Daily Dutch living

Cause and effect (Or: Train chaos by NS)

On Tuesday the train system here in the Netherlands, run by a company called Nederlandse Spoorwegen or more commonly NS for short, went to hell. Well, maybe not literally, but I am sure a lot passengers thought it was!

The craziness actually started around 17:45, when a 21-year-old shoplifter stole something from Albert Heijn at Schiphol airport and fled down the escalators to the train platform. As he noticed he was being chased – by the military police, due to shoplifting at a national airport! – he decided to jump into one of the train tunnels to get away. He was found and arrested anyway.

Amsterdam Centraal - stock photo from NS

Amsterdam Centraal – stock photo

But think about it – what happens when someone runs onto the tracks? The trains are immediately stopped, of course. Anything in the general vicinity. That was the begin of the chaos – Schiphol is an important hub for both travelers entering and leaving the country. But no, it gets even worse.

About an hour later, NS tweets there is a major issue with the railroad switches (which determine what direction a train should go in, this platform or that platform; this direction or that direction) in and around Amsterdam. Because of this, no trains can enter or leave the city. Amsterdam isn’t that far from Schiphol airport – about 15 minutes by train, give or take. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Around 20:00, NS reports that the situation has been fixed and they are bringing the system back online. Around 20:30, this proves not to be the case, with the train system around Amsterdam still down. By 22:00, NS has about 70,000 stranded passengers on its hands and is forced to shut down a train station at Amsterdam-zuid (Amsterdam south) because of overcrowding on the platform.

Passengers begin referencing a seldom used hashtag, #treinpoolen (car pools for train passengers) to try and get car pools organized for people to get in and out of the city. NS even references it in a tweet. It’s too complicated to bring in buses to get people home, since it is too overcrowded and most of the buses are in use elsewhere in the country for other ongoing construction projects. The NS does however promise to get the remaining passengers home that night, with roughly one train running every hour (manually) in each of the directions from Amsterdam. Around about 03:30 that night, the system is fully cleaned and restarted. The only hinderance left is that some trains might be shorter than normal Wednesday morning, since they aren’t in the right starting place anymore. The NS promises to look into the situation.

Later on Wednesday the report is released with the cause of the railway chaos (article in Dutch). It turns out that the thief running into the train tunnels and the major issue with railroad switches around Amsterdam are connected. Cause and effect. When the trains around Schiphol were forced to stop and remain in their current position, one of the trains found itself in a very unlucky place. It was sitting right above the area where the software determines whether a train goes this way or that way. The software thought that a train was repeatedly arriving, and so it repeatedly passed information about which platform to go to. Just over 32,000 times, or 32,768 in exact terms. With 16-bit software, this causes an integer overflow. At the same time, a worker tried to add a platform number by hand for this train. The two events together caused a minor meltdown. Here’s the official article about the cause (still in Dutch).

The crash caused some corruption in the data. Around 20:00, the corrupt data seemed to be removed, but when the system was re-started this was not the case. By 03:30 that night, the system had been fully cleaned and brought back online, just in time for the morning rush hour.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Daily Dutch living, Transportation | Tags: | 4 Comments

Heat wave (Or: This isn’t the Netherlands, right?)

So… the Netherlands finally figured out how to do a good summer. Although it might be doing it a bit too well, actually. We haven’t had any rain in about a month and a half (with some crazy exceptions like Twente getting more than a month’s worth of rain yesterday – yikes!) and it has been warm for the Netherlands. Admittedly nothing the US hasn’t seen, but still. I need to apologize to Marco as I always complain about how summer lasts less than a week in this country.

Today it was about 95F here in The Hague, with 96-97F predicted tomorrow. And that’s not even close to the highest temperature recorded in the Netherlands today. Another city called Almelo registered 38.9C or 102.02F at the height of today. Almelo is on the east side of the Netherlands, not too far from Germany.

And how do Marco and I stay cool in a country that doesn’t have much air conditioning in homes? Well, besides water and fans…

Mr Freeze freezer pops or ijslollies

Freezer pops!

The first is freezer pops, or ijslollies in Dutch. A blast from the past and great for the nostalgic feelings.

Iced cappuccinos.jpg

Iced cappuccinos

And the other way is iced cappuccinos. Lekker!

Random links:

melted asphalt in Groningen, in the north (some cities have been salting the roads to prevent this issue)

fires in the dunes

a satellite image comparing July 2017 with July 2018

some bridges in Amsterdam (and other cities) close for the foreseeable future due to the heat

One more day of heat, and then some relief (high of 78F) and perhaps a bit of rain Saturday morning. Maybe. No end in sight to the drought, though.

Categories: Daily Dutch living | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Voting at city hall (Or: Local elections 2018)

Today Marco and I visited city hall after work to vote for the local elections:

Voting sign in The Hague city hall

To the voting area!

The Hague has 286 places to vote if my math is correct. Unfortunately the Central Library wasn’t a place you could vote this year. You could vote in a special tram (link in Dutch) however. I would have loved that. But it’s not a tram line I’d ever take, and it was running as a normal tram at the time. Imagine missing your stop!

Line of voters at The Hague city hall, 2018

Pictured: about half of the line

It didn’t take us too long – about 10 minutes at the most to get to the front of the line.

Number of voters by hour, The Hague, 2018

Live updates of the percentage of voters who had already voted, by hour

Admittedly, the number of voters is lower than 4 years ago when it was 51% at the close of voting (9pm). As of 8:15pm now it is 45.2%. The results are not expected until around midnight, give or take.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: | Leave a comment

First time voter in the Netherlands (Or: Local elections tomorrow)

Tomorrow most of the Netherlands goes to the polls for local elections. This will be the first time I can vote in the Netherlands! This is because I have lived in the Netherlands for five uninterrupted years.

Here is a picture of my stempas (voting card) with personal information greyed out:

Stempas or voting pass for The Hague, 2018

The card arrived in the mail a few weeks back, automatically. In the Netherlands every person is required to register with the municipality in the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP)  or the Personal Records Database. I did that within a few days of moving to the country. It records life’s big moments – birth, marriage, divorce, and death, along with address changes. The database is used to determine who can vote for what. (In my case, I can vote for the local elections but I will never be able to vote for anything higher unless I obtain Dutch citizenship.)

There are some good sites available for voters, both in English and in Dutch. In this case, I tend to seek out information in English due to the nature of what I am reading, but I also supplement it with information in Dutch. For example, DutchNews.nl has some information and links available for expat voters.

There are, of course, various polls available to see which party matches your interests the best. For example, Stemwijzer Den Haag (knowledge of Dutch required).

Finally, here’s a look at what the ballot looks like.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: | Leave a comment

Unexpectedly expected (Or: The passing of Chuck Deely)

I found out tonight that Chuck Deely passed away Monday night. And who is he? A street musician that played outside of Central Station as well as in the Grote Markt (by C&A or sometimes by Bijenkorf). He’s actually an American, born in 1954 in Detroit. The story goes that he moved here for love many years back, but it didn’t work out. He stayed, playing music on the streets to pay the rent.

chuck-deely

photo from denhaagfm.nl

I didn’t know him personally, having only donated a few euros to him occasionally. The last time I donated was last month, and I overheard him telling someone else that he was not feeling well. Apparently he was hospitalized shortly after that, and then again in January.

It was always fun to hear the songs he was playing and Marco would sometimes stop to listen to his guitar solos. Music isn’t my strong suit so half the time I would end up asking Marco what Chuck was playing now. My favorite song he’d play was Hotel California by The Eagles.

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year
You can find it here

flowers-for-chuck-deely

Flowers outside of the Hema/Albert Heijn, one of the spots he would play at

close-up-of-memorial-for-chuck-deely

Newspaper article taped to the wall, above the flowers

There is currently an unofficial Facebook action to build a monument in his honor somewhere in the Grote Markt, but only time will tell if that happens (or what exactly the monument would look like).

It is weird – I’ve only been here four years but I can’t imagine not seeing him or hearing his music anymore. Thanks for the tunes, Chuck!

Edited Sunday 29 January to add pictures of the memorial at Central Station:

These pictures were taken last Sunday, January 22:

flowers-for-chuck-deely-central-station

And a close-up of the mini guitar (on the right side of the above picture):

mini-guitar-by-chuck-deelys-memorial-at-central-station

Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: , | 3 Comments

PostNL (Or: The fun of trying to get a package delivered)

Earlier in the month I requested a new passport from the American consulate. Not because my old passport was expired (I had another 4 years) but because I wanted to change my last name to my married name. Yay!
I must say that the process definitely seemed confusing at first. Of course, you need an official copy of the marriage certificate as evidence that you are married, which you can request from city hall. But when I received the marriage certificate, it said that my last name after marriage was still my maiden name. It turns out that in the Netherlands your last name is still your maiden name, but you can use a different last name in certain circumstances. You need to tell city hall what your preferred last name is and then any organization which gets your data from city hall’s records will use it unofficially (Den Haag article).

But since I got married a few years back, this information slipped my mind. So imagine my shock when I received the marriage certificate and it said that my last name was still my maiden name even after getting married. What! But after speaking with the American consulate it seems they are quite used to this – just send the information, they said.

Continue reading

Categories: Culture, Daily Dutch living | Tags: | 3 Comments

Voting in The Hague (Or: The Ukraine referendum)

Marco and I went to a voting center in the neighborhood to vote on the Ukraine referendum (ABC news – English). Well, he voted – I can’t yet. The weather turned pretty bad in the late afternoon, with pouring rain at times, but luckily it had mostly died by the time we went out.

I’m not a very political person, but basically the referendum is about a trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine, with some opponents saying it is really a thinly veiled stepping stone towards Ukraine asking for EU membership.

Left side of Dutch voting card

Voting card (or “Stempas” in Dutch)

In the end there wasn’t much to report on – while we had gone to a voting place which should have been a rather popular choice, there was no one else around voting at the time. (Which was to be expected – it remains to be seen if the Netherlands will get the 30% of voters needed to make this vote count, whatever the result is. But if they mange that, it would be “just barely”). Marco says the voting card only asked one question – to state if you were for or against the referendum. It was over before we knew it!

Voting in The Hague

“Your behavior in the voting area” – The images are probably enough, but 1) Have your voting card and ID card ready 2) Don’t block the view of the voting bureau workers 3) Only one person per booth

Interestingly, the voting card said that voters only needed to have an government-issued ID that was valid through April 6, 2011 – that is, 5 years ago. And no, it wasn’t a typo.

Marco says he will take me along for next year’s vote, for the Dutch elections. That should prove to be more lively.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: | Leave a comment

A time lapse of Grote Marktstraat (And: Some Boston photos)

Last year Gemeente Den Haag (e.g. city hall) created a video showing a time lapse of the construction around the Grote Marktstraat. It is just under 3 minutes long. Among other places, it can be found on YouTube. It’s kind of cool to look back and remember all the craziness the construction caused…

Grote Markstraat is the large shopping street in The Hague which has been under construction for the last few years. There is an event on Thursday night (Den Haag verlicht) to mark the completion. The final act will be turning on the lights (literally – the lights were just hung up last week). They will be turned on around 20.45. There will also be music, dancers, DJs, drum bands and food trucks. Oh, and the shops are open until 22.00 (although on Thursdays they are usually open until 21.00 anyway).

And here are some more photos from Boston. The first is a sculpture found in Boston Common, Make Way for Ducklings:

Make way for ducklings

And a photo of the Boston public library:

Boston public library entrance

We also went to the JFK Presidential Library (well, we just went to the museum). It was a lot of fun, and now I can say I’ve visited a presidential library!

JFK presidential library and museum

And a look at the JFK presidential library from inside:

Inside JFK presidential library and museum

After that we visited the Edward M. Kennedy Institute which is a building right next to the JFK library. The institute was opened to the public last year and is used to teach the public about the inner workings of the senate. It includes a to-scale replica of the Senate Chambers where mock votes are held every hour for visitors to participate in (our mock vote was regarding the minimum wage law currently in consideration). The replica chambers sit in the middle with displays around it. Since it was just completed, tablets are used to provide additional information and to interact with the displays.  It’s quite modern.

Until next time!

Categories: Daily Dutch living, Shopping | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

On umbrellas (Or: It is probably good that rain is not melting crayons)

Here in the Netherlands we have been experiencing a rather wet week. Rain throughout the day, just enough to annoy. Luckily I had an umbrella this time – although it made me realize I don’t need an umbrella that much these days. There is “rain” and then there is “okay, I guess I’ll get out an umbrella rain”. There is actually a difference!

Of course back in America everyone had a car and drove around (except me) so I didn’t see many people who needed an umbrella… but it is an interesting realization: rain doesn’t bother me as much these days.

Don’t get me wrong – I said “as much”. I draw the limit at sudden downpours in Scheveningen where the coastal wind is strong to begin with – my back was soaked in 3 seconds flat that day. And as soon as it started it was over again. Welcome to the Netherlands!

But: just imagine for a moment that rain was like melting crayons (the latest art craze, Google it). Beautiful but messy…

Melting crayon art with umbrella

from Crafthubs.com

Categories: Daily Dutch living | Tags: | 2 Comments

C’s (Or: Coffee, cheesecake and countryside)

A few weeks ago Marco and I went back to the Cheesecake Company by the Grote Kerk. I’ve posted about this place many times – they even served the cheesecake at our wedding! It isn’t quite our two year anniversary yet but this time they did have the same flavor as our heart-shaped wedding cheesecake, white chocolate cappuccino… So of course we ended up choosing that one.

White chocolate cappuccino cheesecake
And on Saturday Marco, his mother and I had dinner over at De Gezelligheid (near Amersfoort) with the family. The food at De Gezelligheid was pretty good. We started off with “de spiegel” (the mirror) which was a sampling of all of their starter items served on a platter. My favorite item was the fried mushroom, of all things. For the main dish I had a hamburger with thick cut fries. Yum.

Of course we had to stop at the Starbucks at Centraal Station, so I decided to take a photo of the wall (doesn’t everyone want to take a photo of a wall?):

Wall at Starbucks - Last 10 feet
Love or hate Starbucks – I just like the cool font and presentation!

Here is a photo of the lake by Marco’s uncle, with a Buddha statue on the other side (in the shadows):

Countryside in the Netherlands
Quite peaceful.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, Food, Friends&Family | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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