Song Story 14: Die Da? Thoughts about German hip-hop and music in general

In the final years of my secondary education, in one of those summery periods in which students are more occupied with parties than studies, I came across a song of a German hip-hop band that I liked very much. The tougher style of rap and hip-hop was taking control of the airwaves, with types like Public Enemy, NWA and Tupac. I liked that, but also liked the currents that included Beastie Boys and Arrested Development. Then, as said, I heard this crazy song by German group Die Fantastischen Vier (the fantastic four). And I was sold. They made me laugh, and even though they were German (which was not a good thing in The Netherlands of the nineteen-nineties), I really appreciated their music, and the way they played with language in their lyrics. And the story telling.
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Three sites to help you avoid eating horsemeat unintentionally

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Let me start by saying that selling food means that you have to be clear on what it contains. If you claim your lasagna or burgers or whatever are made of beef, they should contain beef. And not pork or horsemeat. In light of the scandal recently uncovered in Europe, I think the sellers of ready-made meals are responsible for making sure that what’s in the product, is declared on the packaging. I also think that relabeling one type of (cheaper) meat to another (more expensive one), to make an extra profit, is fraudulent and criminal.

But in this horsemeat story, it’s not just the complex food supply chain, or the actors in it that carry all the blame. Nor are, as one former UK official tried to make us believe, the EU regulations culpable. I think we also have to aks ourselves the question: why do we allow ourselves to know so little of such an important factor in our lives? Now that we’ve climbed Maslow’s pyramid, we seem to pay less attention to the bottom of it. Our basic needs have become less important to too many of us. We think they should be fulfilled by convenient and cheap means, and that opens up opportunities for things like the horsemeat scandal to happen. Another question we could ask ourselves is ‘how did we let it get this far?’

There’s actually an even more important question that should feature in our minds prominently now: how can we take control of what we eat again? Sure, not all of us are top chefs, or even able to cook more than an egg and some water for tea or instant soup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take charge of what we put into our mouths to fulfill that basic need of nutrition. We can care more, and know more, about the food we put on our plates. To help with that, I would like to point out three wonderful places on the internet.

First of all, I’d like you to take a look at the OpenIDEO local food challenge. In 2011, this open innovation platform focused on connecting food consumers to food producers. As is the norm on this platform, many wonderful ideas were generated, that are available for anybody to implement. Now, there are stories available of how people are doing exactly that, and working on enabling food consumers to be more connected to their food. Go check it out and see if you can be inspired.
The OpenIDEO local food challenge:

The second thing you should visit is the home of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The celebrity chef is a wonderful champion of using real food. In schools, but also at home. From food knowledge to easy recipes, this place provides you with all you need to start taking control of the food you eat.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution:

The last one I’d like to share is nothing more than a collection of 30-minute recipes from a great variety of sources. Preparing food doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. And it’s certainly worth investing your time in. And if you use real ingredients, at least you know that you’re not eating something you don’t want to eat.
30-minute recipes on Yummly:

An evolution of sophistication

Pasta: from Italian dish to home made dish

Pasta: from Italian dish to home made dish

Recently, I watched the movie Wall Street again. Apart from it being a great and interesting movie (interesting enough to spend a university session on watching it during my Business Studies), it’s also one of those movies that’s a nice documentation of the zeitgeist in the period it was shot. Watching it this time, I couldn’t help but notice a remark the main character Bud Fox makes to his father. At one point they’re sitting down in a bar, and father Fox complains about his wife’s spaghetti. Bud Fox tells him that it’s called pasta these days.

Probably, at that time in the mid 1980s, this was indeed the going term for it. Using the word pasta meant you were evolving beyond the sophistication of the generation before you. Pasta, and probably many other words, were like a badge of honour. Using them meant you’ve stepped up in the world, were climbing the social ladder. Of course, now we all understand all too well that pasta is the umbrella-term for the staple including spaghetti, fettucini, macaroni, penne, ravioli and the likes. Now most, if not all, of us are able to distinguish between them. Or simply say we like to eat pasta, because we like all or most of the types it includes.

These days we might look down or ridicule the arrogance of Bud Fox a bit, when he tells his father to use pasta. Because now we know better. But without the arrogance of his generation, we might not have come to the collective level of sophistication in which we are able to distinguish correctly between the different types of pasta. It’s all part of going through the motions in a globalising world; of understanding a cultural artifact that’s going viral.

A great product and great service still come first

A successful business starts with a good and unique product, and lives on because of great service. At least, I think that’s the basis for the old maxim ‘if you have a problem with it, tell us; if you like it, tell others’. When you’re told about problems, you can fix them, and, well, you get the main idea. This is also almost exactly what people have been doing for a very long time. Only, they always told others about it. In the last millennium, that was not a huge issue. The reach that the average consumer had, was not that far stretching. They discussed your brand on birthday parties, during water cooler chats or any other gathering, mostly with a very small audience. But of course, as we all know, that has changed. Big time. Now they talk about you on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, rating sites and their reach, also because of the shareability of these type of conversations, has expanded to nightmare proportions for marketers. That this can go very bad, has been proven many times; ‘United breaks guitars’ is just one, but my favorite, example.

That great managing of social media and the conversations that go on there, is not enough has also been proven. The video about the christmas present campaign of Spanair was shared many, many times. People loved it. Still, the airline went bankrupt. And that is not just limited to social media, by the way. Even a wonderful, widely published, expensive marketing campaign, cannot cover the facts. Just ask Chevron, of which some say it’s a champion in greenwashing. The internet and its many sources of information have made sure that doing business has become a bit more transparent.

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Getting things done: gradually change your habits

Find the right tools to make it easy for you

Find the right tools to make it easy for you

When I set out on my poetry project last year, I didn’t really know how long I could keep up with publishing a freshly written poem each day. I wrote blog posts and poems occasionally, mostly when an idea popped up in my mind to write about. But posting every day is something I had not done yet.

I had begun some blogging projects before, in which I aimed to post regularly on a certain topic, but I never really managed to take that for a long run. Then I remembered a TED talk by the always interesting and engaging Derek Sivers. Basically it says that if you announce your goal, and your social circles acknowledge that, you already feel like you’ve achieved it, or at least are close to that. However, if you keep it to yourself, and just start working on it, you’ll actually do the work that needs to be done to achieve your goal, and are much more likely to really achieve it.

With that in mind, I started writing and posting poems every day. And if I was lucky on one day, and got inspiration for more, I would schedule them for a few days ahead. This kept the pressure on in the first weeks to get into the rhythm of writing each day.

I also initially set myself a deadline. Publish by 18h15 at the latest each day. That way, I had some extra motivation to write early in the day. And really look hard for inspiration.

In terms of poetry style, I prefer to write free verse. My ambition was to experiment with some poetic forms, and maybe improve my writing. However, I decided early on that I would focus first on producing a poem each day, and then later on experimentation.

After about 3 weeks, I assessed that I could at least make it for another 2 or 3 months. So, I decided to go public with the intention. Not that I wanted to do this for a year, but that I was working on a personal project of writing a poem each day. Also, I experimented some with different poetic forms, but also with video.

During the project, I learned that I was looking at my world differently. I was constantly trying to find inspiration in everything around me. Everything. This also meant that I had to be sure to have a way to record inspiration directly. Normally, I would use a paper notebook and a pen to capture thoughts. And I still love to. However, I don’t have these always at hand, or two free hands and a place to take out my notebook and pen, sit down and write something. So I started using a notepad app in my phone. One that also allowed me to easily copy the text to my blog. In the end, I managed to write and publish 366 poems last year, one each day.

So, what have I learned about getting things done and achieving goals during this project? Let me give you three simple steps:

  1. Set yourself a challenge, and remember it’s your challenge and not someone else’s;
  2. Get into a habit of doing the work by:
    1. setting easy targets,
    2. setting deadlines you can make,
    3. begin small,
    4. make it easy on yourself by using the right tools;
  3. Do it.

Lessons from the poetry project
This is the third post in a series in which I share the lessons I learned from my A Poem Each Day poetry project. Earlier I wrote about reciprocity and choosing channels wisely.

Sunday Spotlight foodie edition: Mindful foodie, Maarten kookt and Foodie International

This edition of Sunday Spotlight is dedicated to foodies. There are three I like to mention especially: Mindful Foodie Lesh Karan, old school friend Maarten Lenoble and Elyse Pasquale AKA Foodieinternational.

The Mindful Foodie blog from Lesh Karan is certainly one of my favorites. She likes real food, knows about and maybe even more important: knows how to make delicious meals with it. And that’s exactly what she shares on the blog. Knowledge and recipes. Her blog is certainly worth following, especially if you like recipes with Asian influences.

Maybe a bit more difficult to follow is Maarten’s blog. Not because it’s hard to find, but because he writes in Dutch. He shares his love for good food and cooking by writing about his latest purchases of not only cook books, but also some really cool toys. Eh, utensils. But what really sets him apart from the rest, are his recipes for cooking with children. His own kids are Junior Master Chefs to be, and the recipes are honest, fun and great to make with children. Worth using Google Translate or a dictionary for this one.

Elyse Pasquale is on an exceptional adventure: she travels around the globe and writes about food. I might be just a tiny little bit jealous of her. Obviously she has a blog, on which she shares her adventures, but what I really like is her Instagram account. Amazing pictures of her travels and glorious, glorious food. If you’re not on Instagram, it’s worth doing so just to see what she shares.

What’s Sunday Spotlight?
Sunday Spotlight is my way of saying thanks to those members my online communities who have made an impact, or who I simply love to follow because they share awesome things. It is also a nod to Ana Isabel Canhoto, and the way she interprets the popular #FollowFriday meme on Twitter. I even had the honor of featuring in a FollowFriday post on her blog. How awesome is that?
In every Sunday Spotlight post I will introduce you to one or more very special people. These people have stood out in my social networks, and that’s why I think they are worth following. They might impact your life as well.

The character of characters, or: do you know the ß?

For a short time I thought this sign says 'Yorckstrabe'

For a short time I thought this sign says ‘Yorckstrabe’

Growing up with a language that doesn’t use much special characters, nor uses a lot of accents makes life relatively easy. Sure, they have names, but that’s not more complex than ‘a’ for a and ‘be’ for b. Okay, we called the y a ‘Greek y’, and don’t ask me why.

However, if you’re learning a different language, life can become suddenly very complicated. I remember that the first time I was confronted with written German, while on holiday in the country during childhood, I thought the German word for street was ‘strabe’. Yes, ‘strabe, with a ‘be’. I remember thinking there must be a special reason for the typographic oddity of that ‘b’ on the street name signs, but still I thought it to be a ‘be’. Fortunately, my mother knew better, and also knew better than to let me in that fantasy, and explained to me that it was actually a special kind of s. Simply said: it was shorthand for using 2 s’s. I’m not sure if it was then, or later when I was taught German in school, but I came to know that ‘be’ as ‘ringel s’.

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