Working from home (Or: A period of adjustment)

Today was the first day of working from home due to the Corona virus. It was okay, considering.

I did try to brighten things up a bit by lighting a wax candle. I also made a cup of tea, since our team usually gets tea together every morning. What can I say. Traditions never die.

Behind that is a decorative rack Marco and I purchased from Xenos a while back. Visible in the photo are souvenirs from various trips. From the top left is an mini Eiffel tower, an Indy car, a Disney photo frame (of which only the frame legs are visible, a souvenir from Tokyo’s Ghibli museum, a Boston trail coaster, and a just barely visible souvenir Guinness mug… mini size.)

At 19:00 this evening the Dutch prime minister gave a nationally televised speech. An English summary can be found at He admits that a lot of people in this country will get the virus over the coming months, but that the key is to ‘flatten the curve’ ( so that the healthcare system is not overloaded. He discussed the possibility of locking down the entire country, but said this would take months if not a year to take effect, and that the virus would probably come back after the country was re-opened. Not to mention the economic ramifications…

The rest of the speech reminded people to follow advice even if you were young and health, and to take care of those are you.

Oh, and the last time a Dutch prime minister directly addressed the Netherlands on television was in 1973 during the oil crisis. I find that a bit surprising, but these are weird times indeed.

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The beginnings of quarantine (Or: News from The Netherlands)

This evening the Dutch government tightened their rules regarding the COVID-19 crisis which will be in effect until (at least) 6 April. Schools will be required to close from tomorrow. Cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, sport schools, daycares, sex shops and more were closed from 18:00 this evening (basically the moment the press conference ended) until 6 April. Supermarkets will remain open.

The photo above is now out of date. I took it this afternoon to show that the Central Library was closed, while the other (smaller) branches were still partially open. This was acceptable since generally only the Central Library would have more than 100 persons inside at any given time. But thanks to the new measures introduced by the Dutch government this evening, all branches are closed until 6 April.

I think that is one of the stranger things about this situation – information and rules change by the day, if not faster.

Luckily persons in ‘vital’ professions like health care, police and firefighters would be able to take their children to a free daycare, much like the system that Belgium had sent up. Although I do think both caregivers have to be in ‘vital’ professions to take advantage of this ruling. This was all but required of course – the prime minister’s opposition to closing schools was that it would mean persons in vital professions would not be able to go into work.

I’ll be interested to see what tomorrow brings…

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A Saturday morning like any other? (Or: Changing times in The Netherlands)

As you are well aware, most countries are taken precautions against the corona virus. On Thursday evening, the Dutch prime minister announced additional precautions which are currently in effect through March 31: where possible, work from home. No gatherings of more than 100 people are allowed. Universities and higher education institutions are closing their doors, but also trying to get online learning set up in the meantime. For now, the lower schools are still open.

Information from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment (in English). Stats are updated daily around 14:00 CET.

Work from home if possible

While the press conference was held on Thursday evening, most of my coworkers and I did go into work on Friday. We received word late in the day that the office would be closed from 13:00 on Monday, with only supervised entry allowed between then and March 31.

We have Monday morning to get anything we need from the building, although most of us saw this coming and started bringing stuff home on Thursday. There were limited monitors available for people to take home, although they went fast.

In theory I don’t mind working from home. It’s doable, if not always comfortable. It’s not something I would willingly do, however. At least our company is pretty prepared – another office in a different country has already been closed for 5 weeks (!!).

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. A few coworkers were flying back home (England, Spain, etc.) to be closer to family in the meantime. Their theory was they can work from anywhere and at least this way if they got stuck in a country it would be with their family.

No gatherings of 100 or more people

This decision is country wide. Some provinces have taken it a step farther and said that gatherings of 100 or more people would be punishable. Some aspects of daily life are affected that you wouldn’t expect: for instance the Central Library in the city centre is closed, because there are generally more than 100 patrons inside. For the moment the smaller branches are open, although all events are canceled through the end of the month.

Other events that are in jeopardy in the next few months are the Dutch Grand Prix (2020 was the first time it was to be held in The Netherlands since 1985) and the Eurovision song contest to be held in Rotterdam.

School openings / closure

The Dutch prime minister has faced a LOT of criticism for allowing the lower schools to stay open. His reasoning is that children are not the target age group for getting the virus and that it would bring the economy to a standstill. However, children can still be carriers… Either way, I suspect there will be a press conference on Sunday evening at the latest saying they are changing their mind and schools will be closed from Monday.

‘Hamsteren’ – frenzied stockpiling

Shortly after the press conference a lot of people went to the supermarkets and raided items like toilet paper, pasta, rice… ‘Hamsteren’ is a Dutch verb for what hamsters do, taking as much as they can and then more. The supermarket Albert Heijn was one of the harder hit. Yesterday on Twitter the posted this tweet:

It’s a message saying that they understand that some products are temporarily not available. They then go on to say that the distribution centers are full and that stores are supplied multiple times a day. They are working as hard as they can to keep the shelves stocked. If you’re on the AH mailing list you also received a longer email last night talking about the situation (both keeping the shelves full and disinfecting the store) to help put customers at ease.

Of course, it doesn’t stop people from stockpiling. Here’s a look at an Albert Heijn at lunchtime yesterday:

Still some potatoes left to grab, of course. Or harder hit, the toilet paper / paper towels area:

Who needs toilet paper. 🙂 It was also very busy in the store with lines everywhere. Not fun when you’re just coming in to get some lunch.

Marco and I went after work to another Albert Heijn and it was quieter. But by then the pasta, rice, eggs and most of the chicken were gone. Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s still plenty of food in the store. It’s the same thing that happens when a storm hits. It happens. It’s just hard for people to ignore the herd mentality of stockpiling. It’s hard for me to ignore, but that’s why I have Marco, who is much more logical than I am.

And finally, a video from Instagram/TikTok where someone splices over an Albert Heijn logo and the Albert Heijn theme song during some scenes of the movie World War Z:

Stay safe, everyone!

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Milka chocolate stand (Or: Vote for your favorite cow)

Traveling through the city centre of The Hague means you always see interesting promotions, especially on the Grote Markstraat (in Dutch), one of the larger shopping areas of the city.

Today’s promotion: Milka. Milka is a German company specializing in chocolate confections. You can vote on which of the four cows you like the best (link also in Dutch). The top prize is a trip to the Alps, with smaller prizes including chocolate packages or Milka-branded mugs.

The most interesting thing about the photo is on the left: one worker is helping another put on their cow head for the costume.

And no, I didn’t vote. They were still setting up and there’s no way I could choose who was my favorite cow: Marisa, Lotta, Lola or Katja (heh).

I will also mention that all of the names end in a… is there no love for a Sophie or Zoe?

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Sushi time (Or: Shabu Shabu in The Hague)

Over the weekend Marco, Roger and I went to Shabu Shabu in The Hague, an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. It was my first time; Marco and Roger went to the chain in Amsterdam once. It’s similar to Sumo, the restaurant where I tried sushi for the first time and where I used chopsticks for the first time (spoiler: I’m getting better but there are some things where I find it easier to just use my fingers).

Of course I’ll take any chance I can get to photograph flowers.

All of the ordering is done via a tablet, including drinks, extra wasabi and extra ginger. Pictured above is some wasabi which you receive at the start of the meal.

Sushi! From left to right: salmon, tuna, Japanese peppers with tuna and, last but not least, crispy mango.

The round that did us in (I probably shouldn’t have ordered the chicken curry rice bowl at the bottom). In the back on the left is shrimp and on the right is spicy Korean chicken. Below that is the remains of teriyaki salmon. Middle left is two gyoza’s (chicken dumplings) and middle right is eel and shrimp? sushi. At the bottom is the chicken curry rice bowl, as mentioned.

Shabu Shabu also has an unlimited dessert buffet – I went simple and just had chocolate and vanilla ice cream. But you also have donuts, chocolates, bonbons, spekkkoek and more. Yum.

It was a lot of fun, and ordering with a tablet made the experience much better. You could even request to close your bill with the tablet. This helps, since I am always annoyed by how long it takes to close your bill at most Dutch restaurants. I do understand it’s a cultural difference between here and America, though. Here in The Netherlands they don’t want you to feel as if you are being rushed through the meal.

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Time shadows (Or: Grote Kerk clock)

Here’s a look at the Grote Kerk’s clock tower at night:

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TV measurement lines (Or: Coolblue in The Hague)

Over the weekend Marco and I went to the Coolblue store in The Hague. Coolblue specializes in consumer electronics and only had an online presence — that is, until a few years ago when they started opening a few physical stores in The Netherlands.

I would describe it like an electronics store crossed with an Apple store – sure, they sell stuff but they also want to show off their stuff and let you browse around. The store has a minimalist feel, with a lot of empty space. And you can even get free tea and coffee. Generally I go to the online store to browse, and I only visit the physical store if I know exactly what I want. I haven’t tried the free tea or coffee quite yet. If I do I’ll let you know how it tastes.

But last weekend I had to take a photo of the floor.

Yeah – you heard me, the floor.

In the television department they have guides showing you how large each tv size is. They even thoughtfully provided a centimeter guide as well (which is logical since televisions are of course listed in cm here). I’m not quite sure how helpful the guidelines are—I think it would have been better to put each measurement next to each other and start from the same spot—but the thought is there.

I can just imagine someone grabbing a television off the display and dragging it to the guide area to double check that the television they were looking at was indeed 50 inches. Leaving scratch marks in the floor along the way…

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Flowers and sweets (Or: Marakesh bakery)

A photo taken a few months back, of a local bakery by the Holland Spoor train station, Marakesh bakery:

A very Spring-like photo, which is timely considering the weather of late. On the one hand we’ve had a few storms – storm Ciara two weekends ago and storm Dennis last weekend. In the United States these storms would be better known as winter storm Kade and winter storm Mabel. It’s interesting to think about how far these storms travel.

On the other hand the photo is ‘timely’ due to the fact that storm Dennis brought along warm temperatures, helping break the record for the warmest February 16 by 03:20 in the morning (around 56F) with temperatures in the southeast maxing out around 63F. The only problem is that the storm brought along a lot of rain and wind. The rain is luckily gone, but like the first storm the wind will hang around for a few more days.

So don’t let go of your hat just yet…

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Coffe and cake (Or: Travels through The Hague)

As you have probably guessed from this blog, Marco and I like to sample the various coffee and cake options at the local establishments. The last few months have been no exception.

First up we have an old (awesome) favorite: the Cheesecake Company in The Hague:

I had a pistachio cheesecake, while Marco’s was tiramisu flavor. With our usual cappuccino (his) and coffee (mine).

And a new one for us: last month we went to the Buitenhof movie theatre. Not to see a movie, but to sample their coffee and desserts at their café/restaurant.

This one was also pretty good, but I was glad that we decided to share. The carrot cake we had was quite sweet with all the layers of icing. While I don’t normally think of carrot cake as a healthy option, this one was definitely the farthest from healthy that you could get.

But it was a good enough cafe, and thankfully they had room. We first considered going to Hometown Coffee, which was recently renovated, but both times we went we were unable to find a seat.

But maybe next time we should also catch a film…

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Chocolate everywhere (Or: Almost Easter time)

Last week at Albert Heijn I spotted a Tony’s Chocolonely display filled with Easter eggs. The company’s mission is to make fair trade chocolate. (The company’s slogan is: “Crazy about chocolate, serious about people“.)

The cutest thing was these mini egg cartons:

And of course the Easter candy started popping up a few weeks ago already. You can never be too early!

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