Indian terrorism

Whenever I was in India, nothing amazed me more than the continuing danger rebel and terrorist groups pose in so many places all over India. It's regularly in the news, though it doesn't take any front page headlines anymore unless it's a highly public attack like some time ago in Mumbay. Again today there was report of a bomb explosion, this time about 500km south of Raipur. The following article was taken from Reuters.
KOLKATA (Reuters) - Maoists rebels set off a landmine under a security vehicle, blowing it high into the air and killing at least 23 policemen and a civilian in Chhattisgarh, officials said on Sunday.

Three policemen were wounded in the blast, one critically.

The explosion occurred late on Saturday near the remote and impoverished Dantewada district, some 500 km south of the state capital, Raipur.

"At least 23 policemen and a civilian were killed in the massive attack," Chhattisgarh home minister Ramvichar Netam told Reuters by telephone from Raipur.

"The explosion was so powerful that it blew the vehicle about 30 ft in the air. The vehicle was torn apart and it came crashing down with its occupants."

Inspector general of police M.W. Ansari said the landmine had been planted close to a culvert along a forested stretch in the remote district that is known to be a Maoist stronghold.

Thousands have died in three decades of Maoist insurgency across eight Indian states. Rebels have killed politicians and policemen and blasted factories and government offices.

Last month, Maoists killed 10 people, including a lawmaker and a government official, in an ambush in Andhra Pradesh.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of peasants and landless labourers in the country's rural hinterland, often holding their own courts to resolve disputes and killing officials they believe are corrupt.

Maoist rebels in Nepal fighting to overthrow the nation's monarchy and their Indian counterparts vowed last week to join together to promote communism, reinforcing fears that the bloody insurgency in the Himalayan kingdom could spill over into India.

In August, India's home ministry said there were about 9,300 armed Maoist rebels in the country, adding that social and economic disparities in states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh were a key reason for the Maoists' influence.

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Looking for your dream house?

Looking for your dream house? For those living or moving to Holland and looking for a house or real estate to buy, there's no other starter source than funda.nl. This search engine for real estate is wonderfully simple to use. It let's you select not just your price but also region, postal code and even a particular address. Interested only in real estate in new development projects? You can select that. Looking for an apartment or free-standing house, or building land? Just select it from the appropriate menu.

When you've made your choices, the website gives you an overview of all the properties that meet your choices. Select one of these and you'll be presented with an extensive overview of not just the property but also the neighbourhood. You'll instantaneously know whether it is a high-income, high-education area or not; or whether there are many singles living there, or young families with young children. It's never a bad idea to visit the neighbourhood a few times at different periods to get a feel for the place, or to talk to some people in the neighbourhood, but the information funda provides gives you a head start.

The detailed information on a property even includes an estimate of the monthly mortgage expenses and the "service costs". This realy comes in handy when comparing properties as the asking price is often not the clincher but the service costs!

When you've made your choice, you simply click the link to email the real estate agent to make a visiting appointment. From there on it's all up to you, your mortgage advisor and your real estate agent, but at least you've saved yourself a lot of money already, had a good time searching for that dream house and made your thoughts much clearer on what kind of property you want and what that property will cost.

We used funda and found what we were looking for, for a reasonable price, in a nice neighbourhood. We consider ourselves very lucky to have found what we wanted, and we have funda to thank for it.

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"Under the weather" soup recipe

My special "Under the weather" soup is wonderful if you feel a bit... well, under the weather. :) Feeling a bit wobbly? Bit of a soar throat? Not feeling quite 100%? Make this soup, eat it hot, and you'll feel much better.

Let's start. Cut 1 onion, 1 paprika, 2 spring onions and 2-3 cloves of garlic.

Heat a layer of sunflower oil in your stirfry pan. Add half a teaspoon of curry powder, half a table spoon of ginger powder, a nice sprinkling of Thai fish oil, and 2-3 table spoons of Baktat Scharfe Paprikasosse. Mix the spices well with the oil.

When the oil is hot, add the cut vegetables, add some salt and stir it all well. Keep the fire high, and keep stirring and frying the vegetables for a few minutes.

Add 1 liter of water to the mixture of oil, spices and vegetables. Also add 2 cubes of stock cube. In Holland, Maggi bouillonblokjes are good. In the UK, these cubes are also known as Oxo cubes, though I have no idea if they're good or not.

Heat the water until it boils. Then add 5-6 chicken drumsticks and 3-5 table spoons of tomato sauce. Cook it all on a high fire for upto 10 minutes.

Add 2-300 grams of peas and the same amount of kidney beans. Stir everything well before you let it all boil on medium fire for some 30 minutes. The chicken will then be cooked properly.

Serve it hot! Eat it hot!

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Loans, mortgages and such

I could never have imagined myself taking out such a huge loan as I did for our new house. Of course, I had a bit of a student loan yeeears ago but we're talking a petty 1500 euros or so, and I paid that back loooong ago. And, as a former student, I know what it means to be over drawn on your bank account. There were years that my monthly bank statements never saw black numbers! I'm glad that that time is behind me now.

My past financial experiences made me decide never to take out a loan again but to try to pay for everything in cash and in full. And if that was not possible, then no dice! I've been able to live by that creed for the past 8 years now.

But circumstances change and we needed a bigger house; real estate that would suffice for our needs for the next 10-15 years. Thankfully, I have a nicely paid job and was able, after much internal consideration and debate, to take out a mortgage. I'm not going to divulge the sum but it's a number between 150 and 200 thousand euros. A really big sum, and one that I never before imagined to loan.

We're now only waiting for the health expert of the insurance company to approve my application. Then the bank guarantee will be submitted to the seller, and we'll have our house!

Wish us luck! :)

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Leica, or not?

Who said you need top-of-the-line gear to make good photos? I know tons of Leica owners will claim their super expensive but super quality cameras and lenses will give them super photos but, truth be told, it's not the equipment that makes the photo. It's the photographer, with the aid of his gear, who makes the shot.

For example, my brother isn't into photography at all. He doesn't own a Leica, doesn't own a pro digital Canon or Nikon, and doesn't care much for it either. Years ago, he bought himself a starter Nikon SLR (single lens reflex), which he consequently used just once on a holiday to record his vacation. The camera just didn't do it for him. A few years later he got himself a digital P&S (point-&-shoot), a Kodak DX6340. Not a top-of-the-line camera, not expensive as a Leica, not equiped with all kinds of bells and whistles. But he uses it, at home and on vacation, and he is taking very nice photos with it. In my opinion, that's what counts.

Greek island, seen from Kos.
Kodak DX6340
Taken by Eric T. Lang while on vacation in Kos.

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One or two weeks ago, I put up a WTB on Rangefinderforum.com for a Kiev 4AM. Soon I got a message from one of the members. Brett had one on offer, and for a very reasonable price. We set up the deal, and soon I had paypal'd him the money. Yesterday I got the Kiev and boy-oh-boy is it nice! No picture of it or with it yet. I first will have to take it out into the sunlight before I can show anything. :)

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