Murder Capitals

Balcony in Bloom
Scrolling through Twitter this afternoon, I saw a headline reading, “Amsterdam is one of Europe’s murder capitals, says Eurostat”. Of course I clicked through. It turns out that between 2007 and 2009, Amsterdam ranked fourth on the European murder rate table, with 3.65 murders per 100,000 people during that time period. First through third were Vilnius in Lithuania (7.9), Tallin in Estonia (6) and Luxemburg (4.24). For what it’s worth, Brussels is in fifth place at 3.09. Another way of looking at it all is that there were 19 murders in Amsterdam in 2008 and 31 in 2009, with five of those being related to Albanian gang violence.

One murder is too many, but seeing numbers like that helps to put things in perspective, one way or another. The year I graduated from university in New Orleans, Louisiana, the murder rate in the city reached record levels. In 1994, 421 people were killed (85.8 per 100,000 people). That averaged out to more than a person a day, every day, for a whole year. To date, no other major city in the US has had that high a level. In fact, New Orleans has held the unfortunate title of murder capital of the nation over a number of years since the 1990s.

I still love New Orleans and never let the crime and corruption get me down, even when I lived there. In fact, I generally felt quite safe living there. As always, you take appropriate precautions, be sensible, and try to avoid known trouble areas. I was a fortunate university student, though. The problem is that a lot of people living there find it much harder to avoid the dangerous parts of life in the city. My time there was a lifetime ago when you factor in Katrina. One can only hope that there are more and better opportunities for everyone to avoid the kind of lifestyle that leads to those kind of murder numbers.

As I said, even one murder is too many, but I’d much rather see Amsterdam’s numbers than New Orleans. I’m not sure if I’m really trying to say anything with this post. It’s simply that reading the article today took me back to my time in New Orleans when the growing murder rate was discussed daily. If you were in New Orleans in 1994, I’m pretty sure you understand why my mind goes back to that time. On the plus side, I do know that a fellow Tulane alum is now working nationally to reduce gun crime.

ETA: In a vaguely relevant way, I was also amused when I saw the headline today that said, “One of Britain’s most wanted is arrested in Amsterdam”. Why is this amusing? Well, because police in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, and Den Haag were all on strike today for a few hours. I was impressed that they managed to arrest Britain’s most wanted even while on strike. However, it turns out the guy was caught yesterday. So I guess they tidied up their desk, so to speak, before heading out on strike. How considerate!

Throw Me Sumthin’, Mister!

King Cake Babies
Happy Mardi Gras! I had thought about actually making a king cake this year, but as sick as I am, I don’t see that happening now. Maybe shrimp etouffĂ© for dinner? Or shall I embrace the British Pancake Tuesday tradition? To be honest, it all sounds a bit overwhelming right now. In the words of the immortal Dead Milkmen, “I’m all messed up on cough syrup now, so just like, nevermind.”

Recommended music for today: “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. or any number of other singers.

Foto Vrijdag 2.49 Take Me Back to New Orleans

Shades of New Orleans
It’s not New Orleans; it’s off the Mariaplaats here in Utrecht, but it certainly does remind me of some of the beautiful buildings with their wrought-iron balconies in New Orleans. This photo was taken a couple of months ago in mid October. It was getting colder by then, but we still had some days of beautiful golden sunlight. The famous Dutch Light isn’t a myth to me. It can be absolutely stunning here sometimes, making even the most mundane thing into a thing of beauty!

It seems there’s even a documentary that has been made about that famous Dutch light, investigating whether it’s more than a myth and if it still exists. I’m going to have to track this one down. For those of you with Netflix, it seems to be available there.

The past few days here have been a real mix of occasional sunlight, mixed in with snow, and the more frequent overcast skies. Not far off from the infamous four seasons in one day. We were expecting some more snow today, but that seems to have been altered to expected rain. In other words, it’s all kind of meh. Thank goodness for sparkly Christmas tree lights and warm chocomel (hot chocolate). I thought this picture might brighten things up a bit today, too. Cross your fingers that Sunday’s weather forecast improves. That’s the day of the Twijnstraat Kerstmarkt (Christmas market), which I enjoyed last year and hope to visit again.

Throw Me Somthing, Mister!


Happy Mardi Gras!

Between the Saints winning the Super Bowl and now Mardi Gras, these old beads I collected at the various Mardi Gras parades have gotten a lot of use recently! Mardi Gras, or Carnaval, is celebrated here in the Netherlands, although primarily in the southern Brabant region (the southern part of the country), with one of the big celebrations taking place in Maastricht, as well as in Eindhoven and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, among others. Although I haven’t experienced a Dutch Carnaval yet, from what I understand, it’s not that different from the New Orleans Mardi Gras with which I’m familiar. People dress up in costumes, there are parades, and generally it’s one big party. Having experienced the New Orleans version, someday I’d like to experience the Dutch version (and the Venetian and Brazilian versions, despite the massive crowds).

If you follow the religious aspect of this holiday and are giving something up for Lent, make the most of this fat Tuesday and enjoy yourself! Me, I’ll be noshing on chocolate eggs until Easter.

Saints Almighty!

Who Dat [Day 39/365]
I pulled out some of my old Mardi Gras beads — the gold ones, of course — to wear during the game.

As some of you may know, I went to Tulane University in New Orleans, and I fell in love with the city. I also became a Saints fan as I embraced everything New Orleans-related. Of course, I’ve also been a long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, so I was used to supporting a non-winning team. It’s now been 20 years since I first became a Saints fan. In all that time, I never really expected us to do that well; certainly not to make it to the Super Bowl! I mean, I’ve had my hopes raised in the past; I was there in the early ’90s when Coach Jim Mora had some success with the team, success that lead to the whole Cha-Ching chants and bumper stickers calling for Mora for Governor (which might not have been a bad idea considering David Duke and Edwin Edwards were the actual candidates).

So this season, as the Saints began their 13-game winning streak, I was thrilled, but still very cautious. It was the Saints, after all. Something would invariably go wrong. When they lost the last three games of the season, I thought it was the Saints as usual. Don’t forget, they used to be called the Ain’ts. I knew we were going to playoffs, but still thought that would be the end of it. Oh, I was thrilled we’d done as well as we had, but I didn’t want to get too excited. History was certainly not in the team’s favor. But they kept winning. They even beat the mighty Brett Favre and the Vikings to finally, FINALLY go to the Super Bowl for the very first time in the team’s 43-year history.

I still couldn’t bring myself to be too cocky about the Saints actually managing to win the Super Bowl. I figured I’d be happy just that we’d finally made it that far. The first half of the Super Bowl made me think that line of thinking was appropriate. But then the second half of the Super Bowl started and things turned around. Boy did they turn around! Touchdowns, interceptions, more field goals! I still couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t until the Colts’ last play, with only 40 seconds left that I finally allowed myself to believe that the Saints really were going to win the Super Bowl! They did it! They won! The New Orleans Saints are NFL Champions!

Did I mention that the game didn’t start here until 12:30 a.m. and that the end of the game wasn’t until almost 4 a.m.? Oh yeah. We watched. I wasn’t the only displaced Southerner/New Orleans Saints fan who stayed up and watched. This morning when I got up a few measly hours later, I was afraid it was just a dream. But no; it was all real! So if you’ll excuse me, I have some gloating to do.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

WHO DAT?!