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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Street food delights (Or: Umami restaurant in The Hague)

Marco and I decided to visit Umami, a Chinese restaurant in the city centre. We had looked at the menu a few years ago, but it seems like they have added a street food option since then. The only unexpected thing was that even though we were able to make a reservation for 15:00, when we got their the hostess seemed surprised and said that the kitchen closes between 15:30-16:00. (Why does the website let you make reservations for that time slot then?)

But in the end it wasn’t really a problem as Marco and I had stared at the menu in advance and had a general sense of what we wanted to sample already. The only difference was that we ordered everything at once, whereas we were hoping to order a bit, see how full we were, and then order a bit more if needed.

The snack attack platter, comprised mostly of croquette/bitterballen type snacks, plus 4 spring rolls. The croquettes are filled with meat paste or ragu. The quality of these snacks can differ greatly based on the restaurant you are at, but luckily upscale dining restaurants use high quality meat. In this case the croquettes were green curry, chicken satay, shrimp, duck and rendang. But as they say you also eat with your eyes – the photo above just begs to be eaten (and to be photographed).

Above are two bao buns. In the foreground is chicken thigh and in the background is beef. A bit messy (especially the beef which leaked everywhere) but still quite tasty.

And finally, sandwiches. In the foreground, chicken thigh and in the background duck. We actually only had a half each, taking the other half home for later.

It was a great experience. We do plan on going back to sample some other stuff later (and perhaps the actual lunch or dinner menu, versus the street food menu). If you like good food that is Instagram worthy than this is the place for you.

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CeeCee’s chicken and chips (Or: Food hall in the Haagsche Bluf)

This past weekend Marco and I visited the food halls in Haagsche Bluf (denhaag.com in English), a tiny, upscale shopping area in the heart of the city centre. The food halls (official website in English) have 10 food stands with various types of food like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Malaysian, etc. We chose CeeCee’s chicken and chips for our first visit:

At the top of the photo we have mozzarella sticks with sweet chili sauce and twister fries with sweet chili sauce and ketchup for me. The chicken tenders were hot and spicy on the left (obvious, I am sure) and lemon and pepper on the right.

The food was good, although none of it really stood out. So good, but not great. (In comparison with the tacos Marco and I shared at the Mall of The Netherlands last month.) The service could also be better. Marco and I ordered via a QR code at the table which you can see in the lower right of the photo. The website said that I would receive a text when the food was ready, so we thought it would be okay to switch tables. However, I received a call saying that they went to my original table and we weren’t there. Oh well.

Don’t get me wrong though – this is on my list to go back as the concept of food halls are always nice, and I either want to try some falafels or some Malaysian food next.

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A bit of green in the city (Or: Park in Rijswijk)

Rijswijk is a small town not far from The Hague, 15 minutes by tram. It is also where I got my first two corona vaccinations last summer. I visited again yesterday, taking a walk through a small park not far from the Rijswijk Central train station. That way I could enjoy the sunshine a bit more. Here are some of the photos I took:

Who needs a net for the basketball hoop? The train station (English Wikipedia) is in the background. Well, the glass pyramids are visible, anyway. The tracks themselves are underground.

I don’t think you are supposed to walk under the vines above, but considering there is a small dirt path there it looks like some people have tried. It is an interesting piece of nature, that’s for sure.

A handful of birdhouses (on the pole) with residential housing behind.

An area with outdoor seating – there is similar seating around other edges of the circle, making this a good place to hold a performance or poetry slam.

It is an interesting park; a bit bare at times, but that quality helps it look more natural.

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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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New greenery in The Passage (Or: Down the middle)

A few weeks ago while in The Passage (official website, in English) I noticed some new plant life sprucing up the area.

This follows the “dividers” that were installed to help keep people on the right side of the path during corona times. Before that the walkways had always been bare with nothing in the middle.

Photo from 2021

I like it; it helps keep the area lively and vibrant. Although it might make it harder to walk through the area during the busiest moments of the day (usually it is a game of doge when moving around the slower walking tourists).

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Lazy days (Or: Random news from around The Hague)

It has been a while since I posted random news articles about what is happening here in The Hague and The Netherlands. So here is a collection of some of the news articles I have seen recently:

The Hague government wants to tear down half of the MegaStores complex and replace it with housing (omroepwest.nl – article in Dutch). Although at the moment it is just a plan versus anything that will actually happen. Affordable housing is all the rage these days, and for good reason. In the last 5 years the cost of buying a house has skyrocketed. For instance, the price of a buying house has risen 21% since January 2021 alone. See also cbs.nl (Department of Statistics, article in Dutch). MegaStores is a furniture mall, but at least half of the stores are empty these days, if not more. It really isn’t a place you would go to if you weren’t looking for furniture.

The Binnenhof, one of The Hague’s most recognizable tourist areas, will be closed as of 21 March for 5 years for renovation (omroepwest.nl, article in Dutch). I can’t imagine it will be closed for that long, but the buildings are in dire need of renovation so it makes sense. The fountain was already removed last month (also omroepwest.nl).

The fountain in the courtyard of the Binnenhof (photo from 2012!)

The Dutch cabinet is expected to drop all remaining corona measures from 23 March (dutchnews.nl, article in English). Not that there were many rules left to revoke. They are expected to revoke the face mask in public transportation rule, the rule that you need to take a test if you are attending an indoor event with more than 500 attendees and the rule that vaccinated travellers must take a Covid-19 test before entering The Netherlands. The advice to work from home at least half of the week will also be revoked. About the only thing that will be left is the basic guidelines (wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, ventilate) and the use of face masks in airplanes, as that is European law.

The Hague accidentally sent voting cards to about 1,500 Brits who weren’t eligible to vote this week from dutchnews.nl in English. A simple but silly mistake – British nationality was still listed as an EU nationality. After Brexit, British citizens have the same rules for voting as I do. You can only vote in the local elections if you have lived in The Netherlands for the last five years, uninterrupted.

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Inflation (and corona?) strike (Or: Cocktails at Milu)

I recently went out for drinks with some coworkers. We went to Milu, and we went on a Wednesday of course. (If any of my family is reading this, Milu used to be Het Wapon, where Marco and I had our wedding reception back in 2013.)

Why did we go on a Wednesday? Well, 5 euro cocktails of course! Oh wait, it is 6 euros now and there are less choices. Thanks to inflation and/or corona. Don’t get me wrong: 6 euros is still a steal and there are still 5 choices. The cocktail choices are every rotating, which is probably a good thing. You can see a lot at one of the old menus at this old blog post from 2017 (scroll down to the end). I remember really liking the Hello Tokyo cocktail, although I don’t seem to have a picture of it readily available.

On the left you have a lemon ginger scroppino for a coworker (vodka, Caipi ginger liquor, Prosecco and lemon sorbet) and a golden caipi boy on the right for me (Caipi ginger liquor, grapefruit, lime, rhubarb and soda). I loved how sour it was, which was exactly what I was looking for.

Above is a frozen pornstar martini (vodka, Caipi ginger liquor, lime, passionfruit, orange and vanilla). Very sour again. While the paper straw looked very pretty and worked well with the drink, it didn’t hold out forever so I ended up finishing this slushy drink with a spoon.

In the background you can see Dutch bitterballen (English Wikipedia). We actually ordered a platter of four different things. The other three (chicken nuggets, duck spring rolls and cheese sticks) quickly disappeared, leaving the bitterballen to finish. They are definitely an acquired taste. At any rate, I didn’t need any dinner after this when I got home.

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Unexpected finds at the library (Or: The Mullet atlas of The Hague)

Did you know there is a book full of mullet photos? In Dutch it is known as De Haagse Mat.

Matlas, The Mullet Atlas (matlas.nl in English). “There are few things as emblematic of The Hague as the mullet. Whether balding, curly, straight, gelled or matt, the mullet is a piece of The Hague’s heritage, its folklore and its traditions. It symbolizes a healthy dose of resistance to imposed norms in a world of endless, dull conformity…” The book in question is filled with photographs taken between 2011 and 2019, maps, and statistics about this particular hair style. Scroll down on that webpage to see the back cover showcasing the back of the hairstyle.

You can also check out a copy at the Central Library or the Segbroek branch. Here’s a look at this slightly oversized book:

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The tastiest bento box (Or: SET restaurant in The Hague)

A few weeks ago Roger, Marco and I celebrated the reopening of restaurants by going to SET in The Hague’s city centre. It is not far from the Grote Kerk. The best part about going for lunch is that you can order a bento box (meat, fish or mixed). I always go for the meat box.

The lunch begins with a miso soup. I’m not a huge fan of tofu blocks, but they do work in this soup in small amounts.

The star of the lunch is of course the meat bento box:

Karage (Japanese chicken) in the top middle, beef in the top right, and pork in the lower right. Roger and Marco usually go for the mixed box, which means I get to gloat that I have karate and they don’t. The only problem with having this meal for lunch is that you definitely have no interest in dinner later in the evening, but it is worth it!

I however mourn the loss of the “ice and sand chocolate dessert” which used to be on the menu years ago. The ice cream had a lovely taste and it was definitely visually pleasing.

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