Getting used to strangeness

Eleven is the fool’s number in the Netherlands. On 11 November (11-11) the Councils of Eleven are elected. It marks the beginning of the carnival season that ends in the celebrations of carnival in February. In the formerly Roman Catholic areas of the Netherlands, which mostly are in the south, forty days of fasting ended with carnival, a feast of excessive eating and drinking in which people disguise themselves in all kinds of costumes. In any case, in the Netherlands eleven is associated with oddity.

Apart from being the fool’s number, eleven is the first double-digit number. Eleven is like a repeating of the same strange event. This is what a coincidences are often about. Something strange might happen that might make you wonder, but if something similar happens again shortly afterwards for unexplained reasons, that could be amazing.

There have been several incidents of this kind in my life. For instance, once I was making a bike trip. A car door suddenly opened in front of me. I could barely avoid a collision. Only ten minutes later, on the same trip, it happened again, with another car on another road. Coincidences of this kind can happen by chance, but if many happen in one life, that could make you wonder.

My son Rob had two biking accidents in which he was injured. The first one happened near home just before the home of a retired physician who could help him with his injuries. The second accident happened on our holidays just before the home of a retired physician who could help him. If you come to think of it, that is odd, even more so because these were the two only biking accidents Rob ever had.

Just before the discovery of Natural Money a strange accident occurred just before our house in Sneek. A car had crashed on a lamppost. The lamppost broke off. Two men stepped out and hared away. A few years later I realised that the accident may have been a prelude to the strange events that came later on. That same day I biked towards IJlst, a village near home. There I found a broken off lamppost that had been removed. This was remarkable because it was on the same road as our house is on the road to IJlst.

Once I was visiting my father. That day I was driving on a narrow road in the vicinity of Nijverdal where my father lived. An oncoming car hit the rear-view-mirror and it broke off. A few weeks later my father had exactly the same type of accident in his car. As far as I know never before had anyone I knew an accident of this kind.

In August 2014 we were waiting for a traffic light near home in Sneek. In the back of the car before us sat a guy who looked like my cousin Rob. And so I told my wife Ingrid about that. My cousin and I had been best friends for over a decade. We made a funny newespaper together. Immediately after I finished speaking, four trucks from transport company Leemans came from the right. My cousin Rob had once decorated a truck of Leemans. When I was eighteen years old my cousin and I went on holidays together, hitchhiking in Scandinavia. A truck driver from Leemans brought us to Norway.

I had never seen a Leemans truck in Sneek before. They were there because of railroad construction work. My cousin came from Haaksbergen, a village halfway between Eibergen where I was born and Enschede where A******* was born. In June 2015 we were leaving Nijverdal after visiting my father. Haaksbergen was in the news because of a shooting incident.1 Haaksbergen had been in the news a few times before because of electricity failures,2 3, skating,4 and a monster truck accident.5 And so I said to Ingrid that Haaksbergen is in the news quite often. Just after I had finished speaking, we passed a Leemans truck by the side of the road.

In 2014 a woman rang our doorbell. Her father was about to turn eighty. He had lived in our house during the 1950s. As a birthday present she wanted to give him a tour in his old home. She made an appointment to visit us the next Saturday. She showed up with her sister and father and I gave them a tour around the house. A few hours later the door bell rang again. Ingrid opened the door to an elderly woman with her daughter and son in law. They asked if they could see the house because she had lived there in the 1960s. Both groups came independently and they hadn’t spoken to each other.

In July 2014 we went on holidays to Sweden and Norway. My son Rob wanted to visit Hessdalen Valley where mysterious lights have been sighted. Those lights look like orbs and so they are known as the Hessdalen orbs. Some people have claimed they were UFOs. When we were in Hessdalen we went to a viewing point on the top of a hill. Some Norwegian guys were standing there for hours already, hoping to photograph a UFO. We didn’t see anything unusual. We took some pictures of the environment. Only, after we came back we noticed orbs on one of the photos we made. But orbs on photographs are a phenomenon unrelated to the Hessdalen orbs so this is remarkable.

Featured image: Orbs on photograph taken at Hessdalen, Norway (2014).

1. Schietpartij Haaksbergen, politie geeft beelden vrij en toont auto schutter. RTV Oost (7 May 2015) [link]
2. Leger helpt Haaksbergen bij stroomstoring. Nu.nl (26 November 2005). [link]
3. Stroomstoring treft Haaksbergen en omgeving. De Volkskrant (29 March 2007). [link]
4. Natuurijsbaan. Wikipedia. [link]
5. Derde dode door ongeluk monstertruck Haaksbergen [link]

Clutching at a straw

When I was eighteen years or so I once read The Limits of Growth. That’s depressing stuff, most notably if you’re young and expect to live for another sixty years or so. Doom seemed imminent and I would probably live to see it happen. That was the moment when my views about the future turned grim. Before that I hardly had views about the future at all. A few years later I became an environmentalist and a member of Friends of the Earth in Groningen. Friends of the Earth does research and tries to convince people that they should change their lifestyles. Friends of the Earth also lobbies with politicians and pressures corporations. And sometimes we protested.

One day we blocked the entrance of Groningen Airport to protest against the government subsidies for the airport. The city council felt that Groningen needed an airport but Groningen wasn’t big enough to make it profitable. When we were sitting there, the police came to remove us, and it suddenly became clear to me that activism didn’t help. Politicians will be voted out of office when they are serious about solutions. Businesses will go bankrupt if they take appropriate action unless all other businesses do the same. The required measures are extremely costly and will affect our lifestyles so profoundly that it would never happen in the current political and economic system.

Once being over a cliff, a cartoon character can only clutch at a straw. And only in cartoons the straw might hold. Friends of the Earth in Groningen worked together with the Strohalm Foundation. The meaning of the Dutch word strohalm is straw. According to Strohalm, the economy must grow because of interest, and that’s destroying the planet. It is ‘grow-or-die’ because interest rates need to be positive. Any solution begins with ending interest, they believed, and interest causes a lot of other problems too, like poverty and financial instability. Strohalm’s idea was banning interest and charging a fee on money as Silvio Gesell had proposed, so that it would be attractive to lend out money without interest.

Economists didn’t take interest-free money seriously. If you can receive interest elsewhere then why would you lend out money without interest? And if you can borrow money at an interest rate of zero, you would borrow as much as you can and put it in a bank account at interest. Therefore, interest-free money with a holding tax would never work, at least so it seemed, and it didn’t take long before I realised that too. Only, that wasn’t satisfactory. Accepting doom is not much unlike committing suicide. If interest is the root of so many social and environmental problems, and may destroy human civilisation, you can’t ignore that. And perhaps it could work. During the Great Depression it had been tried in a small Austrian village and it was a stunning success.

For years I used public transport as much as possible, but at some point I began to realise that it was all pointless. More and more people started driving SUV’s. They didn’t care. And they were burning up the fuel I was saving. So it didn’t matter what I do. Harmful products and services like cars make your life more comfortable. And I had no higher morals than other people.

A few years later, in 1998, I became a freelance IT specialist. I made a lot of money so I had some money to invest. My first investments were small and not very successful. That was because I believed that the profits of corporations matter. But investments in loss-making internet startups did very well while profitable corporations did poorly. And so I came to believe that I had to stay informed about the developments in the financial markets. In 2000 I joined the investment message board Iex.nl.

On the message board was a day trader who shared all kinds of conspiracy theories with us. For instance, if the markets were about to collapse, a secret group called Plunge Protection Team would come to the rescue. He was ridiculed, but after the internet bubble popped, the markets often miraculously recovered when they were about to crash.

And gold often crashed because of sudden selling. The day trader believed central banks wanted to keep confidence in their currencies. As long as the gold price didn’t rise, he claimed, people would trust central bank currencies. This was new to me, and probably it isn’t true, but I already had bought some gold because I didn’t trust financial markets and the people operating them.

In 2001, after the Internet bubble had popped, I pitched the idea of interest-free money on the message board. My lack of knowledge was eclipsed by my zeal and lengthy discussions followed. On the Internet people from different backgrounds and different knowledge can be in one virtual room and participate in the discussion. I was rebutted time after time, but as these discussions went on, my knowledge of the financial system increased and I became aware of the issues that had to be resolved in order to make interest-free money work.

As a gold investor I became familiar with the Austrian School of Economics. This group questions money creation by banks and the need for central banks. They pointed at the inflation caused by money creation and central banks. At some point all the debt banks create would eventually collapse the financial system and money would be worthless, they believed. They didn’t think that negative interest rates are possible.

And so two opposing fringe ideas, interest-free money with a holding tax and Austrian School, were challenging each other in my mind, which may be how Hegelian dialectic is supposed to work. In 2008 that became the start of Natural Money. The economy can do better without interest so returns for investors can be higher. As positive interest rates are not allowed, the money may rise in value, so that interest-free money can give better returns. Hence, interest-free money was possible, perhaps even inevitable. In the decade that followed I have integrated modern main stream economics into the theory of Natural Money as it is now. This research can be found on the website Naturalmoney.org.

Featured image: Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Warner Bros. [copyright info]

Jokers on Files.

Joking jokers

After working for Cap Gemini I became a freelance IT specialist in 1997. In 2002 there weren’t any freelance jobs available so I started as a database administrator at a government agency near home. Most people in the Netherlands know about the agency because it processes traffic fines for the police. It didn’t take long before I was seriously tested. Already on the second day one of the main systems crashed, leaving a corrupt database. After two days of research I realised that the exact cause might never be found so I advised to upgrade the database software to see if it solved the issue.

Instead management turned it into a crisis and to set up a multi disciplinary task force to deal with it. They decided that the cause of the crash should be found. Every day at 10 AM there was a meeting of the task force to discuss the state of affairs. There was no progress so every day I proposed to upgrade the database software. And every day my proposal was brushed aside. After two weeks of investigating the cause had yet to be found and managers were getting desperate so finally they were willing to consider my suggestion. Upgrading the database software ended the crisis. This turned out to be a harbinger of things to come.

It was not possible track what access rights were granted and to whom. At the time it was an urgent issue and nobody was taking action. In 2004 I built an account administration system named DBB that automated granting and revoking access rights for all the main systems based on job roles. Nobody ordered me to do it but I expected that it would be appreciated. Instead DBB faced stiff opposition and red tape. In 2005 I introduced it in a sneaky way with the help of the people who wanted to use it. After DBB had been installed, there was no way back because DBB solved a pressing business problem.

The logo of DBB was a drawing made by my wife Ingrid. It features jokers grinning at a set of file folders, in my mind symbolising bureaucracy. Bureaucrats considered it a rogue system. For more than ten years they were busy scheming and devising plans to replace DBB. Two projects were started to this aim. The first one was halted prematurely because the complexity of the matter had been underestimated. In 2016 a new project team realised that it was pointless to replace DBB. After eleven years the main systems of 2005 had become of age and it was expected that they would be decommissioned within a few years, so that DBB could retired together with those systems. Indeed DBB made a joke out of bureaucracy so the logo became a bit prophetic.

But DBB was also joking me in a rather peculiar way. In June 2010 someone requested me to drop a user. This was an unusual request as normally DBB took care of that. In fact, this hadn’t happened for several years. The username I had to drop was ELVELVEN. If you read that aloud, you say eleven elevens in Dutch, a reference to the 11:11 time-prompt phenomenon. Usernames were made up of the first one or two characters of the employee’s first name followed by the last name in full. To me 11:11 signals a combination of two related unlikely events that are related. And indeed, the joke had a part two, and it was even more peculiar.

In 2014, when I was testing an improvement to DBB, a test signalled that an illegal account had sneaked into our systems. The username was the first character of the first name followed by the last name of A*******, the lady who appeared to be God. If she had been employed with us, this would have been her username. And her name isn’t common like Jane Doe so this is peculiar, even more so because it was the only username that popped up. It turned out that a guy with the same last name as hers had been employed with us. His first name began with an A too. The account wasn’t illegal but I had mixed data from two different dates for the test, which made it appear that way.

In 2005 my manager promised me a promotion. He believed there should be a senior rank for experienced database administrators. He noticed that I had managed to introduce the account administration system DBB. “You have vision and you make things happen despite all the opposition,” he said and added that he believed I was the best database administrator. Only, he didn’t take a lot of action so I tried to make him put his promise into writing. Just before he left, he wrote down that I could get a minor wage increase, not the promotion he promised earlier. A few weeks later, when he had already left, I was summoned to the human resources department. A bureaucrat had come up with a technicality so I couldn’t even keep the minor wage increase. Having it in writing didn’t help. My manager had left and his temporary replacement didn’t care.

When I arrived at home that evening Ingrid told me that a freelance agency offered me a job. This was the first time in a long time. And I was angry. I had worked hard to get the promise in writing because managers in general and the human resource department in particluar weren’t very dependable, which the incident demonstrated once more. And so I made a rash decision and resigned. But it didn’t take long before I started to have second thoughts. There weren’t many jobs for database administrators near home. There were issues with my son and my condition didn’t allow for long travels. There was a new manager and he accepted my change of mind. After a few years of bureaucratic wrangling, the senior rank was established and I was promoted.

Master of my own destiny?

Early 1993 I started to look for a job. My first application was for an IT traineeship at Cap Gemini. They had sixteen vacancies. Some 2,000 people applied and 200 of them were selected for a series of tests. At the tests other applicants were telling stories about assessments, tests and job interviews. The economy fared poorly so there weren’t a lot of jobs. Many graduates were already searching for a long time. It was discouraging to hear their stories so I expected to remain unemployed for quite a while.

That wasn’t meant to be. The tests went well and I was invited for an interview and some more psychological tests. In the train on my way to the interview I a guy who had lived with me in dormitory 389-second-floor came sitting on the seat in front of me . He asked me why I was wearing a suit. I told him about the interview. Then he started to laugh loudly. “Your tie is a mess,” he said. “Let me put in order for you.” He arranged the tie correctly for me.

If this event, which appeared mere chance at the time, hadn’t happened, I may not have been hired. The interview and the tests went well. The misfortune during my student years because of not fitting in groups had made me investigating culture and cultural differences. And so it wasn’t hard for me to translate the expectations of Cap Gemini with regard to its employees into test answers. The test results made it appear as if I fitted perfectly into the corporate culture of Cap Gemini. And so I was hired and sent to a junior programming class to prepare for my first assignment.

My self-confidence was low and I had manipulated the test results to make it appear that I fitted in. I was afraid to turn up and felt unfit for the job. But these feelings receded once the class had started. We learned about programming. I was often joking about a programme I was planning to write. It was named DoEverything as it was meant to do everything, which is a remarkable coincidence. Later I discovered that a programme like that may already exist and that we may live inside it.

My classmates were discussing what type of car they were going to drive once they were on the job. I was the only one planning to use public transport. I was not a model employee. One classmate named Ad, who was a cheerful guy coming from the Eindhoven area, expressed his amazement about me having passed all the tests. His name could be seen as a reference to A****** D******. She later moved to the Eindhoven area. That is also a peculiar coincidence like my tie being fixed just before the interview.

The first assignment was a project at the Groningen office of Cap Gemini. For months we had nothing to do. I often went out late and did some additional training. Our project manager was ambitious. He organised project meetings and demanded progress reports tat he could present to senior management even though there was nothing to do. After a few months, the computers and the work came in, so the project manager was busy managing our work. He constantly demanded progress updates.

It soon became clear that we were going miss our deadline at the end of July. Before he went on a holiday, the project manager arranged a new deadline date at the end of August. Once he was gone, things suddenly went smoothly so we were able to meet the original deadline date in July with ease. When the project manager returned, all the programmes were installed. He was praised by his superiors for delivering a month ahead of schedule. Perhaps he was getting a bonus or a promotion too.

My next job was a database job at a telecommunications company. The company had difficulty tracking what their database administrator was doing. I was hired to reorganise one of their databases. This task was taken out of his hands and was given to me, a novice without experience. For that reason he didn’t like me from the start. To make matters worse, I wasn’t following his advice because he was a bungler. That was the reason I was hired in the first place.

There was a fuss because of my disturbed relationship with the database administrator. Cap Gemini sent me to a training called Professional Skills. I was not politically sensitive. It seemed better not to let political expedience stand in the way of doing what’s right or saying what needs to be said. But framing things positively can contribute to a better atmosphere. This is what political correctness is about. Cap Gemini also stressed that I was the master of my own destiny. It was one of their company slogans.

After moving to Sneek I stared to look for a job near home. There was a vacancy for a software designer at an insurer nearby in Leeuwarden. It later turned out that the job included being a project leader. The insurer had split up the IT department in smaller teams that worked on a group of systems for a specific business unit. Every few weeks or so we planned what we were going to do for the next few weeks. The business unit determined the priorities. It worked great because there were few political games like business units competing for resources. The people in the team knew what they had to do so I felt redundant. There is no point in managing something that goes well by itself.

The department was well organised, and unlike anything I had seen before. The atmosphere was friendly. Only I was accustomed to grim conditions so I felt awkward. Even though it may have taken some time I probably could get accustomed to a friendly atmosphere, but not to the job itself. All those documents, meetings, and priorities were boring. Designing and building information systems was much more fun. I had good qualifications for Oracle but the insurer didn’t use Oracle. And so I decided to try my luck as a freelance Oracle developer and database administrator. After all, I was the master of my own destiny. But an ominous incident suggested that I was not.

Featured image: Cap Gemini logo

parking licence

Events in my life related to 11 September

 

All these accidents
That happen
Follow the dot
Coincidence
Makes sense
Only with you

State of emergency
How beautiful to be
State of emergency
Is where I want to be

– Björk, Joga

Accidents, emergency, coincidence and connecting the dots. Behind it all could be some kind of love affair. Emergency and 11 September are closely linked to each other, not only because of the number 911 being the emergency services telephone number in the United States. Was someone destined to make sense of these coincidences? If there are messages hidden in pop-music then this could be true. In any case, there have been a few peculiar coincidences related to 11 September in my life.

Marcel is my brother in law and 11 September is his birthday. On 11 September 2001 he turned 33 years old. My sister Anne Marie had booked a trip to New York for them both as a birthday present. In the morning she told him that they were going to New York the next weekend. That afternoon the terrorist attacks took place. They had to cancel the trip. They went to a holiday park in the Netherlands instead.

On 11 September 2010, just after midnight, I turned around in my bed. Suddenly the bed collapsed, leaving me wondering on the ground. After standing up I saw that the time was 0:33. A few moments later I realised that it was 11 September and that Marcel had turned 33 on 11 September 2001. That was nine years before while nine is three times three. On the same day two plane incidents occurred at Eindhoven Airport.1 There have been several intriguing coincidences in my life referring to a peculiar lady who appeared to be God. And she lives in a suburb of Eindhoven, a peculiar coincidence.

On 11 November 2009 (11/11/11 as 2 + 0 + 0 + 9 = 11) I went to the town hall to pick up my new parking licence. The number of the parking licence turned out to be 009011. It was valid until 27 November 2011. If you compress the numbers as numerlogists often do, then 27 November refers to 9/11 as 2 + 7 = 9 and November is the 11th month of the year. The years (20)09 and (20)11 also refer to 9/11. The remaining digits are 20 and 20 = 9 + 11.

The initials of my last name are KI. When translated into digits (A=1, B=2), you get: 11/9 or 11 September in European notation. My first name starts with B, which can be translated into 2. Hence, my initials consist of the numbers making up the emergency services number 911 and 112. Perhaps that is not impressive but the following will make you wonder. I was born on the Iepenstraat, which means Elm Street in English. The horror picture A Nightmare on Elm Street was released on 9 November 1984 (11/9 American notation) in the United States and on 11 September 1986 (9/11 American notation) in the Netherlands. Now that is spooky.
Aaahhh!!
In the spring of 2011 I saw a German car with licence plate KLE-KI-911 in Leeuwarden while biking to my work. This car passed by a few times around the same time near the same spot. The first time I only noticed the number 911 so seeing the car multiple times made me notice the extent of the coincidence. KLE are the first three letters of my last name, while KI are the initials of my last name. Dutch licence plates linking my name to 9/11 in this way do not exist. The car appeared in the Netherlands where I was going to my work some 200 kilometres from the home town of its owner.

In the spring of 2013 I put the apartment on the ground floor of our house up for rent. A young woman applied for it. She was born on 11 September 1990 it turned out, and so she had turned 11 years old when the attacks of 11 September 2001 took place. A few days later I called her to inform her that she could rent the apartment. When I called her, her father had just been hospitalised. He died a few days later.

Featured image: Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks. Michael Foran (11 September 2001). Public Domain.

1. Vliegtuig in problemen landt op vliegveld Eindhoven. Nu.nl (2010). [link]