing their age, not in a good way. The supermarket we stopped at was not super. Most of the people we saw were older. The villages had very few people in them, and they all looked like traditional French families. There was no immigration issue there.

Continuing the desultory commentary, 

Sunflowers 2Sunflowers 2

the sunflowers, nearly mature here, had virtually NO WEEDS!  Hmmm.  How did they do that?  And the plants were quite regularly spaced in straight lines in a neat grid.  I think we saw millions of them. Then it was back to Amsterdam.

**Paul commented, not that he is competitive about his crossword prowess, "Thanks for the picture and the kind words.  But I want you to know  that after you left Saturday morning, I went back inside and finished Saturday’s crossword puzzle. It was a tough one."

(Suto Photos) Fri, 04 Aug 2017 12:12:26 GMT
Amsterdam Flowers 17 July I couldn't bring everything I would need for a year.  One thing I left behind was my tripod.  The casual photographer may not realize how key a tripod is for macrophotography, but for me it is essential. I finally bought one here, much better than my old one, lighter, more compact, and more rigid, so less chance of unwanted camera movement, and easier to carry around. These flowers are from the genus Nigella. Susan bought these around the corner. August 6: Susan reminded me that these flowers are commonly called Love-in-a-Mist.

Nigella 3Nigella 3 Nigella 2Nigella 2

Nigella 1Nigella 1   Nigella 4Nigella 4

In the Mist 3In the Mist 3   In the Mist 2In the Mist 2


(Suto Photos) Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:25:57 GMT
Sex in the City 16 July Amsterdam is known for pot and prostitution, among other things.  Having lived here for 3 ½ months, I can say with confidence that that is ridiculous.  They form a small and not terribly significant part of the city.  There is a 'red light district' not far from where we live, a lovely part of the city.  You can tell by the dirty red awnings on the buildings.  Within the same distance, there are scores of eating places and cafes, world class museums, one of the greatest music venues of the world, a fantastic public transportation system throughout, an active canal system, an Apple Store, libraries, schools, public parks, gardens, summer music and theater in the park, and a host of cultures.  

Anthurium SpadixAnthurium Spadix Anthurium spadix and spatheAnthurium spadix and spathe

I saw an episode of Rick Steve's once about Amsterdam.  Rick visits a 'coffee shop' where he learns about various marijuana products. It looked kinda like a Starbucks.  The only ones I have seen look more like rundown old bars.  Maybe I am not looking in the right places.  In the area of the Museumplein, you may smell pot sometimes. One of my neighbors yelled one day at two young men "ARE YOU SMOKING POT, ARE YOU, ARE YOU SMOKING POT?"  She told them to go away, and they did.  I thanked her.  

If you like plant porn, you can see more at By the way, the plant in the photo is an anthurium. The purplish stalk is the spadix, and the white bumps on the bottom are the flowers of plant. The almost white leaf is a spathe, a type of bract, not a petal. Many of the plants in the anthurium family have fascinating shapes and colors.


(Suto Photos) Sat, 15 Jul 2017 15:29:33 GMT
Bike/Car Collision 15 July Every time I take Izzy for a walk to Museumplein, I worry about her getting seriously injured.  To cross Van Baerlestraat, one must cross a bike lane, then a car and bus lane, then two tram lanes, then another car and bus lane, then a bike lane. On bike lane 1, vehicles are supposed to come from the left only, but sometimes they come from the right. Sometimes cars travel in the tram lane.  Bikes and scooters, which can travel 20 to 25 mph, are supposed to be in the bike lane, but sometimes they come onto the sidewalk, to park or to pass slower vehicles in the bike lane. We always cross at the cross walk, but frequently bikes, scooter, and cars do not stop or slow down for pedestrians, and cars sometimes stop and sometimes not.  If you just forget once for a moment, Izzy might stray into the path of a vehicle.  And I have forgotten a few times, but fortunately nothing bad happened.  


      If there is one aspect of Amsterdam that I do not like, it is this congestion and mixing of vehicles this way. Safety depends on the participants in the system being careful and following the rules, so there are bound to be accidents. 

     There is a short street between our house and Van Baerlestraat alongside the Concertgebouw.  Part of it is closed to traffic, but last week a car drove right onto the closed part and collided with a biker. The biker was an older man. He was knocked off and suffered cuts and bruises at least.  He was obviously in pain.  The driver was obviously intoxicated.  

     Several people stopped and helped him. Security guards emerged from the Concertgebouw and called the police and the ambulance and brought some towels to cushion the man's head and arm (he was lying in the street).  I am surprised that we have not seen more accidents.

(Suto Photos) Sat, 15 Jul 2017 12:07:21 GMT
Healthy Cities and Big Green Leaves 13 July People familiar with cities in the Northeast of the US would call the houses in our neighborhood row houses.  The neighborhood we live in is undergoing gentrification and prices have risen a lot in recent times. The papers have had several pieces lately about families leaving Amsterdam because of the high housing prices.  I don't know if that can or should be stopped or slowed.  Others who think more about the health of cities will have to the propose an answer.  

One of our Dutch friends was in Albany recently and saw some older neighborhoods that were run down. He wondered why young people and young families did not move back there and improve the houses.  Good question.  

There is a plant in our neighborhood, growing in front of a row house with very large green leaves.  Here is a piece of one of its leaves: Grean Leaf from de buurtGrean Leaf from de buurt

(Suto Photos) Sat, 15 Jul 2017 11:32:16 GMT
Cursus Nederland Graduation Day Susan en ik hebben ons cursus Nederlands vandaag voltooid. We weten meer dan vooraf, maar leren Nederlands is een erg langzaam proces. Ik hoop dat in één jaar ik kunnen spreken en begrijpen Nederlands.  Ons cursisten komen uit Griekenland, Israël, Zuid Korea, en China. Gwansu, bij recht eind, spreekt veel weinig Engels, en geen Nederlands.  In september, we beginnen level twee. Ons docenten (links van Susan) zijn uitstekend, allebei professioneel.  


Class PhotoClass Photo

(Suto Photos) Thu, 13 Jul 2017 19:14:22 GMT
Why Afghan Wars Are A Bad Idea: 2- June According to Wikipedia, the first Anglo-Afghan war, from 1839 to 1842, became known as the disaster in Afghanistan.  More than 4,500 troops on the British side died, and 12,000 camp followers.  As usual, nobody in the West bothered to count the number of Afghanis who died or considered the other inevitable suffering caused by an invading armies.  

By the time of the second Anglo-Afghan war, 1878-1880, photography had been invented and there are quite a few photographs. This one is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum.  I  took a picture of the photo so you can see it without coming to Amsterdam.  You can find others on wikipedia.  

Second anglo afghan war.Second anglo afghan war.

The British "won" the war, and the Afghanis agreed to let Britain control their foreign policy, which meant that they would not be allowed to get too cozy with Russia. (Sound familiar?)

We now know about Russia's disaster in Afghanistan and the US misguided steps to help get Russia bogged down there. And that brings us to the current disaster in Afghanistan.  (Sorry if I have missed any wars there.)

I heard this week that Mr. Maddis (he is no longer a general) told a reporter recently that the US has not established a policy under the Trump administration regarding Afghanistan. What's the rush?  We have only been fighting there for 16 years. Then a few days later, we learned that the US is sending 4,000 more troops there! Since we have no goal and no policy, why, why, why, would be do such a thing? And the president has ceded decision making about troop levels to the military!! This is what incompetence looks like. 

The US is not 'winning' the war in Afghanistan. We don't even know what 'winning' means. The Taliban controls a major portion of the country, and we have no ability to do anything about. Our past policy, forcing the Taliban to negotiate, has not worked, so it is time to move to a different policy. 

Let me think, who is the person I would most like to help resolve this conundrum?  

(Suto Photos) Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:13:55 GMT
Poop, infrastructure, and is America better? 15 June Izzy must poop on the sidewalk most of the time. There are few opportunities for her to poop on grass, which had been her preferred poop-target. With a six poung dog, the poop is petite, not some big stinking yucky pile.  Of course, any responsible dog owner will up their's dog's poop, right?  


In our neighborhood, there are many places to deposit the picked-up poop.  A block from our house, there are trash disposal receptacles.  All of the trash from our house goes in there.  They have plastic, paper, and everything else (restaval). And they are located every couple of blocks.  (On Tuesday mornings we can hear the city truck emptying them.) With trash disposal this easy, you would think that everyone would drop their trash here.  But the amount amount of trash on the street and sidewalks is quite surprising and our neighborhood regularly has all kinds of stuff on the ground.  Number 1:  cigarette butts.  Then, dog poop, paper, cups, beer cans, bottles, newspaper, boxes, and wrappers. Don't even get Susan started on construction sites, like the many buildings that are being rehabbed in the neighborhood.  


When growing up, there were campaigns to discourage littering:  Keep America Beautiful, and Litterbug shaming.  As a result, I think it became more of a cultural value.  Maybe they need one here.  

    Having whined about that and declared American superiority, I admit that I could be wrong. We live in an urban area here.  Maybe a comparable neighborhood in Boston or Cambridge would have similar trash problems.  But I call on my fellow Amsterdammers:  don't be a litterbug!

(Suto Photos) Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:06:09 GMT