Remarkable news from the Netherlands

A friend and I started a blog that will report trivia from the Netherlands in English. It’s called 24 Oranges. We believe enough interesting things happen in this country that those who don’t speak Dutch might like to know about.

Six Mountains hike

Last Sunday we walked the Zesbergenroute (Six Mountains Hike), although you’d have to take those mountains with a pinch of salt. A pinch of salt is actually quite a good description of the size of these “mountains”. In the land of the blind…

My brother couldn’t come; officially he was in Lapland training for a trip to Greenland next year, and just as officially he had returned early with blisters and frostbite. So his girlfriend and a friend of hers and I went without him.

We had run out of offical routes to walk, and turned to the internet for help, which was quickly provided by the Zesbergenroute of Paula Versnick and Gerard Verwierst. The popularity of their “open source” approach was quickly proved when we met other ramblers who were fumbling the same set of print-outs.

The hike is about 10 miles (16 km), starts and ends in Huizen, and leads through a varied landscape. The area around Huizen is wedged between ancient deposits of the last ice age’s glaciers and a lake that used to be part of a much large open (to the sea) lake we used to call the South Sea. Mostly sand and heath, but also forests, fields and shores.




The forests both had deciduous and evergreen trees, and sometimes one type would line one side and the other type would line the other side of the path.


The last stage took us quickly through Huizen’s brown-lands in order to show us the old village behind them, but the former can often be just as interesting.


Who was Joe Pillow?

When the Amiga was first shown to the public, the custom chipset was still in the prototype breadboard configuration and was extremely delicate. To get the prototype to the Winter CES show in 1984, the team were forced to purchase a seat on an airliner for the stack of boards. According to the flight rules a name should be associated with every seat booking and printed upon the ticket. In the event of a plane crash the booking index could be used to identify occupants on the flight. As a result, Joe Pillow was born!

From the Amiga History Guide.

My bike: repair, buy new one, buy second hand one?

Dutchies, I need to pick your brain for a minute for this exercise in mathematics.

I have this ten year old bicycle that by now is costing me dozens of euros per year in repairs. It has numerous things wrong with it at this moment, and estimates from several bicycle repair men range from 50 to 100 euro to have them repaired. These fellows also sell second hand and new bikes; from 120 to 150 euro for the former and from 320 to 450 for the latter category. The new bikes include the price of insurance.

I am always a bit wary of buying a bike, because it might get stolen tomorrow. 16% of all bikes in Amsterdam get stolen each year, but the chance to have my bike stolen might actually be higher, because the population of bikes also includes those bicycles that sit in sheds doing nothing, bicycles in relatively junkie-free neighbourhoods and so on. My personal experience is that my bike gets stolen once every four years (I am due last year).

Should I have this bike repaired, I should count on having to have both wheels replaced at some time in the near future, as they are both getting old and have all kinds of ailments (broken spokes, loose axels, rust, et cetera). As it is, I am guessing my repair bill for 2007 is going to be well over 100 euros, and that’s just pouring money into a bottomless vat.

The thing is, I do not overly trust bicycle repair men, or the second hand bikes they sell. Several of the problems I currently have with my bike were supposedly fixed in the relatively recent past by bicycle repair men. (As a matter of fact, you could probably help me the most by recommending an actually reliable repair shop in Amsterdam, as I am running out of candidates.)

So, what’s your mathematical model for what would be the cheapest solution for me?

(Oh, a foldable bike is not an option, as I like to use it for more than just short city trips.)

Take me on

Memo to self: the five bottles of pickles singing A-ha’s Take On Me a capella were to be found at The PAN, which is now hosted by Youtube.


Today I stayed in Amsterdam and decided to walk to the Amstelpark, which is a park slash botanical garden at the edge of the town, bordering the Amstel river, part of the green corridor South of the city, and generally a nice throwback to the 1950s or early 1960s (what do I know?).

Basically the park has the sort of things you’d expect from such a cross: tame peacocks, well-behaved lawns, midget golf and sequoias. It also has the only colour bricks that goes with moss:


Continuing the theme of flowers blooming during the winter (for the record: they shouldn’t in this country):


If you like the idea of flowers in the winter and cannot get enough of them, you should definitely visit the Amstelpark while it is still winter. Several of the rhodondendrons were blooming. (I took some nice pictures of those too, but they did not make the cut.)

amstelpark-03.jpgJust outside the park there is a statue of Rembrandt van Rijn, looking over the Amstel river. Presumably this is where Van Rijn made drawings of the landscape.

Here’s what the statue is looking at:


The image links to an animation of the same scene that mimicks a stereoscopic photo, albeit badly. I hope you guys can find it in your hearts to forgive me for not owning a stereoscopic camera, and the passers-by for not standing still.

If you want better photos from the guy who invented this “wiggle” technique, go to Jim Gasperini’s homepage.

Next, a small brook in the rare plants section. “Don’t leave the paths,” the sign said, but it did not say nuttin’ ’bout lying down on a bridge and almost dipping this far too expensive camera in the water.


Finally, a red head that wanted to examine the edibility of digital cameras.


Two dialogues


(Perry and Fatty read a poster)
10 guilders reward for anybody who saves a person from drowning near this pier! The beach committee.

Gee, that gives me an idea to earn some easy money!

But surely we cannot wait here until somebody falls into the water.

We don’t have to. Listen … you jump into the drink, and pretend you are drowning. I will jump after you, save you, and those ten guilders will be ours.

Gee, that is clever!

(A little later)

Help! Help!

Stay calm, I will save you!

(Jumps into the water)

That boy is a hero.

What a brave fellow.

(After the rescue)

Young man, that was a remarkable deed! May I hand you these 10 guilders as a reward?!

(A little later, on the pier)

Oh, the bank note blew out of my hand!

Wait, I will dive in the water to get it back.

Grrrr, you dirty rascals.

(Perry and Fatty are being chased by the life guard)

I don’t understand why he is so excited, did he not get his money back?!

Unpublished play

Your honour, there is the man who killed Babs.

That man must hang. How did he do it?

He cut her into small pieces and salted her.

That was wrong of him. He must hang.

Your honour, I did not kill Babs! I fed her, and clothed her, and I have taken care of her. There are witnesses who will testify that I am a good man, and not a murderer.

Man, you must hang! You enlarge your crime by your vanity. It does not befit somebody who … is accused of something to pretend he is a good man.

But your honour, there are witnesses who will confirm it. And since I now stand accused of murder…

You must hang! You cut up Babs, salted her, and you are vain … three capital crimes! Who are you, little lady?

I am Babs.

Thank the Lord. Your honour, you can see that I did not kill her!

Hm … yes … so! But the salting?

No your honour, he did not salt me. To the contrary, he has done me many good deeds. He is a noble person!

Listen, your honour, she calls me a good person.

Hm … so the third item still stands. Bailiff, take that man away, he must hang. He is guilty of arrogance. Court reporter, cite in the premises the jurisprudence of Lessing’s patriarch.


The story “Sample” was printed at the back of a comic book about the Dutch version of Perry Winkle, Sjors. It was presumably written by Frans Piët (and copyright by the estate of Piët?).

The story “Unpublished play” is one of the introductions to Multatuli’s Max Havelaar.

The reason I put them together is mostly for stylistic similarities. Both are dialogues, both are in a way fremdkörper for the works they were published in. Spot any other similarities? Mention them in the comments.

Wim Helsen’s poetry readings

Eamelje has the beginnings of a nice Vrienden van de Poëzie collection. Flemish comedian Wim Helsen has been given a couple of minutes at the end of each Belgian Man Bijt Hond (small news) episode to read poetry, and Eamelje makes it a point to post the best of those. All in Dutch of course.

No hikes

I did not go hiking this weekend, but here’s a picture I took a couple of weeks ago during a walk I stopped short because rain was abundant and umbrellas were in short supply. The photo was taken in Amsterdam on the Bilderdijkstraat, where it crosses the Kinkerstraat, and is a gimmick. Apparently there’s an exposition in the Stedelijk Museum of photos of city life called Mapping the City; the museum thought it would be cool to have these photos on posters plastered around the city, and I in turn took a photo of one such poster.

That’s what we over here call the Droste Effect, after a cocoa manufacturer that used a recursive image for its packaging.


The future of religion

(The following was translated from German to Dutch by someone else, and from Dutch to English by me. It may have lost something in the translation. There’s also a horrible mixed metaphore in there that I somehow totally failed to manage to steer around.)

[…] Which of these is the most perfect, the best, the highest, truest, purest, the absolute religion? And should we hope that this one will conquer and usurp all other religions in the end to become the true world religion, so that there will be one shepherd, and one flock? We already know, every higher religion claims to be the only true one, and also believes — if any thought is given to it at all — in its own immortality and conquest, and in its calling to become the world religion. Only the tragedy of the Germanic-Scandivian mythology mentioned the “twilight of the gods,” and only in sensing its impending doom at the hand of Christ’s cross.

What is true of these thoughts and expectations? I am not a prophet. But I think that when we have to understand “l’Irréligion de l’Avenir” to mean that mankind, or at least the developed part of it, will no longer have religion, then I cannot share that belief. The longing for the eternal with all the idealistic feelings it produces will always exist, because it belongs to man’s psychological inventory, and a progressing culture cannot change that. […] For a time it looked like religion could only be something for the uncivilized, good enough for the common people, whereas we the civilized would wean ourselves entirely from it. It seems however that in our time the opposite is taking place, and that — parodoxically as it may sound — religion runs the danger of being repressed by the masses, and having to find refuge among those who know that religion as an expression of higher ideals is something deeper and more delicate than being a true believer and being a fulfiller of church duties. […] Religion is endangered! they yell, while in reality it is merely this or that sect or formula that is being attacked or that turns out to be out of date. […] It cannot be assumed that one of the currently existing religions will eat all the others and remain as the one true world religion.

(Theobald Ziegler, 1918)