Tag Archives: The Netherlands

Horrors and other news stories

Back when I was a youngling studying civil engineering in the Netherlands, the question of a direct railway connection between the cities Zwolle and Lelystad (“Hanzelijn”) was a popular discussion subject. If you’re not familiar with the topography of the Netherlands: for years, to get to the ‘Flevopolder’ by train, one needed to travel to Amsterdam first. Just recently, I noticed that the queen had finally (officially) opened the long needed shortcut to the ‘Flevopolder’.

Just yesterday, a lone gunman killed 20 or so kids in Newtown, Connecticut, which led to a many emotional scenes of parents, relatives, authorities and the US president: During the official White House statement/briefing, Obama had a hard time holding back tears. CBC had a long discussion with their reporters if this would finally break open the US gun registry laws: alas, most of the reporters were pessimistic about future US gun laws and restrictions. However, I’m not sure how the NRA is going to defend this gun massacre: what’s next? Have kids carry guns?

You are Kim Wilde, a legendary 80s popstar. You’re slightly drunk and joined by your brother on the train back to, well, wherever you headed to. How not to make an embarrassment out of yourself? Do not sing and serenade your fellow passengers. Wilde herself about her one-time performance:

Truly, I am overwhelmed and confused at such a huge reaction to my night out on the tiles. Making me giggle a LOT

Now we only need quotes from people who were actually on the train during this ordeal.


The weather has beenPrincess Street, Saint John fairly mixed the last couple of weeks and the only word that correctly describes it is the Dutch word ‘onstuimig’. At least I find there is some consistency: the weather is fairly unpredictable.

Last week, I wanted to mentionthe attack on the Dutch royalty in the town Apeldoorn but ended up being too busy to even bother. I’m not sure why someone would attempt an attack on the royal family: It’s not that they’re hated nor would I say that Dutch people are proud royalists. I gleefully found out that major news outlets correctly described Apeldoorn as a ‘town’ and not as a ‘city’. If I remember correctly, the number of residents living in Apeldoorn is approximately 1,001 (+/- 153,000). I have good memories of Apeldoorn, but honestly, I don’t remember seeing a lot of the town itself: it’s not really a city with a notable past or significant landmarks, except for the royalty’s Summer residence, Palace ‘Het Loo’.

The other thing I noticed that foreign news agencies always use the city of Amsterdam as a marker whenever something serious happens in The Netherlands:

The royals, who were unharmed, watched in horror as the car ploughed into bystanders in Apeldoorn, about 90km (56 miles) east of Amsterdam.

Dutch people frown on these kind of quotes and that is mainly because the distance between Amsterdam and Apeldoorn is considered to be fairly distant (so to say). From a North American view, 90 kms is just a stone-throw away. Foreigners who have driven on the highways over here can attest to that. This brings me to a silly anecdote from 2005, when my dad visited us when we still lived in Nova Scotia. We decided to drive around, go south to Lunenberg and then hit the highway 10 to Annapolis Valley. After returning home, I jokingly asked him to point out the route we took. He was 100 percent certain that we had driven all around the Nova Scotian coast and it took me a while to convince him that we’d only seen probably half or less of it. It then finally dawned to him how small The Netherlands actually is.

The Fighting Windmills Squadron

News Find the 10 differences outlet AFP reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has accused the Netherlands of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Dutch [project] aimed to encourage sexual and moral deviation in society

I’d like to hear what kind of moral and sexual deviation they are talking about.

Alfons linked to a piece I’ve never heard of (not that I claim to be an expert in Spanish/Mexican style music..), the ‘Huapango’. Full orchestral work linked here (Berlin Philharmonic, YouTube, 9 minutes). Excellent material.

Via, uh, MetaFilter, I listened to Bonnie Bassler’s TED presentation (18 minutes) about how bacteria communicate. The thing that struck me the most was how she explained how we ended up with resistant bacteria:

“We’re running out of anti-biotics. Bacteria are getting increasingly multi-drug resistant, and that’s basically because all the anti-biotics we use kill bacteria… […] and that selects the resistant mutants.”

They have a name for that: it’s called evolution.

Update 1: Bassler’s name corrected (was ‘Bartlett’, who was actually an actress in St. Elsewhere). My bad.

The 100 Lunar Pound Question

To my surprise, Some Coins in the Shape of a NineI found out that New Years Day started with a (white) bang in Nova Scotia: In New Brunswick we got away with a couple centimeters and mainly the cold wind. Justice was served, I believe and I’m looking forward to a snow-free Winter. Uh. Yes.

Talking about Winter: I hear that there is a shortage of ice skates (nee, speed skates or ‘Vikings’) in The Netherlands. At Christmas. Where are Bob Geldoff and his gang of crack-musicians and crack-singers to help these poor people out? On the other hand, there is something about skating (nee speedskating) on natural ice that is, as long as you watch out for ‘wakken’ (spots of thin ice).

So it’s 2009, it’s a new year and there goes nothing above ditching those new year’s resolution and gain another 10 metric milligrams (for people used to the Imperial system, that is 100 Lunar Pounds). Change your science teacher can believe in! This year’s The Edge question is all about change too: “What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” (Earlier on xsamplex). If you’re bored for the next couple of days: there’s plenty of reading to do there.

Songs of the Unknown

With the Olympics in high-gear, the New York Times has a collection of national anthems of countries that won the gold medal in the last couple of days. I was briefly listening to the Dutch anthem and I noticed that the youtube recording included the first two verses of the song. Probably 95% of the Dutch don’t make it that far: if you know one of the 15 stanzas, that’s more than enough. People who served in the Dutch army, probably (still) remember the endless ceremonial requirements when this song was played. (The ‘Wilhelmus’ at Wikipedia).

Yesterday, I watched ‘Animal Farm’ on Google Video: this movie features live animals (I was going to say ‘live action’) and was filmed and distributed in 1999. The movie stays fairly close to Orwell’s famous novel, except for the happy-end, which was probably added because, you know, if you live in the US and are under the impression that your country was solely responsible for the end of the Cold War, well, there you go.

And to talk about US politics, I briefly read about the very first McCain vs. Obama debate in front of a religious (“Social Conservative”) audience. I was wondering what could help Obama’s slumping campaign, and then I was thinking, maybe he should just choose Clinton for the VP slot1. For some kind of reason, I think that’s the only way the Democrats can safely get into the White House.

1Update (08/21/08): It looks like David Gergen thinks the same

A Carrier

Way earlier Karel Doorman (a couple of weeks perhaps) I was reminded of the fact that the Dutch navy at one time had a carrier (actually two but that’s a different story) which served a small amount of time in and around New Guinea to convince the Indonesians not to claim that last bastion of Dutch colonialism.

I mention this because my dad, who in his travels and search for a new life after surviving the Second World War and the violent Indonesian independence fight eventuallly ended up in New Guinea (or, rather ‘Netherlands New Guinea’), in the city of Hollandia, (now Jayapura), regularly recalled this particular stunt the Dutch navy pulled in Australia:

When the Doorman arrived at Fremantle, Australia, the local seamen’s union struck to show sympathy with Indonesia, refused to man tugs or docking lines. The Doorman cranked up her aircraft and maneuvered to her berth by using the propeller blasts to nudge alongside the dock. At Hollandia, New Guinea, the Doorman unloaded twelve obsolescent Hawker Hunter turbojets to bolster the small Dutch defense forces. Crying “Horrid imperialists,” Indonesia’s President Sukarno broke off diplomatic relations with The Netherlands.

I don’t think Dad was still in Hollandia at that time of that incident: although New Guinea was like heaven on earth for him, after witnessing a botched Indonesian landing in or around 1961 (“I saw the paratroopers hanging in the trees”), he decided that enough was enough and finally made it to the land of his forefathers, The Netherlands.

Hollandia was eventually let go by the Dutch authorities and after a controversial election or plebiscite, New Guinea was eventually annexed by Indonesia in 1963.

And then for…

And then for something slightly different: More of the same! You guessed it: Yesterday morning, I was surprised to find we were a bit snowed in. When I say snowed in, I mean that I have to use force to open up the front door. I think, Debert weather station reported 26 cms and it really looks like that much. This makes for slightly nice pictures, if it wasn’t so cold outside. The bad news is that it is supposed to be snowing overnight (and in the morning) again. The good news is that the snow will change to freezing rain and eventually to rain tomorrow night.

With that out of the way: Via Kottke, I found this map of New York, er, an imaginative map of whatever was New York if it was still in the hands of the Dutch powers. I don’t think I have to remind the reader that New York used to be in the hands of the Dutch and that (after many wars and battles with the British empire) they traded it for portions of South America. What you say? You really like the fictional flag for this ‘Dutch republic’ (taken from the original creator’s blogpost)? Is that the Japanese ‘Rising Sun’ in the flag? Oh dear.

And last but not least: Newsweek reports that Amsterdam is to close down its Red Light district. The most surprising part is that the main driving force behind the campaign (to close down the district) is a member of the Labour Party. Socialists closing down the Public Sector in Amsterdam? What will the British think of this?

That’s not my bike

A couple of Bike, Train, Friesdays ago, there was a great Metafilter thread on Amsterdam’s (or Dutch) bicycle culture (direct link to photos). Generally speaking, what was possible to do in The Netherlands you’d be arrested for over here. Some annotations that are applicable to the discussion:

  • You need huge chains and locks if you don’t want your brand-new or dirt-old bike to be stolen.
  • You’re allowed to carry kids whenever you turn 16.
  • Every kid is being taught traffic rules at and around age 7 or 8.
  • From the twins, I was the first one to be able to drive a bike and that was at age of 5, I believe.
  • The biggest achievement as a kid was the very first time I drove on a bike to the nearest library (earlier).
  • Before I came over, I left my bike at the Deventer railway station, locked, naturally. On my return 4 years after, I expected the bike to be still there. Afterwards, I thought that that was one of the most ridiculous thoughts.
  • When I was a teenager, I reported a stolen bike at a police station. Later on, I found out that that was pretty naive: In the Netherlands hundreds of bikes are stolen everyday.
  • At one time I bought a bike with a locked chain tied to its frame. I was lucky to have a friend with the right tools. I remember the poor excuse too and it’s so bad that’s not worth mentioning here.
  • We used to have a set of race bikes and (this suprises everybody) used to tour (‘race’) around with it, together with my brother. My favourite climb was the ‘Holterberg’, which is the only ‘mountain’ with a 10% elevation.
  • I had an accident on that same mountain: While going downhill at 50 km/h, I was hit by a car with a trailer. I was (miraculously) not hurt and my bike had only suffered light damage.
  • At one time, I was touring with a friend of mine and he had a hard-time keeping up with me: we figured out that my weight was to blame for my speedy climbs.
  • At one night, I (together with Alfons) accompanied a female friend accross one of the Deventer bridges because her boyfriend was too lazy to bike her around in the dark. It was one of the weirdest and funniest drives.
  • At one time I had to drive back home in a Fall storm: I remember ‘sailing’ home, literally.
  • Thanks to my dad, I’m fairly good at taking apart bicycles and doing repairs on them. There goes nothing above the smell of a newly-greased bike chain.

This also reminds me that the last time I officially drove a bicycle was during my stay in The Netherlands in 2004. We (Alfons and I) drove out to pick up “flemish” fries and some other typical Dutch junk food. So once in a while, my wife asks ‘what was in that stuff we bought when we were overthere and you guys drove the bike and it was a kind of uh, gross’ (general answer: ‘horsemeat’). Anyway, after that bike drive, I became aware that I was totally out of shape. I remember having that same feeling during my second return in 2006: this time however, we mostly walked.

That’s impossible

A Blue pill or red pill?couple of weeks ago, I was watching all the ‘Matrix’ movies back to back and I discovered that the sentence ‘That’s impossible’ (or ‘It’s impossible’) is mentioned way too many times.

Yesterday, Islanders went to the polls and voted the Liberals in government. But then if you read the other political news items about the muck in the Legislative Branch and the (nationwide) attention for the upcoming Schwarzenegger visit, maybe that PEI thing is good news.

Say, I read about this show in The Netherlands, about a terminally ill woman and the reality show about who gets her organs. ‘The Kidney competition’ as some mention it. The best comment in BBC’s forums:

I thought organ recipients were chosen on who is the closest match, not who the donor likes the most

Me too. Me too. Me too.

Microsoft has released a FaceBook Developer Kit, which you can download from and around here. I was looking into this earlier this week. Now that Microsoft officially has thrown in support for the FaceBook API, how long will it take before FaceBook will be in the hands of that company?

1. Slightly related: a speech from a British MP on Web 2.0 and politics (via Paul Miller’s)


TalkingAjax Amsterdam! about the Manji documentary: there was some typical footage of Amsterdam from bars, cafes where you allowed to smoke pot and yes, its famous Red Light district. And of course the canals with the boats and the pretty houses. It briefly brought me back to the very first interesting computing book store (I guess the store is still there) that we frequently visited because the city we lived in had no real good book stores with a computing section. Not even a single issue of the Dr. Dobbs Journal.

I’m also pretty certain that our first venture to that ‘sinful city’ was around age 14 or 15 and I’m not sure what the parents thought of that. Obviously they must have thought that we could take care of ourselves. I mean, what could happen to a pair of teenage twins venturing about through Amsterdam?

And then that reminds me that the Dutch have the most amazing dairy products: If you’re a foreigner and make it to Amsterdam, skip the Red Light district, run to the nearest supermarket and buy yourself a carton of vla, yoghurt with oranges (really) or lemon ‘kwark’.

What’s in your flue?

I hate mentioning commercials, but (once again), Capital One’s latest commercials beat the other ones. Earlier, the company was quite successful with their ‘Hand in the pocket’ advertisements. It looks like their ‘exterminator’ ads will be equally as successful: you can view the ads right here. This reminds me that I’ve had some bad experience with people trying to sell me that very same card. If people generally give me a bad time, I will never consider the product they try to sell.

So, I hear that the Dutch government is considering a ban of seal fur coming from Canada. This is old news. However, it may come to a surprise that pro-seal hunt are now targeting the Dutch anti-seal hunt protesters. I’m not kidding:

“The counter-protesters in The Hague — a delegation of two Inuit Canadians and a Newfoundlander dressed in full seal-skin regalia1 — plan to confront the protesters, and then head to the Dutch parliament to present a petition from Canadians arguing the law banning seal product imports should not go into force.”

What can I say?

Earlier, the Atlantic Lottery came out with a report that says that sellers of lottery tickets have been winning larger prizes 10 times higher than their statistical odds. Think of it next time when you cash your ticket and somebody else rings it in and claims you didn’t win. That is if you (of course) beat the actual odds of winning a large prize. If you read the fine print on your ticket, think of this paragraph.

Via Kottke, I found about this movie (Sunshine) where a team of brave souls are trying to save our world by “repairing” the Sun, which apparently is ready to collapse into a black hole. Or something like that. Don’t you just love disaster movies?

And to answer that question in the title: it was a starling. It’s dead, Jim.

1 For some kind of reason I keep thinking that this could be a great start for a joke…

update: OK then, I’ll try:
A delegation of two Inuit Canadians and a Newfoundlander dressed in full seal-skin regalia make it to Europe. During one of the anti-anti-seal-hunt demonstrations, the Newfoundlander turns to one of the Inuit and says:
– “Do I look stupid in this seal-skin?”
Says the Inuit:
“Well, to be honest, it depends on the angle we look at it.”

04/06/07: Canadians snubbed by Dutch MPs.

Keroncong Kemayoran

The week before we buried our dad, Alfons took it upon him to compile the music for the funeral, that is from beginning to end. I think I was asked about my preferences, but decided to leave most of the stuff to the ones who wanted to take part of this process of mourning. For the compilation, Alfons relied on my Dad’s iPod and picked out the music that Dad (literally) liked the most. One of them ended up to be the traditional Indonesian Keroncong Kemayoran (sample 40+seconds). I remember that many funeral attendees were surprised to hear the tunes of the Kemayoran during the lowering of the casket1.

That said, the web has pretty much nothing to tell about keroncong: there’s this (nifty) Google book about the ‘Music of Malaysia’, which (indeed) covers the chord progression of the typical Indonesian and Malaysian music styles. Or this (recently) uploaded video at YouTube featuring young Indonesian musicians2 playing the song during an Indonesian Night in Tempe, Arizona (the irony of the name of the city, if you’re familiar with the Malaysian language).

When I was a younger person, I didn’t understand my Dad’s mixed feeling towards the nation that gave birth to him, but chased him away ‘like a dog’ (as he frequently joked about). One can only assume that this particular Kroncong Kemayoran was the silver lining in his life: from the careless young kid hanging around with the native Indonesians, the Japanese occupation, to the Bersiap (the Indonesian independence fight).

Bitter, but sweet nonetheless.

1 I’m actually not sure if it was played during or after the lowering of the casket.
2 Courtesy of