Posts Tagged With: COVID-19

Time to hack some cheese (Or: Ransomware)

Earlier this morning I was walking through the Albert Heijn when I noticed a sign near the cheese section, apologizing for the less than spectacular stock. Indeed, there were a lot of gaps and not much cheese to speak of. I didn’t think much of it since cheese wasn’t on my grocery list today.

A few hours later I read an article on NOS in Dutch: ‘Kaas-hack’ opgelost, ging om gijzelsoftware. I found an article in English at dutchnews.nl: Supermarkets cheesed off after dairy supplier is hacked. The hack occurred in the night between 4 and 5 April, about a week ago. Since then the company has mostly been working with pen and paper to get all of the orders fulfilled. The supplier refused to say whether they paid to have the ransomware lifted (but my guess is yes).

In public transportation news: Amsterdam’s metro lines 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54 have been stopped since about 17:30 today due to a technical failure in one of their new systems (nos.nl in Dutch). The issue is in the new traffic control system that they only started using yesterday.

In corona news: Ministers ‘consider coronavirus vaccine rethink’ after AstraZeneca chaos from dutchnews.nl. There is a lot of controversy around AstraZeneca right now in the Netherlands (and Europe in general). First it was not allowed to be given to 65+, then there were rare cases of rare blood clots mostly see in women under the age of 60 across Europe, and now the vaccine can’t be given to anyone under 60 but can be given to anyone older than that. The same national health council who said “don’t give it to people under 60” last week is now considering advising the government that people under 60 should be allowed to choose whether they want AstraZeneca or not.

Oh, and just to show you how weird the weather has been lately: we had more snow and hail this morning. It started coming down right just as I ducked inside Albert Heijn, but unfortunately I was not met with blue skies and white clouds when I left 15 minutes later. Boo. Who expects weather like this in mid-April?

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Thorbecke monument (Or: 2021 adds a face mask)

The Thorbecke monument on the Lange Voorhout has recently received a new addition:

Interesting that only one of them is wearing a face mask…

This monument is actually made up of two parts: the modern stainless steel part (pictured above) and a marble part (not pictured) where J.R. Thorbecke, a 19th century Dutch statesman is actually shown. The two parts are supposed to represent the 19th century Thorbecke’s influence on our times. See also this page from angloinfo.com for more information in English.

In other news – what does the main train provider (NS) do when storks (a protected species in the Netherlands) build their nest above the train tracks? Answer: not much once the eggs are laid. Ooievaarsnest op bovenleidingportaal vormt brandgevaar, maar mag niet weggehaald worden from omroepwest.nl in Dutch. The same thing happened in 2020 in a different part of the Netherlands (article from dutchnews.nl in English).

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A lovely sunny day (Or: Counting down to the weekend)

Oh, I know it is only Wednesday. But I have Friday and Monday off, so the weekend will be extra long this time! Today was the last of the sunny days for a while. Of course you know what that means: Parks closed, alcohol banned as youngsters flock to the sunshine from dutchnews.nl. On the opposite end of the spectrum, thanks to daylight savings the government has agreed to allow the curfew to start at 22:00 instead of 21:00 (nltimes.nl), from tonight. Here is hoping people use that extra hour responsibly (exercise, etc.).

If you live in Utrecht or in the nearby area you can sign up for Utrecht’s open bar experiment (also nltimes.nl). Five bars will be open for business 14 April to 17 April (of course with social distancing in place). I suspect that one will be “sold out” within 20 minutes of going online, just like the concert experiments earlier in March. First Covid self-tests now available at Dutch pharmacies (also from nltimes.nl). These self-tests take 15 minutes to give a result. Their accuracy rate isn’t as high as the government tests but they can help in situations where you want to take a test before visiting your grandmother or grandchildren, for instance.

The above article talks about Scheveningen getting their own color system (green, orange*, red) to show how busy the area is. In extreme cases, code red can be called, allowing roads to be closed off. As the colors progress to orange and red, more “peace officers” (Wikipedia) could be called to the area.

* = Dutch like the color orange, so they use that instead of yellow.

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Appointment required (Or: Line to enter Bijenkorf)

This morning I took a photo of the line to enter Bijenkorf, a high-end department store. There weren’t too many people in line yet – it was only 11:00 – but there was a large amount of space roped off on the Grote Markt shopping street.

The not-quite-readable sign says “Welcome! Access only allowed with appointment. Scan the QR-code to make an appointment.” (QR codes have definitely become more popular during the corona crisis.) In the Netherlands you need to make an appointment at least 4 hours in advance. Non-essential stores can have 1 person per 25 square meters, with a maximum of 50 shoppers in the store at one time.

The sculpture is called “Veelhoofd” (Many heads) and it was created by Joep van Lieshout. The art in The Hague’s city centre moves around a lot – the sculpture was initially installed on the Spui (stroom.nl, in English) around the corner back in 2010.

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A new video from Keukenhof (Or: Beautiful tulips–online)

Unfortunately Keukenhof (English Wikipedia), one of the largest flower gardens in the world, won’t be able to open this year either. They have decided to post two short films a week instead so that people can see the work they put into getting the park ready.

Keukenhof ready to receive visitors – in the meantime, its flowers go online from dutchnews.nl

Dutch facility gets go-ahead to produce more AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from nltimes.nl. The facility, based in nearby Leiden, is finally able to start officially producing AstraZeneca vaccines. This after the company took their time in submitting an official request for approval to the European Medical Agency. The dutchnews.nl website has more on the controversy surrounding the Dutch factory.

And finally, Utrecht researchers testing bracelet for identifying Covid symptoms from nltimes.nl (based on monitoring temperature, respiration, skin moisture and more).

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Voting in the 2021 Dutch elections (Or: City hall)

The 2021 Dutch elections (English Wikipedia) were held yesterday. Marco decided to cast his vote at The Hague’s city hall. Marco took a quick photo for me, aiming more at the ground to avoid getting anyone in the photo.

As you can see, everything was set up according to corona guidelines. Marco said later that it was set up rather well – there were volunteers controlling the lines, there was plenty of space between the voting booths and there was a separate entrance and exit. You entered by the library and then exited on the other side of city hall. (Check out a photo I took of city hall back in 2013, right after I moved to the Netherlands – there is a LOT of space.)

Above is random voting “paraphernalia” that Marco received, including a card with corona related questions and instructions about how to make your visit to the voting location as safe as possible, both for yourself and others. Also, special for this year only: most voters were allowed to keep the red pencil that they used to vote. Usually they are chained to the desk. However not all voters were allowed to keep the pencil. The choice was up to the city since they would have to finance the red pencils with their voting budget. Some cities decided it was more cost effective to clean them between each use instead.

Differences in cities also meant there were differences in pencils – some cities provided short, little pencils like above. Others provided longer red pencils with “Jouw stem telt!” or “Your vote counts!” printed on the side.

In COVID-19 election, Dutch voters ask: Can I keep the pencil? from reuters.com.

And of course the red pencils were already appearing on Markplaats (the Dutch eBay) early yesterday morning. Not that anyone should be surprised by that!

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An odd anniversary (Or: A year of working from home)

I recently celebrated an odd anniversary. It has been a year since I started working from home full time. My last day in the office was March 13, 2020. See also my blog post from that weekend. (It is crazy to read that at first they were limiting groups to 100 people. Since December we can only have one guest visiting.)

To go into the office I need to have a good reason and have permission from both my department’s manager and the building manager. In the last year I have been there twice – once to pick up my new laptop (August?) and once to return my old laptop (October? It was slightly delayed because corona cases started going up around then). The office is outfitted with directional arrows and there are designated elevators for going up and for going down. I couldn’t quickly find the one that was designated “down” so I ended up taking the stairs.

On the plus side, my employer was fully ready to work from home from day one. We had recently switched over to Teams and we use Sharepoint (group network share) and OneDrive (generally personal network share, but can also be shared with groups). The “funny” thing was that the office was planning on working from home on the afternoon of Monday, March 16 to test the VPN. However the situation changed so fast that our VPN “test” was everyone logging in on Monday and getting to work. Luckily not everyone needs the VPN, however with my line of work my first action when I boot up my computer is to log into the VPN and my last action before turning off my computer is to log off the VPN. So yeah, I need it.

Marco and I live in a tiny apartment that doesn’t quite support two home workers, but we make it work. I think I held out until August or so last year before I finally caved and said we should get at least one proper work desk and chair. We only had to wait a week or two and I splurged on a desk which allows you to change the height electronically. I also splurged on an extra setup fee to have the company do it for us. I’d rather pay €50 than spend hours staring at instructions, thank you very much.

These days the only pain point is when we both have meetings. In that case one of us moves to the bedroom. Luckily I have less meetings than Marco so it doesn’t happen that often. Which is probably good, since the bedroom wifi is less than ideal.

Generally we don’t have any issues with the current working from home solution, but it is still crazy to think we have been at home for over a year now. My company let me know all the way back in December that we would be working from home at least through August 2021. Crazy.

At least we have the upcoming spring and sun to look forward to. Today it just drizzled, raining on and off. Boo!

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Safety first (Or: Race barriers at biking events)

Let’s stick with some random news today.

I saw an interesting article on NOS.nl in Dutch: Gratis af te halen: veilige finishstraat voor wielerkoersen or “Free to pick up: Safe finish barriers for cycling courses”. I found a similar article in English from cyclingtips.com. A Belgian company made safety barriers for the last 400 meters of cycling competitions and are offering them for free. (In exchange the pieces are branded with their name so that they get exposure.)

The most interesting things about the barrier are:

  • they are sloped 70 degrees from the ground back to the spectator, making it much more difficult to take a selfie or hang over the edge.
  • the edges are outfitted with black arrows, giving the cyclists a small optical illusion that the course is narrowing and that they should steer inwards, staying away from the edges (…hopefully that works as the company hopes)
  • they can be filled with water to make them heavier in windy environments

The Netherlands has also temporarily stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine for two weeks while the European Medical Agency reviews the vaccine’s safety: Netherlands suspends use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid blood clot investigation from nltimes.nl. 200,000 appointments in the next few weeks have been cancelled. Hopefully they will be rescheduled once use of the vaccine is cleared.

Haagse ‘Verkiezingskrant’ met stemlocaties en kandidaten niet overal bezorgd from omroepwest.nl (The Hague’s ‘Election Newspaper’ with polling places and a candidate list not delivered everywhere). This year The Hague’s government decided to include the information in a special newspaper rather than with the voting pass you receive in the mail. However some neighborhoods didn’t get one. Marco and I didn’t. Luckily the information is also available online for those who are digitally savvy, so it’s more a pain for those who are not.

And one final, very random article: Wurst case: Burglar caught over bite from German’s sausage. Including another worst/wurst pun…

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Demonstrations in The Hague (Or: Malieveld and Koekamp)

Today there were two separate but simultaneous demonstrations at the Malieveld: a demonstration against the government’s corona measures (at Malieveld) and a demonstration for climate action (at the nearby Koekamp).

The maximum number of demonstrators for the Malieveld is 200 (and it used to be 100), a number that was quickly reached more than an hour before the scheduled 14:00 start time. When the police tried to prevent additional demonstrators from entering Malieveld, the demonstrators simply started marching through the city centre, including towards Plein 1813 (Dutch Wikipedia) on the northern side of the city centre. After that the police turned a blind eye to demonstrators joining the demonstration at Malieveld, for a time. By 15:30, the police said the demonstrators needed to leave immediately. Around 15:45 the police started clearing Malieveld by force, using mounted officers and water cannons.

Earlier in the afternoon all incoming trains to The Hague were (briefly) cancelled, which meant that you could only leave The Hague, not enter it. The train service has since resumed, however. The Hague’s tram and bus service is also slightly disrupted, with four trams (9, 15, 16 and 17) and one bus (20) running alternative routes at the moment. That is to be expected, though, since so many people are criss-crossing the tracks and roads around Malieveld.

The local website Regio15.nl has a three hour video (on YouTube, 3 hours long). They also have pictures taken throughout the afternoon of the situation. Just another day for Malieveld though – there have been a number of anti-corona demonstrations in the last year.

I think there was a fair amount of food behind, since the Malieveld is currently residence to about 20-30 seagulls. Hmm.

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Only minor changes (Or: Dutch press conference, 8 March)

There was another press conference tonight, as usually happens one week before rules are set to expire. Not much is changing, however.

  • The curfew (21:00 to 04:30) will stay in place until 30 March
    • There is an exception for 15-17 March if you are outside due to the elections (you just voted, you are an election worker, etc.)
  • From 16 March: up to four adults can exercise together outside, if you keep 1.5 meters distance from each other.
  • From 16 March: swimming lessons for children will restart (very important for a country with so much water)
  • From next week: stores larger than 50 square meters can allow one customer per 25 square meters, provided they made an appointment at least 4 hours in advance. The maximum number of customers at one time is 50.
  • Nursing home residents can have up to two visitors per day, with differing visitors allowed during the week, provided all residents and staff are completely vaccinated. Previously they could only have one visitor per day, and it was the same visitor per week.
  • The “negative advice” on traveling out of the country is extended to 15 April. At the press conference on 23 March they will announce the decision for travel during the May and summer vacations.
  • If the number of cases, the R number and the number of hospital intakes don’t rise, the government will look into opening restaurants terraces (outside dining) from 31 March. If, if, if. In that scenario higher education students would also be able to go to school once a week.
  • In the next few months the government is looking into the possibility of allowing quick tests to be sold for use in businesses and education. They could also be sold at drug stores for home use.

So, there are ome changes, but it is mainly looking towards the next month or two to see what is possible once more of the population is vaccinated. Check out the vaccination situation at the official Dutch corona dashboard (in English).

See also: Current lockdown will be gone by July; Terraces could reopen March 31 from nltimes.nl.

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