The web comics I like…

All my life I’ve collected a lot of comics. I still have a huge collection of both European comics and comics from the USA. However, the Internet did have an interesting impact on the world of comics, because today a comic can be published world-wide and all the costs is has are the time to draw the comic plus the costs of maintaining a web server. This is then compensated by income from advertisements on the web site and of course all kinds of merchandise that visitors will like to have. Like t-shirts with their favorite character, printed comic books or plushies.

So my interest started to shift from the paper comics to the web comics. I’ve bookmarked these and every evening I like to quickly check them all for the latest updates, just like I check my mailbox, Facebook messages, LinkedIn status and other online stuff. It’s part of my daily routine and keeps me away from viewing the boring television channels that we have here in the Netherlands. At least online, I’m not bothered by the many advertisements…

So, to start: Dilbert! I do think that everyone who reads my blog will know this comic too. It’s also one that’s heavily syndicated, appearing in many printed newspaper and magazines. Basically, it’s something I recognize personally, since Dilbert is an engineer and he has to deal with unrealistic demands and situations on a daily basis. It’s still amazing how he still keeps up trying to do his best, instead of giving up like Wally, another character from this comic. I often feel like Dilbert, not wanting to give up no matter the odds or the Elbonians who will imprison me and then fire me for working too hard… 🙂

Another favorite won’t be a surprise: Garfield. What’s not to like about a fat, lazy cat whose favorite dinner is food? Here’s a comic that’s been popular for decades, just like Dilbert. And the Internet has opened up a lot of extra revenue for its author, allowing them to explore all kinds of other options to make this comic even more popular. Of course, the Garfield movies and animated series also make this comic a great success.

But how about Garfield minus Garfield? This is an interesting concept based on the Garfield comics. The artist here picks some Garfield comic and will erase the cat from the comic, often leaving just Jon in the result. And interestingly enough, this often results in yet another fun situation.

Basic Instructions is a autobiographic comic where the artist draws himself in discussions with his wife, his friends, his employer and customers or his fantasy self. The fun is more in the texts than in the drawings, though.

Dinosaur Comics is even more about the texts than the artwork. Basically, the artwork is always the same, since the first comic it published. And yes, it’s about dinosaurs and it sometimes refers to God too. Which is funny, since Dinosaurs were created before creation itself. An interesting paradox.

Molly and the Bear is a comic about a little girl and her talking bear. Without the bear, she would have a normal life, like any other girl. But the bear adds some fun and a very strange perspective on the lives of children and adults.

Sandra and Woo is also a comic about a girl with a talking animal. This time, the animal is a raccoon who was raised as a pet, then escaped to the wild before becoming a pet again because he’s addicted to belly rubs. Of course, having talking pets always make for interesting stories.

I am Arg is also a autobiographic comic from a Canadian artist who just likes to create some funny strips about gaming, geeks, girls and more.

How about stick figures? The comic xkcd is definitely a must-read for geeks and comic lovers and is updated on an almost daily basis. The drawings are simple, but the humor often reflects personal feelings and often a deeper insight in things we normally don’t even think about…

What the Duck is a comic about a professional photographer in the shape of a duck. When you’re a professional photographer, this comic is a must-read.

Buni is a comic about intelligent animals. Basically, the main characters are bunnies and there are occasionally other animals in it, all drinking at the bar, experiencing life-like we all do. Often going beyond “normal” situations and exploring interesting thinks like the Leprechaun at the end of the rainbow. (Who tend to be mugged or eaten by flying unicorns…)

Marry me is a comic about a famous female singer who decides to just marry some random fan on the spot, less than a few minutes after seeing one another. What follows is a love story where they start to explore each other on a personal level before deciding if they should annul the marriage again or just continue it. And yes, at the end of the first book they decide to stay married and even have a child together. The second book provides background information about one of the main character, which makes it an even more interesting read.

Dork tower is a role-players comic. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, then this is THE comic to read.

Looking for Group is a comic about an elven woman warrior who is exploring his roots and who starts to build up his own kingdom. He’s accompanied by several strange friends including a wizard who seems to be the incarnation of pure evil, yet he seems to do his best to be good.

Goblins is a roleplaying story from the perspective of the characters themselves. Although it started a bit childish, with lot of referrals to the players and game master, it has turned out to become a very serious strip with a great story line.

Avengelyne is the story of a female angel who is cast out of heaven to the mortal world, where she will have to continue fighting the forces of Evil.

Another comic for role-players is Weregeek where being a geek is actually a superpower. It provides a real interesting view on the lives of fantasy role-players that’s actually not that far away from the truth.

Elven is a fantasy comic about the daily lives of elven fantasy characters. It’s more background information about how elven mages and paladins learn to become the warriors that are common in role-playing games. Unfortunately, it now seems to be updated once per year or so. I’m hoping it won’t stop, but the artist seems too occupied with other things to do.

PhD Comics is for students and professors and shows the fun side of the Academic World.

Cyanide & Happiness is a simple-artwork cartoon but with funny punch lines and interesting twists. The humor tends to be meant for adults, not minors, since talking about sex is a common topic.

Foreskin Man is more a protest site against male and female circumcision. This site is trying to enact legislation in the USA that should protect young boys from this kind of penis mutilation. Why? Because in most cases there’s no medical reason to do this kind of surgery. Parents often force this upon their young children for aesthetic or religious reasons. Like female circumcision in Africa, it’s a practice that should be stopped since the victims of these operations have this procedure forced upon them, instead of doing so out of their own free will, after being informed about the pro’s and cons of this procedure. Then again, I am glad my parents left my foreskin intact, which is common for many European men.

Faraday the Blob is about the adventures of a blob, a character with no torso, arms or legs. Yet somehow he seems to manage just fine as if nothing is wrong with him. And yes, this is a comic about an absurd world with absurd situations.

Two guys and Guy is about Guy, a young woman (surprise) and her two male friends. One friend is quite intelligent but also a ruthless scientist. The other friend is as dumb as the Monster of Frankenstein without his brain. And Guy herself is the connection between them.

Next, a set of Pixie Trix comics which tend to be slightly NSFW, but still very fun. Three of them rated PG-13 are about a fantasy world in the Harry Potter style, so there’s an academy for super-humans where they learn to handle their powers without betraying their existence to the real World. The two others are about a bunch of friends and are R-Rated because it tends to be sexually explicit, although it doesn’t really display genitals. (Tits, yes.)

Eerie Cuties is where the fantasy stories start. A young vampire girl will attend the academy for the first time, accompanied by her older sister. However, since this little vampire girl was born on Easter, she doesn’t drink blood. She lives on chocolate instead, making her an interesting character. But as the comic progresses, it will also focus on the lives of the other supernatural students in the academy, including the complex hormonal influences of puberty.

Magick Chicks is a spin-off of Eerie Cuties where a group of witches infiltrate a monster academy. After many episodes it’s still not clear why they had to infiltrate this academy, but they are on a secret mission that they don’t even know about.

Dangerously Chloë is another spin-off of Eerie Cuties. Chloë left the academy to become a full-fledged Succubus and is sent on her first mission. She’s to become the girlfriend of a boy who dropped some of his blood on a Satanic statue by accident. He is granted a wish, and wishes for a girlfriend. Thus, Chloë enters the scene and is to become his girlfriend, harvest his soul and then return to the Demon world, well-fed. Too bad Chloë feels sorry for the boy and now wants to help him to escape this contract with the Devil, without compromising her own work. She just has to find some other girl who wants to become his girlfriend and she happens to know the perfect candidate.

Menage a 3 starts as a story about three guys sharing the same house as roommates. But as it turns out, two of them are gay and are caught by the third friend, naked and ‘connected’. They also planned to leave the house but they had put an advertisement out for a new roommate. Knowing their roommate is straight, they asked for female roommates and as a result, two girls turn up to become the new roommates. From here on, the story is about the relationships that develop between these roommates and their friends. Plus, the straight roommate also turns out to be a virgin, so the new roommates are trying to change this.

Sticky Dilly Buns is a spin-off and is about one of the former male roommates, who decides to live together with a female (former) porn star. That too turns out to be very interesting, since they both share a similar interest in men.

Go Get a Roomie is about a hippy girl named Roomie since she just wanders around, sleeping with anyone who offers her a place to sleep. She’s an alcoholic, a bisexual nymphomaniac and at one point she ends up at the place of Lillian who is first just annoyed about her new roommate, yet tolerates her since she’s too lazy to kick Roomie out. Lillian tends to sleep a lot, having some spiritual-like dreams which she shares with Roomie and Roomie’s friends. And their relationship starts to develop to something stronger in a non-sexual way, although Roomie is definitely interested in making things more sexual.

Finally, Oglaf is a comic about a fantasy world with often some very adult content, yet always placed in a fun way. Occasionally, it will have a comic that is safe to view at work but most of it isn’t. It’s a world where men can become pregnant and where the fountain of doubt is doubtful.

My new laptop will arrive on 18-03-2013!

Well, since Windows 8 became available, I wanted to create Metro applications in Visual Studio. Unfortunately, there’s a challenge with that. To create Windows 8 Metro applications, you’ll need to run Visual Studio 2012 on a Windows 8 machine. And my trusted desktop system is running Windows 7. So I had to consider if I wanted to upgrade my desktop or not. I decided not to upgrade but pick the next-best option: buy a new computer! And here are its specifications, straight from the invoice:

210-40039 Alienware M17x : Standard Base 1 3.089,91 3.089,91 SR
203-33091 N00W7M01
338-16739 Processor : 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3740QM (6MB Cache, up to 3.7GHz w/ Turbo Boost 2.0)
230-12514 Display : 17.3" 120Hz w/ 3D Bundle WideFHD (1920 x 1080) WLED LCD
319-10808 Camera : Integrated FullHD Camera with dual digital microphones (Win 8)
320-12434 LCD Back Cover : Soft Touch 3D - Stealth Black
340-29243 Ship Accessory : Western Europe Docs (EN, FR, IT, GER, DUT)
340-29315 Placemats : Placemats (Eng, Fre, Ger, Ita, Dut)
340-31186 MOD,SW,MY-DELL,3.X
370-22691 Memory: 32768MB 1600MHz Dual Channel DDR3 (4x8GB)
400-26583 Hard Drive : 128GB mSATA Boot Drive + 750GB 7,200rpm SATA 3Gb/s
429-16657 Optical Drive : BluRay Combo (Blu-ray read only, DVD, CD read & write)
450-13573 Power Cord : Euro 250V
450-16348 Power Supply : Alienware 240W AC Adapter
451-11606 Battery : Primary 9-cell 93W/HR LI-ION
490-14104 Graphics : 2GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
510-10451 Sound Card : Creative Sound Blaster Recon3Di with THX TruStudio Pro Software
555-14415 Wireless : Intel 2230 Wireless Card + BT
583-16264 Keyboard : Internal US/International Qwerty Keyboard
619-38677 Operating System : Windows 8 Pro 64bit, Dutch
620-13866 Os Media : Windows 8 64bit, MUI Resource DVD
630-AALP Software: MUI Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013, EMEA
644-10055 Avatar : Avatar not included
650-14174 Anti Virus : Not Included
654-10009 TimeZone : (GMT + 00.00) Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London
656-10018 AlienFX Colour : Quasar Blue
754-56825 Standard Service - 1 year of Next Business Day coverage included with your PC
754-81457 INFO 1 Year NBD with Premium Phone Support
754-81459 3 Years NBD with Premium Phone Support

Yeah, I know. It’s a monster. Then again, when I bought my desktop in 2008, it too was a huge monster and it’s still a very powerful system. Sure, it’s price is expensive but it’s a system that will be heavily used by me for the next 5 years or so. It’s not going to replace my desktop but it will allow me to create Windows 8 applications while keeping my desktop intact. And yes, AlienWare is now owned by Dell, but so what? My desktop is a Dell too, and they’re selling great systems, although a bit expensive.

So, what will I do with it? Well, I will install a bunch of software on it. To start with, Visual Studio 2012 and Embarcadero Delphi XE3 so I can develop new applications. Also included will be Altova MissionKit which is practical for managing XML files, schema’s and style sheets. For my CGI hobby I will also install E-On’s Vue 11 and SmithMicro’s Poser Pro since this system will be powerful enough to handle this kind of image rendering. And of course I will include a bunch of other practical tools and applications. I’ll most likely install Alcohol 120% on it, which will allow me to copy a CD-ROM to disk and then play games directly from it. Not many games, though. Just the ones I’d like to play when I’m on a holiday or so.

I hope this purchase will make me an even better software engineer but I also hope to have a lot of fun with it. That’s not too difficult when you consider developing software as “fun”. 🙂

Project born from pain…

It was February 14, 2013. I had the flu, but needed medicines for my Diabetes. So I had no choice, took my car to drive the 800 meters (!) from home to the apothecary to pick them up. It was snowing a bit, the streets were slippery because and well.. My car just made sure that I did not have to walk over 800 meters of slippery, icy streets. Just about 20 meters.

It did not work. I slipped and badly injured my back while I tried to get back into the car after picking up my medicines. I managed to stand up reasonably quickly, which assured me that I had not broken anything severe, but the pain… The pain…

I’ve started this project on Sunday, four days later. The pain is still there and my physician subscribed Paracetamol 1.000 mg and Ibuprofen 600 mg, three times per day. That’s probably enough to sedate a horse, but I still feel the pain. To make it worse, it just hurts most when I try to stand or sit, although standing or sitting quietly will bring the pain down again. So here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to deal with the pain and making my mind wonder about what to do. Still, as times passes by, I do manage to handle the pain better.

Well, that’s not too difficult. I’m just going to create a new project which I would consider practical and educational. I don’t know how much time it will take to finish but that’s no big deal since I’m not going anywhere. But first, what should the project be?

Well, after considering how Wikipedia and Twitter work, I think it would be nice to have something with similar, practical usage. A website that links words and phrases together by hyperlinks and short texts. This could even be expanded by adding images, video and other content, as long as things are kept short. I am thinking about a header with an icon and title, a few special tabs on the right side for specific topics and beneath the title the working area. Below the working area there would be a footer with copyright information and other stuff about the site itself.

The working area would be divided into three parts. A left column containing a word cloud showing the mostly related words to the current topic, with a list of links below for outside references to other websites. The right column would contain short phrases which would also lead to other topics, plus a list of related meta-data like images, videos, documents and other stuff. The center part would be the main content and would contain a short description, possibly with a small image or video included. This content area might also contain an input-form so visitors can offer their own data here.

This would be a perfect web site to create using Visual Studio 2012 with MVC 4. Plus the entity framework for storage. However, there is another challenge: how to fill it with data? And for this, I decided on a reasonable unique concept: a second website! Why? Because I want the main website to be read-only. A root domain name followed by the word that needs to be looked up, nothing more. I have no use for a “/setup” or “/admin” path because that would mean I could not use the words “setup” or “admin” as descriptions. A second site that would share the same database would be more practical.

But two sites means using two (sub)domains. But that’s not a big problem. All I need to do first is add those two sub domains to my current domain. So I go to my domain registrar and add two A labels to my DNS settings. I want to create word.wimtenbrink.nl for the site itself and wordsetup.wimtenbrink.nl for the configuration site. And I need to tell IIS on my web server to start hosting those sites, even if they’re not doing anything. It will take some time for the DNS system to actually find my sites but by reserving the domain names already, I have one delay less once I really need to start testing in a production environment.

Then again, this production environment is still experimental. If the project is finally finished, the real version will be hosted somewhere else. Most likely under Microsoft Azure or a RackSpace cloud. Why? Because my simple web server at home won’t be able to handle more than a few requests per minute.

Now I have the whole hosting solution ready so it’s time to design a few things. I start with the user interface of the site itself. This should tell me the data that I will need to store. And this can simply be drawn with pen and paper. Once the design is done, I need to consider the data that I see within my design and how to store it all. Storage would end up in an SQL Server database plus a small bit within the configuration file of the project. Once storage is done, I need to think of a web service that will allow me access to this data, and I would need to do that one twice. Once for read-only access for the site itself and once with read/write options for the setup. (And the reading part would be shared between both.) Once the web service is set up, I can start designing the user interfaces. The site itself will use MVC 4 and ASP.NET with C# as the programming language. The setup is something that I want to be a challenge so I’m considering to write it as a client/server desktop application and possibly port it to Android using Delphi or Oxygene.

All in all, this project will thus have the following steps, which I will elaborate in some next posts:

  1. Design the user interface on paper. Scan it, add some descriptions to it and make a functional design.
  2. Consider all data that needs to be stored, create a database structure by generating an Entity Framework model around the data.
  3. Define the web service methods that I need and find a simple way to share all read methods between two different websites.
  4. Create the user interface for the web site. Use a simple SQL script to fill it with some dummy data.
  5. Build the setup application using whatever technique is most appropriate.

And yes, this is a waterfall technique. If I was more than one person, Scrum could be very useful since multiple me’s could work on each separate thing. Since I want to create it all by myself, doing it step by step will be good enough.

And now back to bed. It took three days to write this all with all the pain in my back. At least in bed I can easily hold the pen and paper and do the first step…

Today I’ve learned…

…that there have been more World Wars than the two we remember from the 20th century. An article at Wikipedia defines a World War as a war that involves the world’s most powerful and populous countries. And although World War I and World War II are best-known for being such wars, there have actually been a few more wars that could qualify as such.

The article mentions at least ten other wars that spanned across multiple continents including the Eighty Years’ War, which involved my country. Although this was a war that originated in Europe between Spain and the Netherlands, it also included the overseas colonies that both countries had in the America’s, Africa and Asia. Actually, the Dutch performed quite well in those colonies, compared to the Spanish. Actually, since the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 we finally arrived in a situation where World Wars could be started, since most of the World would be known territories by then.

Also, it seems to suggest that all World Wars will include the European countries, especially the Western European countries like Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy and the Benelux. (And Russia.) And in all those wars, the (former) colonies are also involved. This would suggest to me that we Europeans are extremely aggressive. A strange view, since we also seem to try to be the Peacekeepers of this world.

Now, looking at current events I cannot but consider the Arabian Spring as a prelude to the next World War. But contrary to those previous wars,it’s not one that’s started within Europe. It doesn’t force European countries to fight one another. Europe seems to have united pretty well after these previous conflicts. But in a way I cannot help but compare the current situation in the Arab World to be similar to Europe 500 years ago. A world-wide influence of those conflicts in an area that’s divided over religious and political views.

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have already had a major change in government after some internal conflicts. Bahrain and Syria are still having internal conflicts although it’s still not clear if those conflicts will result in a political change. Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Sudan are still dealing with major protests and many other Arab countries have to handle minor protests against the current politics in those countries.

However, these are all internal conflicts and although the rest of the world might get involved in several of those conflicts, it’s still not a total war. We could wonder if it would ever escalate to a full war between several Arab countries, especially when those countries start to show specific religious beliefs that would conflict with those of the other countries around them. Even though all these countries are Islamic, there’s a major difference between how those countries explain their religious values.

Maybe the United Europe has caused these conflicts to occur in other parts of the world. Europe states to become a singular World Power instead of a group of a dozen or so powerful nations. Maybe humans will continue to need conflicts somewhere on this world so they have some danger in their lives. Something to give them stories about heroes and villains. War also helps innovation, since the fighting parties will continue to need better weapons than their opponents. War seems to be good for the economies of countries that just supply the warring nations with food and weapons.

Will the Arab Spring escalate into the next World War? Who knows? Many of the countries involved will have some major political changes and past friendships between those countries might melt away in the heat of the many battles. Once the internal battles end, these states might turn upon one another, simply because they want to help their “brothers” in the surrounding nations. Kuwait, for example, is a very interesting country to conquer for Iraq or Saudi Arabia because of its oil productions. But Iraq has tried before and lost a few teeth in their attempt, resulting in the death of their dictator and the current, internal conflicts. And the Saudis don’t seem to have that many internal struggles just yet, simply because their enormous wealth manages to keep people reasonable happy.

Just like the Romans did with their “Bread and Games”. Provide the population with enough food and entertainment and they won’t riot too often. This works well for many countries that can offer this all for their population. Then again, the current economic crisis does make this a bit more difficult. And the Internet is providing the modern alternative for the Games the Romans used to organize. But the Internet is showing people how civilians live in other countries, and allows them to see their own poverty compared to e.g. the European and American people have. It makes them want more. Or the exact opposite, since we “westerners” are sinners so all we have are sins.

Just depends on your religious views, actually. Moderately religious people will see the Western lifestyle, consider it very comfortable and they will start to want their own comforts. The fanatics will just see sins after sins and will demand that these sinners are stopped, starting within their own countries. And these different views will continue to cause new conflicts in those countries until one side will have “exterminated” (or suppressed) the opposition.

And again, I have to think about Europe in the past. Especially the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition was a very fanatical, religious movement with a powerful army. When they suspected that a town had a few sinners, they would not hesitate to kill the whole population so God could sort it all out at the Gates of Heaven. Innocent or guilty, it just didn’t matter. If you were innocent, you would be welcomed in Heaven. If you were a sinner, you’d end up in Hell. All the inquisition did was to let God decide about this a bit sooner.

Will there be an Islamic Inquisition someday? Actually, it already seems to exist and calls itself “Al-Qaeda”. But this is considered to be a terrorist organisation, related to the Taliban from Afghanistan. It shares similar religious views and has the same origin. It’s views are extremely fanatic and similar to those of the Inquisition, although the religion underneath differs. But Al-Qaeda doesn’t seem to have a clear structure. It’s more like a large collection of small groups that share the same religious values, but without a clear leadership. The Inquisition had a strict structure and clear roles for every member. That actually made it easier to put an end to the inquisition.

But it brings me back to my original question… Will the Arab Spring start the next World War? Might it be that this next War has already started, considering the fact that Al-Qaeda is already operating within six major world powers? (The EU, the U.K., the U.S., India, Russia, Australia and Canada.) However, wars are fought by armies, between countries. Al-Qaeda isn’t representing any country but just a religion. And it doesn’t have a real army but more something that might be called Militia at best, or plain terrorists for most.

And to be honest, I don’t know the answer. But I do realize that if one of those countries that are involved in the Arab Spring manages to create a stable home base for Al-Qaeda then that would result in World War III almost immediately, since the USA has already declared Al-Qaeda as their number one enemy. If, for example, it turns out that e.g. Iran happens to be the home base of Al-Qaeda, then the USA would bombard this country so much and for a very long time until the highest mountain will be lower than any Dutch meadow. The same would apply to other countries that would try to provide Al-Qaeda a home base.

2012++

Well, it’s that time of the year again where the year ends and a new year starts. It’s a time to look back on things that we’ve archived and to think about the things we still want to archive in the next years. And to be honest, there are still a lot of things I want to do but when I look back, I know there’s already a lot that I’ve done already…

But first: Happy New Year to everybody, because while I’m writing this, the new year has already started somewhere on this planet…

DSC03334First of all, I hope my dogs won’t be too stressed by all the fireworks in our area. Lasja, my small female dog is already unsure about all those loud noises so to comfort her, I just put her in bed next to me where the sounds aren’t as loud. Just letting her sleep seems to help against her fears.

Cees, however, was just barking loud against every loud noise he heard. So, after a few minor corrections he’s just in guard-mode now. Then again, he too now sleeps through most of the noise.

No, I didn’t give them something to calm down. But trying to keep two dogs calm means that I have to be calm too. So, not too much celebrations now but just a lot of rest, next to my dogs. Teaching them by example that they can be calm, because I’m calm too. I hope they’ll rely on my confidence to get through the upcoming celebrations.

As a pet lover, I think it would be a good idea if fireworks would be banned. This stuff can be pretty dangerous, as is proven by the many accidents that have already occurred in the Netherlands. Already a few people have lost their ability to count to ten and I wonder how many more people will lose that ability this year. How many will not be able to see the fireworks next year? Fireworks is dangerous and should be handled by professionals. Instead, the pretty fireworks tend to be handled by adults, who like to look at pretty things while the things that go BOOM! tend to be in the hands of adolescents who are also very happy to experiment with it.

I remember when I was young and my father would go with me to light fireworks. I was about 11 years old and my dad decided to light a Roman candle, then threw it in the streets, expecting it to explode. Well, that’s not what Roman candles do and if he had read the manual he would have known that. Then again, my dad could never read Chinese which made it so much harder to read it… For about two minutes everyone in the street had to dodge fiery balls of colored light that were shooting in random directions. Sure, it was pretty and gave us all a great exercise, but what if one such bolt would hit an open bag full of fireworks?

After that incident, I became more careful with fireworks, although I did continue to play with it for a few more years. But I learned that it’s expensive and generally it’s just a short-term pleasure. And the result is never as pretty as is advertised.   So I decided that it’s just not worth the effort. I’d rather spend the money on a great meal, that’s interesting to cook, tastes great and which keeps my belly filled for hours. A meal shared with someone else makes it even better.

So, personally I don’t mind that I don’t play with fireworks anymore. And my pets are very happy when there are no loud noises or colored flashed in the area. But why should others also stop playing with fireworks, even though they seem to enjoy it and don’t mind spending thousands of Euro’s on fireworks? What gives me the right to decide for those others?

Well, in a few days we will have a good reason. When hospitals fill up with fireworks victims again, people who have lost an eye, some fingers or who end up with horrible burn marks. Then the discussion will most likely start up again about banning fireworks, with an exception for those who are professional enough to handle it with care. A discussion that will be forgotten when those victims start to heal again until it bleeds to death and the next new year approaches. It’s an everlasting circle of discussions that don’t seem to end as long as no one decided to really put a ban on fireworks.

Well, banning fireworks is just my opinion. An opinion that is shared by more people here in the Netherlands. But as long as it’s just an opinion, it’s like a toothless lion. It won’t change anything. So I hope that this will change before we’re at 2014. I hope we can start 2014 with such a ban, where only experienced people will be allowed to play with fireworks and communities will put their resources together to get such a safe display of fireworks in their area. That way, people will be joining hands more often, getting closer to one another and best of all, people will start celebrating more with their neighbors. And pet owners will know that their pets will just be exposed to loud noises for a few hours instead of nearly three days. They would still be scared, but not as long as they are now.

But as I said, a side effect of such a ban would be that neighborhoods would have to join together if they do want a pretty fireworks display. They they could e.g. hire a professional and set up a nice site for the display, and they could come together celebrating the new year, drinking, dancing and getting to know each other better. A ban on fireworks might do this, because we would change from individuals who each have about 50 Euro’s worth of so-so fireworks into a group with 500 Euro’s worth of spectacular stuff. (Or more.)

But, it would be a change in the ways how we celebrate the new year. And if there’s one thing very difficult then it’s changing things. People don’t like to change things. But I hope this change will happen in the new year…

 

[UPDATE]

And the first information about the fireworks devastation’s in the Netherlands are in the news already. Some Dutch news articles about this damage:

  • A ten year old boy was critically injured with heavy burns on his back when a piece of fireworks got inside his collar.
  • A metal slide was blown on top of the roof of some building because of some heavy fireworks. Also, a lot of broken windows.
  • A home in Velp is severely damaged by heavy fireworks. Doors and walls are damaged and a small fire broke out. Fortunately, no one was at home at the moment of the explosion.
  • And about 70 eyes have been damaged. They expect the number to rise to somewhere between 200 and 300. And half of those will have some permanent damage. Maybe even permanent blindness in one or both eyes.

As expected, a lot of damage again. Let’s hope the discussion about a ban of fireworks will finally have some effect…