Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Queens' Day 2008 / Koninginnedag

(Too cool for school)

The rest of the world spun along its merry way today, but in Holland it was Queens' Day.


Queens'Day (or is that Queensday in English? from 'Koninginnedag') is the celebration of the birthdays of Queens Juliana (RIP) and Beatrix.

A combination booze-fest, garage sale and the 4th of July. It's traditional to wear orange.


(he eventually got back up)

After the "More" are some photos and a couple of clips I took in Amsterdam.

(The grass is always greener on the other side of a boat)

(Amused or Annoyed?)
(Frickin heap of junk)

(Culture clash)

Posted by Picasa

(Regal dame)



(Fox Force Four)


(Compliments were a quarter, so I bought two)


(Orange streaks)

(Dutch cops)

(the bitter end; photo by Mara Miller).

(Sterling and Son)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two Beers for Queensday


According to De Telegraaf (Dutch), the new rule for Queensday (April 30) is, nobody will be allowed to carry more than two beers at one time, unless they run a cafe with a liquor license.

Otherwise the cops (supposedly) will presume you're a vendor and confiscate them.

Now, we could all shout that this is further evidence of Amsterdam's becoming prude, but I guess I'd prefer to say:

Let them decree that monkeys must fly out of my butt, for all the good this rule is going to do.

No force on earth will keep people from staggering around drunk (okay, drunk and stoned) in Amsterdam on Queensday. And I plan to come back with photographic evidence...


Other rules this year, according to the Juridisch Dagblad:

-A maximum of two taps per cafe
-They can only open at 11 a.m.
-They must close by 9 p.m. (hahahahahaha)
-No glass glasses for mixed drinks.
-No amplified music without a permit.
-No sales of alcohol without a license "even from your own garden."


Monday, April 28, 2008

A new plan for bike safety in the Netherlands

This is intended as a companion post to the previous one.

The Dutch biker's union (fietsersbond), which is quite a strong lobby here, has noticed that bikes tend to "lose" in bike-vs.-car collisions, and has started agitating for cars to be equipped with EXTERNAL airbags.

(Fietsersbond logo; it says "collision-friendly cars")

Yes, that means, airbags placed on cars so that when they run into a bike, the airbag will inflate to protect the biker. They'd be placed on the front windshield, where the head usually strikes.

Here's a series of photos from a report compiled by the scientific research organization TNO, which carried out a study for the Fietsersbond.

An accident w/o airbags:

As expected, head injuries are the worst source of fatalities; hospitalizations are usually broken legs and arms according to the report (in English).

The new plan:

The Fietsersbond estimates this would save 60 lives per year.

Drivers of course have screamed bloody murder (in Dutch) about the idea because it would increase costs on the already highly-taxed automotive experience in Holland. They suspect the hand of a corporation is somewhere in all this.

Even as a somewhat pro-bike biased observer, I wonder whether the money wouldn't be better spent elsewhere. For instance strengthening dikes.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bike Injuries and Deaths in the Netherlands

Spotted today along the banks of the river Amstel. The caption on the sign reads: "(Park) only in the spaces."

Well, my previous posting on bike accidents and murders in Amsterdam proved one of the most popular I've ever done. So I'm updating it.

With all the bikes in Holland _ and hardly anybody wearing helmets _ how many people get hurt or killed here while biking?

Before I hit you with the numbers, the summary: the odds of being killed while biking are extremely low. Here are some illustrative fun facts:
-After a recent decline in the murder rate, you are now fractionally more likely to die while biking than to be murdered in the Netherlands!
-In Amsterdam, you're still more likely to be murdered, though.
-You're also more likely to die by murder in the U.S. as a whole than by biking in the Netherlands.
-You are also more likely to drown here than either die biking or be murdered, especially if you are a child.

In 2007, 189 people died in bike accidents in the Netherlands, about half of them hit by cars. Another 7,240 were injured badly enough to merit a trip to a hospital. Those numbers are from traffic ministry data released in April 2008.

That's out of a population of 16.3 million. The Dutch own 18 million bikes, a little more than 1 bike per man, woman and child in the country. Around half the population rides a bike once a day. The average distance traveled by bike PER PERSON PER DAY was 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) in 2006, according to the Central Bureau for Statistics.

Car travel comes out to 16 kilometers (10 miles) per person per day.

Bikes injuries were a substantial amount of the total traffic deaths and serious injuries:
In all there were 791 traffic deaths (including cars, pedestrians, scooters and bikes), and total hospitalizations were 16,750.

That means 25 percent of traffic accident deaths were bike traffic deaths, and 43 percent (!) of traffic accident hospitalizations were bikers.

After the MORE: some perspective.

One could conclude from all this that traveling by car is safer than traveling by bike in the Netherlands. That's true on a per-kilometer basis. Of course, bikers are making lots of short trips; if they were to switch to cars, car injury and death figures would rise.

Despite the increasing distances covered by the Dutch, the bicycle has retained its popularity. The bicycle is used for almost a quarter of all journeys. In fact for distances up to 7.5 km, the bicycle is the most popular means of transport. In 2005, 35% of all trips up to 7.5 km were made by bicycle.

-Transport Ministry

Bikes are used in almost a quarter of all journeys; and they account for around a quarter of all deaths. Bikers are more exposed (yes, head injuries are the worst threat), but cars are usually going faster when they crash.

Some international figures here:

Overall traffic safety in the Netherlands continues to be the best in Europe, with 45 deaths per million inhabitants per year. That compares with 90 per million traffic deaths per million average in Europe. The 'worst' country in Europe, Greece, has 145 deaths per million, which compares with 147 deaths per million average in the United States. Canada is at about the European average, 91, while Japan is only slightly worse than the Netherlands, at 57 deaths per million.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Burn baby Burn

(photo: Marieke van den Boogaard)

There used to be a little wooden play house on the Hemonyplein. The kids in the neighborhood liked it ... or all except one did.


The fire department came a little too late.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EUR500,000 for Hot Eel Sex!


According to De Telegraaf (Dutch), Scientists from the University of Leiden have received a EUR500,000 subsidy to try to breed eel commercially in the harbor of Volendam, near Amsterdam.

Thank goodness!

So why do I care?

Many people may not realize just how exciting and mysterious the sex lives of eel is. Are. Species-wise.
(loupiote, website

For centuries people tried to figure out the life cycle of eel. It turns out to be extremely weird. Eel breeding grounds are way out in the Sargasso Sea _ exact location still unknown.

They start out as little larvae that inch their way across the bottom of the Atlantic until they reach the European coastline as glass eel ('leptocephalus', or 'light-heads'). These then head inland, going up rivers and turning into the freshwater 'yellow' eel that lots of Dutch people love to eat.
And a few tourists like to eat them too. But I digress.

They swim upriver and grow, and as adults, swim back out to the sea, where their eyes grow huge and they flatten out, becoming sea eel. They head back to the Sargasso to make sexy time.

So far, there's not any way of reproducing this cycle in a laboratory.

"Eel fisheries are still dependent on wild glass eel," prof. Arjan Palstra told the paper.

They scoop 'em up on the coast _ sometimes for stunning prices _ and then fatten them in controlled conditions to keep eel on the supermarket shelves and in restaurants.

"If we can get the process of breeding them going, then we'll be independent of nature and we can maybe even start releasing eel back into the wild," Palstra said.

To put it mildly, European Eel (anguilla anguilla) populations have collapsed. In a world where we hear lots of scare stories about fish populations falling, the eel stands out: with no way to breed them in captivity who knows what may happen.

So I bid the researchers/entrepreneurs good luck and godspeed.


Unagi, my absolute favorite fish dish.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wait...what? Amsterdam forgets its 200th anniversary


According to De Telegraaf (Dutch), The city of Amsterdam has forgotten its own 200th anniversary as the capital city of the Netherlands.

Fill in requisite "smoking too much weed" joke here.

Note that this is not the anniversary of the city's foundation or anything, just the day that Napoleon's second cousin (or whatever) declared it would be the national capital. Back on April 20, 1808.

Wait, you say, isn't The Hague the national capital (you know, parliament, prime minister, etc.)? Nope, it's the seat of government. Sheesh don't you know the difference?


Well, never fear. They're still going to have a celebration, when they get this all sorted out at next week's city council meeting.

In 1908 they had a week-long party. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Allochtonen enter Free at Zwarte Cross Metal/Motorcross Concert

How cool is this?

The organizers of the Zwarte Cross heavy metal and motocross festival have offered to allow any "allocthonen" enter free.

Definition of Allocthoon here.

This is, let it be understood, a festival that appeals predominantly to "white" Dutch, the primary consumers of metal music, motocross, and beer in this fair land.

I distinctly recall images of young Dutch men and women, uh, rolling around in the mud in liplocks at this festival last year.

The press release:

"Under the motto 'if only all of Holland was so hospitable', the Zwarte Cross festival is fighting the hardening .... of public debate around integration and minorities." This is "a funny, positive action to give some perspective against figures like Geert W(ilders) and Rita V(erdonk)."

The press release says all you have to do is show a foreign passport to get free entry. I guess that means I qualify as an American?

Telegraaf article.(Dutch)


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Amsterdam trash recycling and a Refrigerator on a Bike

For reasons I find difficult to explain, people in Amsterdam don't really have garage sales much or bring used stuff to the Goodwill/Salvation Army very often.

Instead, they throw things away on the street, and scavengers (myself included) have absolutely no scruples about rummaging through big piles of trash to see what treasures they may find.

Actually I think this kind of recycling can be pretty cool; it's just strange that when Dutch people want to resell something they don't need anymore, in classified ads they always ask for 90 percent of the original purchase price. In the U.S., one day after purchase = at least 50 percent off.

And of course, dumpster diving is something to be ashamed of.

But I digress. These are pics and clips of one of the better biking feats I've seen for a while. This guy found a small refrigerator in a trash heap and decided it was worth taking home.

I think you'll agree the clips show he found it no sweat balancing the 'fridge.