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Herb gardens (Or: Antwerp’s botanical garden)

During our visit to Antwerp last week, Marco, Roger and I also visited a small botanical garden, Den Botaniek (English Wikipedia). What can I say, I like to take pictures of pretty flowers…

The koi fish were just an unexpected bonus:

Or, the artwork below. It’s thought provoking, but I just can’t get past the bird crap on the smallest head. Hmm. Perhaps he was trying to hide from the birds but he just couldn’t hide fast enough?

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Lightning trip (Or: Concerts and architecture in Antwerp)

Marco, Roger and I were in Antwerp earlier this week for the Hella Mega Tour (Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Green Day). We booked the tickets in early 2020 and then only got to see the show now. Thanks corona! The scheduling was really nicely done, with Weezer and Fall Out Boy playing for an hour and Green Day closing the show with an hour and a half performance. Everything was almost perfectly timed (with only a few minutes delay here and there). The show ended when they said it would, wow!

Part of the reason everything is so perfectly timed is because 50 cents of your ticket price goes to public transportation, so you can ride the bus, tram or metro for free there and back. The venue and public transportation company agreed that all shows must end by 23:30. If that happens, the public transportation company guarantees that line 1 would run for an hour after the show ends. In the end we did take the tram there, although we walked back to the hotel after the show (about a 30 minute walk) due to how crowded the metro was. Technically they call it a metro, but the vehicles that arrive are still the shorter trams, so nothing like the New York City metro.

I will spare you my less than spectacular photos of the concert itself, so here are some other ones:

This is a statue of Nello & Patrasche, characters from the book A Dog in Flanders (visitantwerpen.be in English).

What can I say, I like Ferris wheels. And I thought this was a pretty image, with the Ferris wheel just poking out from behind the trees. This Ferris wheel is called “The View”.

Above: a look at some of the architecture in the city centre. Very pretty! We also enjoyed the nice wide streets as it made it easy to walk around.

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Reddit’s April fools experiment (Or: /r/place)

Over the weekend I was distracted by Reddit’s April fools experiment. They created a subreddit called “place” where users could create pixel art as a group. See also the English Wikipedia page. It was first held in 2017 and then they waited 5 years to hold another “place” event. The sticking point was that a user could only place one pixel every 5 minutes, so if you wanted to create anything good you had to work together (or have a lot of bot accounts at your disposal I guess!)

As expected, most drawings were done by various groups. The Netherlands also had a Dutch reddit competing, /r/PlaceNL. You can see an image of the various Dutch contributions in the final image. My favorite artwork was probably the NS train with a flag from each province. Of course the paintings “The Night Watch“, “The Seven Provinces” (ship) and “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” were made by bots and/or helper programs. I didn’t use any bots or programs so I spent most of my time defending (aka putting pixels back to the right color), either defending /r/PlaceNL creations or allies of /r/PlaceNL. It was very diplomatic in that regard. It also meant I almost drained my phone battery a few times, since I could only place one pixel every 5 minutes!

/r/PlaceNL was quite proud that, in terms of the country’s population, The Netherlands placed the most pixels of any country (about 6.19 pixels per resident, reddit.com in Dutch).

Also, the coolest thing ever: the 2022 r/place atlas (thanks to Roger who found it!). Use the zoom in tools and then hover over each object to get more details about it. Most of the Dutch contributions are at the very top, with two of the paintings in the lower left.

Hopefully it comes back in April 2023!

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…Wiskunde? (Or: A Dutch language joke)

This joke isn’t mine; it was forwarded to me on WhatsApp. But I was so amused by it I just had to share it with you.

That’s Dutch for you.

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Across the water (Or: Traveling from Rotterdam to Amsterdam by boat)

I saw a cool video posted on TheNetherlands subreddit:

The video is about 2 and a half minutes, or there is a 10 minute 4K version on YouTube (link). If you keep an eye on the map in the lower right you can see where the boat currently is.

And how is the camera so high up? It is not a drone. The tugboat you see in the image is pulling a large structure, and the camera was placed on the structure. See also this image (thetimewriters.com).

Finally, if you watch the shorter video above (Reddit), you’ll see a retractable bridge at 1:56. Kind of cool.

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I’m not moving, you move! (Or: Sleepy cat in The Hague)

A few days ago I came back from grocery shopping and spotted a cat in the parking garage. I don’t feel completely comfortable around cats, so I tend to give them all the space they want and need. The only problem? He (or she) was right by the door, and wasn’t going to budge.

But that’s fine. I came up slowly and said a few things so he or she knew I was there. I realized the cat didn’t really care, provided I didn’t make any sudden moves. I snapped a few pics (of course) and then carefully opened the door. No reaction.

On the other side of the door I waved goodbye and made my way up the stairs. Cute kitty!

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435 days (Or: On WordPress streaks)

Did you know that the first corona related post I made was back on 14 March, 2020? The title was A Saturday morning like any other? (Or: Changing times in The Netherlands). This was a few days after we were told to start working from home. Here is a funny tidbit: “I’m looking forward to going back in when this is all over, although there were a lot of jokes going around that we wouldn’t see each other for months.” I guess it wasn’t a joke in the end?

I then proceeded to write one post each day for the next 434 days. My main goal has always been to keep my family back in the states informed with what was going on on this side of the pond.

This post is thus post #435. Things are going better in the Netherlands, although I always feel I should say that with a note of caution. Today there were 1,596 corona infections reported in the last 24 hours, the lowest number since mid-September. Dutch hospitals are also seeing improvement, as there are now less than 1,000 people hospitalized.

I’ve decided to deliberately end my daily blog writing streak. I will still write blog posts, just maybe not every day. 🙂

Here is another streak I did: 365 days of blog posts. Back when I started the blog I posted every day for one year straight. So maybe there will be another streak in my future… but hopefully not due to a future pandemic.

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Thunder in the distance (Or: Tulip fields)

Here is a beautiful photo from Reddit’s r/thenetherlands page:

The photo was taken in a tulip field north of Amsterdam.

Did you know the Dutch are obsessed with terraces? I blame the bad weather – we take every chance we can get the second the sun peeks out around the corner. See also dutchnews.nl’s article: What is the Dutch obsession with pavement cafes all about? Although the term “pavement café” is a bit weird.

Dutch are biggest consumers of meat substitutes in Europe from nltimes.nl. Although meat substitutes only count for 2.5% of the meat market according to the article. At the moment Marco and I don’t generally eat meat substitutes from the supermarket. We do eat a few vegan meals a week from FOAM, but that is mainly because it tastes so good. Otherwise we might replace meat with courgette (zucchini) or with peanuts for a bit of crunch. Marco does make a nice wok vegetable dish with hoisin sauce and peanuts…

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Beautiful flowers (Or: Here’s hoping they last)

Marco received a surprise bouquet of flowers this afternoon from work. He and others from his group were recognized for the work they had done on a big project which is wrapping up.

Marco and I were pretty lucky. We actually threw out our few remaining vases late last year, planning to replace them at some point. Of course we never got around to it. (Neither of us really have a green thumb so we don’t usually have flowers around. I’ll be happy if it survives the week!) After some pondering, I noticed we had an empty lemonade dispenser with a tap (this one, from xenos.nl), so I quickly rinsed it out and used that. And it works perfectly! And it looks a bit cute if I say so myself.

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Hot chocolate (Or: The case of the disappearing cookie)

Yesterday Marco, Roger and I made a cup of hot chocolate before sending Roger off back into the cold. Hot chocolate, whipped cream, chocolate powder, and a piece of speculaas cookie (Albert Heijn link to the cookie).

Keep your eye on that cookie…

… by the time Marco noticed, it was gone. Marco did say the bottom of his hot chocolate did taste rather speculaas-y, though.

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