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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Dinner in front of the TV (Or: Another Dutch press conference)

There was another press conference tonight, held by the Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The main highlights are:

People are urgently asked, but not required, to limit home gatherings to a maximum of six guests. And if you cannot accommodate social distancing for yourself and your six guests in your apartment then you should not be inviting six people over. This advice is because most of the cases seen are occurring within private areas. An unexpected twist: Rutte advised that people who wanted to meet up should instead go to restaurants or cafés, where social distancing was easier to maintain, a health check was done, contact details were saved and fixed seating was required (all of those in theory).

People are also reminded that the rule is still ‘work as much as possible from home, where possible’. There was some unfounded hope that going back to work after 1 September would be allowed, however that was never officially said and now the number of cases are growing again. Therefore Rutte decided to make it clear that working from home would remain the norm for the foreseeable future. (See also: my work saying we’re now officially working from home until at least the New Year. Yikes!)

The length of quarantine will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days. The advice remains that you should get tested if you develop symptoms while in quarantine. While it seems counterproductive to reduce the number of days, it is the government’s attempt to weigh the smaller risk of developing symptoms during days #11-14 and making it easier for people to accept going into quarantine. At the moment the government cannot require that you go into quarantine, though they said during this press conference that they are looking into changing the law to permit that.

The RIVM posted the weekly numbers on their website earlier today; weekly updates are provided every Tuesday. Corona cases are about the same as last week, with hospitalizations and deaths slightly rising.

Later tonight the mayor of Amsterdam is expected to announce regional measures on top of what was announced nationally. Rotterdam is expected to follow with additional regional measures later this week.

In the meantime: stay safe everyone!

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Storms are coming (Or: Finally! Rain!)

The thermometer reads 30.5C or 87F. I know it’s probably not the actual temperature, but it does make me pretty glad that rain will finally be coming tonight after an 8 day heat wave. Lots of records were broken in the Netherlands this week. The seven day average temperature for the country was 33.1C, with the previous record of 32C back in 1976 (about 91F).

Another record broken: the Netherlands had 8 straight days of temperatures above 35C (95F) somewhere in the country. De Bilt, a small town in the centre of the Netherlands saw temperatures above 30C for 8 days in a row. That is significant because De Bilt is the official site for average temperatures for the country (and also home to KNMI, the Dutch metrological service).

Of course, it will probably take a while before the apartment cools down, but hopefully not too long. I’m crossing my finger a lot while saying that!

And for some news regarding the corona crisis:

Stay cool, everyone… ☀️

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Patches of color (Or: Rainbow motorbike)

Here is what I spotted yesterday in The Hague:

One very colorful motorbike! Good luck stealing that one. It reminds me of the purple bike I found back in 2015.

And in this unexpected Dutch heat I will just say: stay cool everyone and enjoy your weekend responsibly!

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Painted on the street (Or: Social distancing messages)

More and more “keep your distance” messages have appeared on the streets of The Hague in the last month. This one is on the Grote Markt:

I do like the coat of arms (Wikipedia) in the upper left.

Let’s go for a few random YouTube videos today. It’s Friday, and the headlines are depressing!

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World Blood Donor Day (Or: Only an hour of your time)

Today is World Blood Donor Day. As some of you might be aware I donated blood when I used to live in America and I currently donate blood in the Netherlands. I donated yesterday, coincidentally.

All blood donors received an email which included a link to an online pdf. It was a really interesting read (it was about blood donation in general and blood donation during corona times). However since it is a pdf you will need to know Dutch to read it unfortunately. But the pdf also includes a design originally drawn by Dick Bruna in 1974 for the Dutch blood bank. It’s so cute!

It is a bit different donating in the Netherlands (but only a bit):

  • blood donations are handled by Sanquin, a non-profit organization
  • to donate blood you go to one of the Sanquin locations (unlike America where they go to libraries and schools and hold blood drives)
  • before you can donate blood the first time you need to visit a Sanquin location where they do an intake exam and draw a bit of blood for testing purposes
  • if your intake exam goes well you will be put on their register as a blood donor. You need to wait for them to contact you to come donate blood, every time.
    • gender matters – males are allow to donate up to five times a year, women up to three times a year (for whole blood – plasma is every two weeks and uses appointments)
    • blood type matters – the Netherlands is a small country and blood doesn’t last long, so some blood types are get called in more often
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Flying overhead (Or: A look at The Netherlands during the coronavirus pandemic)

Today’s blog post will focus on the use of drones to fly over various parts of The Netherlands during the coronavirus pandemic.

So without further ado, here is a look at how drones have been used to capture the oddness of this situation:

First, a recently posted drone video of the Efteling theme park:

This fantasy theme park was built in the 1950s and can be found in the east part of The Netherlands (Wikipedia).

Here is a look at a video produced by the national news service NPO:

The video above explains how The Netherlands came to a standstill due to the coronavirus and includes some statistics. Spoken Dutch with English subtitles.

Continue reading
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