From the monthly archives:

February 2012


by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday February 29, 2012

in Drawing

Crossroad by Henk ter Heide

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by Henk ter Heide on Monday February 27, 2012

in Drawing

Connections by Henk ter Heide

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Working at a sheltered workplace: Becoming part of the problem

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday February 15, 2012

in Personal

Have you ever been to jail? I haven’t. But being atmitted at Promen
feels a lot like I imagine jail would be like.
They have a very limiting structure and there is something else,
something that took me a few years to figure out, that makes you
highly dependable on the campony and it’s managers.
Going to jail is ussually only for a few years. But after being
commited for having a disability or being unemployed, atmittens at
Promen is for life.

But I didn’t notice this at first.
Promen seemed like every other company. Some rules and habbits
seemed a bit strange but… You do whatever pleases you…

Department 9 has four groups of tables aranged like an crouked “E”.
The group where the manager placed me consists of 6 tables and is
situated at the vertical bar of the “E”. The other three groups have
8 to 12 tables and are situated at the horizontal bars of the “E”.
Every employee has his own seat and people can only change seats
with permission of the manager. Except that he never gives anyone
In between the groups of table there are lines of pallets stacked
with large boxes containing pieces of clothing we have to tag.

The rules aren’t that stricked that we have to ask permission to go
to the bathroom. But we do need permission to go on a break or to go
Four times a day 20 minutes before break time or 20 minutes before
leaving for home, people stop working and line up at the invisible
line between the end of the fence and the corner of the door to
department 8.
Department 9 doesn’t have a door.
Complaining about the long time they have to wait, people wait.
Wait until the whistle blows and they can go to the breakroom or can
leave to go home.

Although working hours only start by 8 o’clock most people arrive a
little earlier then that. Some much earlier. Some a lot earlier; the
company opens it’s doors at 7 o’clock but some people are already
present before the doors are opened.
At 8 o’clock the whistle blows and people leave the breakroom and go
to department 9.
Tired and stressed out from the day before work starts very slowly.
By a quarter past 8 the manager and the foreman come running out of
the office to remind the employees that the orders they are working
on are urgent and should be rushed.

By nine o’clock the manager leaves for his daily meeting with his
two colleagues and the department explodes.
Almost at ones people start yelling and screaming against each
Most days there are two or three people, usually women, who get into
a fight. Usually about some small incident that happened years ago.
In most case the foreman or one of the colleagues tries to intervene
but usually that only servers to make the ladies even more angry.
And then after one and a half hour the manager comes back. Invites
the two ladies in his office and solves the problem.

Having autism I don’t always recognize my feelings, otherwise I’d
probably remember this time as very frightening. As it was I only
experienced a lot of stress. But that was bad enough.
After a few days of being yelled at I started yelling back. Just to
not have the feeling that everybody is out to get me.
I don’t remember much of the next three or four weeks. Except that I
yelled and screamed as much as the next guy.

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Working at a sheltered workplace: First day

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday February 14, 2012

in Personal

The Netherlands and the US have made very different choices as to
how wealth should be distributed. In the US people feel that
everybody is entitled to become rich. Even if it is at the cost of others.
In the Netherlands we feel that everybody should have equal
opportunities. Which means, among other things, that the unemployed
should have enough money to live and that people with disabilities
should get some kind of benifits or work that is especially suited
for them.
So in the 1950s we got ower first unemployed benefits and in 1970
payed sick leave was started.
Of course all of this costs a lot of money, so nowadays the Dutch
government is strugling to keep this system of social security
(But then in the US 1% of the population owns 80% of everything. So
you decide which is better.)

When the Dutch sheltered workplaces first started they where only
meant for people with developmental disabilities. But by the 1980s a
lot of people, mainly construction workers, had a high degree of sick
leave, which made them very expensive workers. So they where also
place at the sheltered workplaces.
By the late 1990s the Dutch government decided that since unemployed
also costs a lot of money, unemployed people should also work at the
sheltered workplaces.

I’ve been unemployed for a large part of my life.
I finished school in the early 80s when the Netherlands was going
through an economic downfall and a lot of people where unemployed.
By 1985 I got lucky. I could get a IT training that was for 90%
sponsored by the local unemployed agency. After going to school for
a year I found a job that lasted a few years.

By 1992 I lost my job but by that time I had decided that I wanted
to go back to my first love and work with people with developmental
disabilities. Which meant going back to school for four years and
getting a payed internship which had to start before the second year
of school.

The first year at school went very well. I enjoyed it immensely. I
learned a lot about different techniques to change the behavior of
children and adults with all sorts of problems.
Before I started the training I didn’t even know that was possible.
Thank to a classmate I found an internship a few months for the end
of the first year.

But the internship was an other story.
For some reason I didn’t fit in.
The staff treated me as though I was doing everything wrong. Without
taking in account that I was still doing my training. Without ever
telling me what I was doing wrong.
After a few months I decided that there was something wrong with me
which made it impossible for me to work with disabled children and I
quit my internship.
Which meant that I couldn’t start the second year of school.
(A few years later I found out that they where reorganizing the
whole field and that the institution I did my internship at was
destined for termination. Something they probably knew at the time.)

So by the middle of the nineties I was again unemployed.
I did some volunteers work. Worked as a cleaner at an institution
for people with disabilities. Worked as a janitor at a agency that
organized all kind of services for retired people. Worked at a
bicycle shop for a while.
But always short jobs.
In 2000 I was enrolled in Promen.

When I started at Promen, they had two sites. One site was at the
first floor of some other campony, the “Steenland location”. And
then there was the main building. But I didn’t get to see that for
an other year.

The “Steenland location” was a very large building that was split in
three large halls.
The main hall was about 60 meters squared and contained the
stockroom and department 9. Two side halls, each about 50 meter by
30 meters contained department 8 and department 10.
Department 9 was cornered of off the main hall using some fences and
walls that didn’t reach the ceiling and there where about 40 people
in this department. Department 8 also had 40 people and department
10 about 80.

The first thing you noticed when you entered each of these
departments was the level of noise.
Each department had a radio that was booming at a deafening volume
but you couldn’t hear it for the screaming and yelling of all the
people in the departments.

All the people of department 9 where up in arms. Fighting amongs
etc, etc…

The people of department 8 weren’t fighting. But everybody on that
department had the feeling that everybody else was talking about
them. And everybody was trying to control their colleagues.
1e person: “……..”
2e person: “YES YOU ARE!!!”
1e person: “NO I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU!!!”
1e person: “I WAS TALKING ABOUT ……..”
etc, etc…

Department 10 was kind of a mix of those two.

My first day at Promen a job coach took me to a little building
that was located in a corner of department 9. The building was used
as office space by the manager of department 9.
The manager asked me a few questions. Mainly whether I was able to
lift heavy boxes, which I was. And pointed me to an empty seat in
front of his office and told me to sit there.
And that was it. That was all the introduction I got.
From there I was left to fend for myself in one of the most hostel
of situations I’ve ever been in.

This is the first part of a story about my time at the sheltered
workplace Promen in the Netherlands. The problems Promen has and
it’s likely future.


Did you ever think about the purpose of life

by Henk ter Heide on Monday February 13, 2012

in Hack

“Did you ever think about the purpose of life?” a friend of
mine asked 30 years ago.
I hadn’t. Which was a good thing, he told me, he had and it forces
you to consider suicide.

Reading about it I quickly found that he was wrong.
Thinking about the purpose of life is actually considered part of
considering suicide. Because only people who end up considering
suicide ever do.

People who think about the purpose of life always think it’s a
philosophical or a theological question. But Philosophers and
theologians never do. (At least not professionally.)

Philosophers don’t because this question doesn’t have an answer you
can check.
People have loads of idea of what the purpose of life might be.
Everyone beliefs something. But there is no way to prove that one
believe is better then an other.
So, as far as philosophers are concerned the purpose of life is a
theological question.
But theologians have a clear and simple answer to the questions of
The purpose of life is the serve God.
Nothing to think about.

People always think that you must be in very deep shit to
even choose to consider suicide, but that’s actually not true.
Nobody ever chooses to consider suicide. People are drawn into
considering suicide by forces that are to big to control.

Feeling depressed and not finding an answer to the questions of life
it seems logical that you’d be better of dead. And that conclusion
leads to even deeper feelings of depression.
Thinking about how good it would be to be dead and wallowing in
feelings of depression for a few months it seems perfectly normal to
look for a way to kill yourself.

But, of course, wanting to die and knowing a way to kill yourself
isn’t enough.
What would happen if there was an after life.
You could end up in a hell. A situation where you would feel even
more horrible then you feel right now.

So people spend a few month convincing themselves that death is the
absolute end. It’s kind of like going to sleep. The only difference
being that you don’t dream and you never wake up.

And of course if death is the absolute end, it means that there is
absolution. It’s possible to get rid of those feelings of
You only have to die.

As you become more certain of the absolute end, more certain of the
absolution you feel the depression lifting. You actually start to
enjoy life again. A little.
The depression never completely goes away, but you feel a lot better
then you have in months. Or maybe even years…

But the depression never completely disappears.
So, as you reach the end of your tether you pick a time and a place
to finally leave this life. An other five days to bid the people and
places you loved a farewell and then you leave.

But those last five days you feel as though you’re in heaven.
You have never felt this kind of bliss in you entire life.
You feel that your problems must be solved. How else could you feel
such joy.

Since you never wanted to die, but only wanted to get rid of those
feelings of depression you decide to not go through with it!
But the next day the feeling of depression are back.
And within a few months you again start thinking about the purpose
of life.

Assuming that you still have the will to live, there is
actually an other solution.

Thinking about the purpose of life and considering suicide is a
It’s a trap because considering suicide generates it’s own feelings
that are much stronger then the feelings that are generated by the
problems you have.
Just like some drugs have very high heights and very low lows, so
does considering suicide.

The depression you feel when you’ve decided that you’d better be of
dead is generated by that decision.
It has nothing to do with the problems you’re experiencing.
The joy you feel as you become more certain that death is the
absolute end, doesn’t have anything to do with you problems.
Again it’s just a reaction to your thoughts.
The feelings of ecstasy you have in your last five days are a
reaction to that decision.
And when you decide not to go through with it you crash. From the
highest height you’ve ever known to the lowest low.

The solution is easy.
When people feel depressed and feel stuck. As though they are
imprisoned and have nowhere to go. They either start thinking about
the purpose of life. Or they think about the purpose of their

The questions about the purpose of your life are far easier to
answer, since they are a choice.
You get to choose.
You can decide what you want the purpose of your life to be.
And if you decide that you deserve more then being stuck, in most
case very easy to just walk out.
(Drop out of school, resign your job.)

I won’t say that by walking out all your problems will be solved.
It won’t.
But if being stuck is so depressing that you’d rather be dead.
Walking out will give you a lot of breathing room.


Senator Lamar Smith and child pornography

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday February 11, 2012

in Politics

Senator Lamar Smith, who gave us SOPA, is at it again.
This time with the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act that is supposedly
meant to make it impossible to spread child porn on the web.

Lamar Smith is not the only politician to claim that there is a lot of child porn on the
internet. It regularly happens that politicians claim that the internet is littered with
websites on things like how to become a suicide terrorist, how to build your own bomb and
child porn. But I never believed that. So a while ago I decided to research it.

Suicide terrorist

It surprised me to find that there is actually a manual on becoming a suicide terrorist
written by Al Qaeda. It surprised me even more to find this manual on the website of the
But when I started reading it, it quickly became clear why the FBI would want to publish
It turns out to be the most boring document you’ll ever find. With page up on page filled
with boring rules and regulations a good Muslim should follow before qualifying to become a
suicide bomber.

Then there is the English language Al Qaeda magazine.
Although I can’t speak for other countries. The information they have on terrorism in the
Netherlands is far less then what I can find on any website of a local news paper.

Searching the Google list I found hundreds of news articles about terrorism.
Some videos of children playing to be a terrorist.
I found one video of a stupid Chinese kid who called himself a suicide bomber, put
firecrackers on his tummy and lit them.
But I didn’t find any information on how to become a suicide terrorist.

Building bombs

The same is true for building bombs.

Following the Google list I first found a lot of sites claiming they could tell you how to build
your own atomic weapon. But where would you get your uranium from?

Searching further I found some information on the “Anarchist cooking book”.
That was a pamphlet floated around several American universities in the seventies, which
apparently contained recipes on building bombs.
But the pamphlet lost it’s popularity long before the internet gained popularity. And so
is was lost.

Then I came across a website that issued a warning:
Since there are no countries where it’s legal for civilians to make bombs, you’ll never find
a website written by anyone who has experience building bombs.
You only could find a site written by a wannabe.
And since wannabees don’t know what they’re talking about, and since most chemicals used in
explosives are not only explosive but also toxic. It’s very likely that anyone trying to
build a bomb would end up dead long before finishing the bomb.

Searching further it actually became funny. As I reach the smoke and seed bombs.
I assume that you’ll know what a smoke bomb is. But do you know what a seed bomb is?
I didn’t.
A seed bomb is a small ball of clay filled with a few seeds, a little dirt and a little bit
of water. You throw it over your neighbors fence to plant some flowers in the middle of his
veggie patch. (Beware in the US this might be a felony.)

After that I found a lot of news paper articles, movies about bombs and history on bombs.
I only found one link to a social website titled “how to build a bomb easy” but that page
was deleted by the domain owner.

child porn

If you do a search for child porn you get the same kind of results.
A definition of child porn on Wikipedia.
A lot of sites with the laws on child porn in different countries.
Even more site from anti-child porn organisations.
A few scandals.
But no child porn.

(Disclaimer. Since it is illegal to download child porn, even by accident.
I couldn’t research this subject as thorough as the other two.)

The big list

At first glance it seems a bit strange that you can’t find any information on these three
subjects. Even if the web isn’t littered there should be some information.
But after more thinking it becomes clear that there is a very good reason why I can’t find

In a sense Google is a big list with the most interesting subjects of the web sorted by
demand. Not by supply.
Of the millions of people searching for suicide terrorist, only a very tiny fraction is
interested in becoming one. The large majority is interested in information on the damage
that is done by terrorism.
So websites with information on how to actually become a terrorist are sorted to the bottom
of the list.

The thing is that Google doesn’t show you the whole list.
Google finds about 53,600,000 links but only shows the first 800.
The most popular sites are shown and the rest disappears in oblivion.

So even if Al Qaeda was able to create thousands of websites on terrorism they would never
show up in the search results. And the same holds true for the other subjects.

Which also explains why the content industry is always complaining that their content is
placed below the illegal downloads instead of at the top of the list.
Of the millions of people searching for Lady Gaga only a fraction is looking for tracks to
buy and the majority are looking for tracks to download.

Ironically this means that if the content industry would ever succeed in banning illegal
content they would end up even lower on the list, because more people would search for stuff
to download.
So just banning illegal content wouldn’t be enough.

Raising the cost of the internet

Which brings me to the question why an US senator would want to sponsor a law that makes it
impossible to find information that is impossible to find.
Is it that he just doesn’t know that much about the internet or does he have alternative

As it turns out it mostly the latter.
Senator Lamar Smith is payed millions of dollars by the content industry to create laws that
will make it impossible to download music and movies via the internet.
This law will do just that by raising the costs of the internet.

This law compels ISPs to monitor everything their customers do and to save everything they
upload and download and every website they ever visit. And keep that information for at
least a year.
To comply with that law ISPs would have invest tens of millions of dollars in computers and
hard drives to save all this information.
And of course they would charge this to their customers. Thereby raising the price of an
internet subscription with hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.
Which would take it out of reach of most people.

Thereby in effect breaking the internet.


Scared of hights?

by Henk ter Heide on Friday February 3, 2012

in video