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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Window Swap (Or: Travel the world, from home)

Are you stuck at home too? I have a cool website for you to check out, recommended this week by one of my coworkers.


Go on, go check it out. Peer out of someone’s window.

Okay, so here is the magic: users upload a 10 minute video of their window to the site. Once it is approved, it can appear on the site for others to enjoy as a random window. I went from Seattle to Mumbai Phoenix to London to Kuala Lumpur.

Enjoy your window swapping!

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Lines upon lines (Or: Escher’s “Day and night” in jigsaw form)

I finally completed it! The 1,000 piece puzzle Marco gave me for Christmas. It’s an 1,000 piece puzzle of M. C. Escher’s “Day and night”.

On the one hand, it was quite challenging. On the other hand, most of the pieces were subtly different. I was only left with about 15-20 black pieces in the upper right at the end. I was reduced to sticking in random pieces in each slot until something worked.

As you can see, it’s one of his famous works inspired by geometry – a city in daylight on the left, and the same city at night on the right. It’s quite beautiful, really. When I looked up a relevant Wikipedia article I found a picture of the Escher museum in The Hague with a poster of “Day and night” outside.

Of course I finished the bottom part rather quickly, and then it sat there for 6 months while I ignored it… But once I got motivated again it went rather quickly.

And now for something completely different: last week there was a secret fireworks event at Scheveningen (omroepwest.nl in Dutch), complete with drones! Note: the second video in the article with the grey box doesn’t work. Apparently the video was pulled from YouTube. But the article does have a few pictures and links to a few shorter videos.

The fireworks show was in celebration of 75 years of freedom since WW2 and was organized by the International Fireworks festival of Scheveningen (official site in Dutch). This was especially important because the show was cancelled in 2019 due to overcrowding concerns. And when I mean overcrowding, I mean overcrowding. Check out this photo from denhaagcentral.net in 2018. Roger, Marco and I went in 2015. It was a nightmare getting home…

Oh, and to show us why we can’t have nice things check out this article in Dutch over at omroepwest.nl: the city is in trouble because they paid 134,000 euros for a fireworks show that wouldn’t be seen by many people due to the corona issues. Opps.

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There’s a controversy brewing (Or: Do you speak Scots?)

I’ll keep it short today, but I did want to point out one interesting article I read yesterday. But warning – it’s a bit nerdy!

Shock an aw: US teenager wrote huge slice of Scots Wikipedia from theguardian.com. Apparently a 19 year old US teenager is responsible for over half of the edits on the Scottish Wikipedia. He started when he was 12. The problem? He doesn’t speak Scots. And he created over 20,000 pages (as of 2018), which is about a third of the Scots Wikipedia. Most of the pages and edits were English with some words spelled “phonetically” in what can only be described as a cliche of Scots.

And how did it get this far? From what I’ve read his time on Wikipedia plays a bit part – the longer you are on Wikipedia the more seniority you are granted, so he received administrator rights some years ago. He was then able to undo edits people had made to try and correct his work.

It’s a crazy story, but the good news is this will probably (with a lot of work and effort) cause a great clean-up of the Scots Wikipedia. Unless they nuke it entirely and start over, which is one of the proposed actions over on the talk page (!). I actually attended a Dutch Wikidata convention in the past in Amsterdam (Wikidata being the ‘data’ side of Wikipedia) and I was quite impressed with some of the scripts and tools people made over the convention weekend. I do think they can get through this – and I do hope the user in question does keep editing as it can be a useful hobby. But perhaps he should stick to English Wikipedia until he learns the Scots language…

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Shopping is dangerous? (Or: Issues with corona banners in Amsterdam)

A few weeks back, Amsterdam began an experiment with face masks in certain busier parts of the city (amsterdam.nl). The experiment runs through the end of August, after which it will be evaluated to see if face masks will still be required. This has been a bit controversial, with some store owners reporting that revenue is down up to 40% in comparison with other Dutch shopping streets that do not have this requirement (nltimes.nl).

Some of the streets also have banners hung up between the buildings letting people know which side of the street they should be walking on (see Tweet below).

The problem is that the bottom of the banner contains small pipes to help weigh them down so they do not move around that much in the wind. And what did we have yesterday evening and today? A huge wind storm. It turns out that the pipes were not properly secured, meaning there was a risk that the pipes would fall out, possibly injuring shoppers in the process. Opps! The streets were closed for 3-4 hours today while the fire department removed all of the pipes.

In other news:

  • Cafés violating customer privacy with Covid contact data (nltimes.nl). Restaurants, cafés and terraces must now ask you for your contact details, per the Dutch government. It’s not required that you leave your contact details, but it is strongly encouraged. I’m sure the stories linked above won’t help the government’s case, though. Example: a journalist left her contact details at a restaurant. Shortly after she left the restaurant she received a phone call from the bartender asked if she wanted to have a drink with him sometime. What???
  • Overvallen door een plensbui? Weerapps minder betrouwbaar door afname vliegverkeer (omroepwest.nl). The title is: Do you find yourself in the middle of an unexpected, quick rain shower? Weather apps are less trustworthy now that there are less flights taking off. The article talks about just that – when a plane takes off it automatically measures the outside temperature and wind speed as it rises in height. That information is also passed on to the Dutch weather service to help predict weather changes. During the lockdown (when flights were very scarce) the Dutch weather service released an extra weather balloon to gather additional data points for their weather reporting.
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