Monthly Archives: June 2018

Bukhara history, legends – and pics.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Estimated to have been founded more than 2500 years ago, it can compete even with Rome due to its lengthy history. It’s of course a lot older than Paris or London, and about three times as old as Moscow. There aren’t many cities that come close to Bukhara in terms of age, and also former significance – since it was one of the main trading hubs along the Silk Road.

You can read all about facts and figures of this delightful ancient city on the net. Here though, I’ll go through what remains in my memory from what we were told by our guide, adding just bits from the www to fill in any gaps.

Read on: Basics, science and art…

Hamburg mini-wonderland.

Hi boys and girls!

Herewith, my next dispatch from Hamburg – and another delightful tourist attraction.

If you’ve never been to this northern part of Germany, or never really planned on doing so, well, I’ll bet many of you, after reading this post, will want to get here asap and spend a whole day, as we did, at Miniatur Wunderland.

1500 square meters of model railway + towns and cities and homes and folks and domestic scenes (including intimate ones) and just about everything else, across different countries of different climates, and so on and so forth…

The attention to detail is just mind-blowing.

Read on…

The red rocks of Kazakhstan.

Hi folks!

I’d long heard about Kazakhstan‘s Charyn Canyon and wanted to check it out. Well, seeing as though I was in Almaty recently, it was rather easy for me to travel the 200km directly to the east of Kazakhstan’s largest city to get there. And here she is:

At least, I thought it would be rather easy getting there. Turned out it took about three hours in a car. There’s a good highway takes you most of the way, but for the last 80 kilometers the road’s not so good. Not to worry; once we got there the views soon banished our transfer-woe ).

Read on…

Why gold’s so expensive.

You ever seen how they mine gold?

I mean, like how they clean it with dredging machines or by hand? Or how golden nuggets sparkle in the earth? Well I hadn’t either. But when I was asked if I want to go down a gold mine, I – naturally – jumped at the chance. So down I went – way down into the bowels of the earth…

Read on…

Banksy comes to Moscow!

He’s here folks – the mysterious international graffiti artist of mystery has come to Russia!

Privyet Banksy!

Street art, graffiti and other such hooligan-creativity was once the preserve of the seediest suburbs of, say, New York and London. Today, it’s on show even in the Central Artist’s House exhibition hall just opposite Gorky Park in Moscow, shocking the Russian public in all its avant-garde satirical edginess.

Yes, the Banksy exhibition is running for four months – from June 2 to September 2; so if you’re in the capital over summer, here’s a mandatory must-see for your calendar and all the calendars of everyone you know. For this is not to be missed – by anyone!

Meanwhile, I can’t choose which photo to show you first in this here blogpost. They’re all just so special and individual in their own way. It’s like when someone asks you what your fave song of your fave band is – you can’t really give a proper answer as you like so many! Ok, first photo… it’ll just have to be the first one I took:

Ok, so who is Banksy?

No one apart from himself/themselves // and the police! // really knows. Ok, there are bound to be a few folks know – but they’re all keeping stum about any real identity/ies. I give the plural too as there is a theory that it’s more than one individual – a collective of now probably very rich street artists.

So who are you, Mr. Banks?

Read on…

Caribbean geography lesson – in a helicopter.

Looking over all my Caribbean pics, the main thing that stands out is that there a lot of them; so many that I’m getting my Caribbean-post titles mixed up. The other day we had Montserrat, but I’m sure, with hindsight, we should have had an intro post about all the islands together. Oh well, too late for that, so now we’ll have a summary photographic overview of the Lesser Antilles instead, with pics taken from a helicopter.

Quick caveat: I apologize for some of the pics being a bit blurry. Helicopters tend to jolt around up in the sky, and twist and turn and shudder a lot, so setting up perfect shots was practically impossible.

All righty. Off we chopper – south from Anguilla. The first island we come to?…

Saint Martin – one half French, the other – Dutch. So the island has a France-Netherlands state border running across it!

Read on…

Peter: Picture-perfect for KL-partner-conf.

St. Petersburg when the sun’s come out to play is to me the best city to be in in Europe. And I’m not alone in declaring such a bold sentiment – I’ve heard it from many others from many different countries too. But why ‘in Europe’? That’s just so as to be able to compare meaningfully. It’s difficult comparing Russia’s second city with, say, Hong Kong or Singapore, as they’re just so different on so many levels. But I digress. So, about StP!…

Read on: nostalgic!…

Dutch hacker, big cyber-politics, and the anatomy of ‘real’ fake news.

Almost 21 years ago, I embarked on a mission to make the world a safer, better place. Today, we’re proud to protect with our cybersecurity solutions the digital lives of over 400 million consumers and 270,000 organizations around the world. Like many other companies whose aim is enhancing people’s lives, we also know that the higher you go, the stronger the winds can be. For us these winds include false media reporting. And in today’s environment of ‘media-ocracy’ and fake news, the situation is getting worse.

For nearly four years now, certain U.S. media outlets have been printing outlandishly preposterous false stories about cyber-conspiracies concocted between secret service folks and Yours Truly against the ‘free world’.

Evidence suggests that a Dutch politician is behind a fake story about Kaspersky Lab in the biggest Dutch daily newspaper

These tales from the paranoid side about us all fit the same template. Accordingly, their basic structure and rhetoric are always identical:

  • Unnamed U.S. intelligence officials share certain ‘shocking details’ about [insert as applicable] with a select few representatives of a given media outlet;
  • Anonymous sources are mostly used; any ‘sources’ cited are incompetent/unqualified to be sources;
  • Zero evidence of any wrongdoing on our part is presented (logical: there is no wrongdoing);
  • Distortion of reality based on the Pareto principle (80% truth + 20% fiction = monstrous lie);
  • These media stories are then used as a basis for taking political decisions (proof).

Incidentally, you may be wondering why, if all the stories about us are indeed false, we’ve never taken legal action in the U.S. The short answer to that is that U.S. legislation makes establishing the truth of a media story very difficult. Meanwhile, we get a ‘media-ocracy’ – with ‘news’ that isn’t news at all, just a vehicle for instilling in readers’ minds images of an ‘enemy’, so as to influence the underlying opinions of the people reading those media. But it doesn’t stop there. This non-news is used to justify high-level political moves against the next-in-line-to-be-out-of-favor company. Yes, of late it’s not just KL being pinpointed; this is growing bigger and bigger every month, affecting other companies too.

Worryingly, this media-ocracy is very influential – and highly contagious; so much so that it can now be felt all around the world, not just in America. And that now includes even the Netherlands.

Media-ocracy: vehicle for instilling in readers’ minds images of an ‘enemy’ and using false allegations for taking political decisions. Alas, it’s highly contagious.

On February 3 of this year, the largest Dutch national daily newspaper, De Telegraaf, published a ‘sensational’ article about a hacker who, allegedly, had claimed to have hacked into the network of our Dutch office (from just outside the building) and managed to obtain a number of IP addresses – all as part of a supposed investigation to help uncover a leak in the Dutch parliament – a leak organized to help ‘the Russians’. Inevitable questions like why specifically we were hacked, why those particular IP addresses were obtained, etc. are left unanswered, but for us the key thing to be addressed was the claim that someone had breached our own highly secure corporate network.

So yes, we took the claims very seriously. We’re a cybersecurity company, remember?! So naturally we carried out an internal investigation. And guess what it showed. No hack occurred. But that’s only the start of this sorry tale.

Read on: It gets even more ridiculous…

Hamburg and ships please.

I wrote in my last post that I was headed home after Sheffield. But I’d forgotten about our scheduled stay en route in Hamburg – possibly the most beautiful city in Germany. I think that’s a sign the trip had been a bit too hectic: forgetting completely about an upcoming port-of-call is most unlike me.

So here we are – in Hamburg!

The possibilities for the tourist in Hamburg are vast. It was tricky deciding but, after the day’s business, my travel companion and I plumped for an Elbe river and seaport (one of the largest in Europe, and Germany’s main port) boat excursion.

Off we go! And the first thing we see: Tolkien!

Read on…

Up north for a (s)pot of snooker.

I often get asked what’s my favorite sport (along with, of late, which matches I’m planning on watching during the upcoming World Cup).

And my usual answer normally seems to disappoint a little: I don’t really have one, as I don’t like sitting in one spot in a stadium or on the sofa in front of the TV watching sport. I prefer to be doing the sport – rather, active activities – myself. Scaling volcanoes, going off on long expeditions in far-flung corners of the world, or just trekking along the banks of a river down a mountainous valley – that’s my bag.

And besides, I don’t watch TV – at all (dreadful habit:).

(Oops – me telling fibs again; I do watch TV in tiny doses: I watch kiddies’ stuff together with my own kiddies; I sometimes glance at the zombie-panel in the gym between sets; on the treadmill in the gym I switch to the nature/wildlife channels; and I’m not averse to peeking at a screen in business lounges in airports. But that really is it:)

Wait. I also watch Formula 1 races on screens, but that’s not quite ‘TV’. It’s normally in the Ferrari paddock, and there’s technical race info on the screens too. But I don’t watch a Grand Prix of a Sunday afternoon on regular TV.

So, yeah – you get it: I generally don’t watch telly. But there is one exception I make (besides all the other quasi-exceptions mentioned above). There is one thing on the TV that can force me to sit in one place for a long time. And it is a sport. And it is… snooker!

Not pool, not billiards… snooker, with its more refined rules and more tactical gameplay. And, by a strange (!) coincidence, we happen to sponsor one of the stages of the World Snooker Championship – Riga Masters.

And since I was in the UK, and my travel/business schedule permitted it, I got myself up to Sheffield, to watch the semi-final of the World Snooker Championship 2018!

Read on…