April 11, 2014

EU outlaws private copies from illegal source; government eager to comply

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:07 am

towers-cjeu-press-photosThe Court of Justice of the European Union decided yesterday that the Dutch practice of allowing downloads from an illegal source is itself illegal, writes.

The court followed the hypothesis of advocate general Pedro Cruz Villalón who felt that the Dutch attitude caused “the mass distribution of illegal materials”. A spokesperson for the Dutch government told NRC that this makes downloading from an illegal source “illegal right away”.

The case was a continuation of one we wrote about earlier, in which manufacturers of blank media argued that since many copies came from illegal sources, the levies they had to pay shouldn’t be so high.

Dutch copyright law contains an exemption that says that copies made for private use are not infringing, regardless of whether the author was paid or not. Member of parliament Astrid Oosenbrug (PvdA) was surprised by the speed with which the government announced a ban on downloading: “That is of course not how things are done.” According to her, the government should explore alternatives first, such as raising levies.

Oosenbrug told 24 Oranges: “PvdA is against a ban on downloading. Citizens should be able to freely use the Internet. We also want to protect the makers, but we shouldn’t do that with bans. Instead we should stimulate legal download models such as Netflix, Spotify, Deezer and so on.”

The Pirate Party’s Dirk Poot (not represented in parliament) called for a drastic revision of copyright law and added that “the government’s attitude is made abundantly clear by the fact that it outlaws downloading as of today, but does not eliminate the levies on blank media with similar haste.”

TL/DR: Copyright law was once a matter between authors and publishers. Now it’s just a mess and everybody’s made to suffer except large publishers and lawyers.

(Photo of the court’s towers by Court of Justice of the European Union / G. Fessy, used with permission)

Tags: , ,

April 8, 2014

Lego creation strolls down the beach

Filed under: General,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:31 am

Inspired by Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeest’ (‘Beach Animal’), Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks has built a creation called ‘Steampunk Walking Ship’ (see video below), entirely made of Lego components featuring several play features, including the functional cargo crane.

“Power and control is provided by the Lego Power Functions system, which includes the remote control, IR receiver, battery box and two M-size motors. The frame, crankshaft and legs are built using Lego Technic elements.”

More Lego stories:

Rietveld Schröder house in Utrecht gets immortalized in Lego

Drug dealer accepts payment in Lego

Lego computer built for Alan Turing’s 100th anniversary

(Photo of Lego by tiptoe, some rights reserved)

Tags: , ,

April 7, 2014

Two billion euro in gold? Nah, keep it!

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:47 pm

gold-bars-sprott-moneyDutchnews wrote yesterday: “The Netherlands has no plans to try to recover 60,000 kilos of Dutch gold stolen by the Nazis during WWII and sold on to Switzerland, finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has told MPs.” Parliamentarians had been asking questions—it turns out the government had already decided not to ask the Swiss for the stolen gold in 2000.

An interesting story, but perhaps even more interesting is the question: does the Federal Reserve in New York still hold fifty percent of the Dutch gold reserve? According to Wikipedia the Netherlands is the country with the tenth biggest national gold reserve (654 tonnes), but half of that reserve is supposed to be in New York. When the Germans asked in 2012 whether they could come over and count their gold, they were told “no”. Germany then told the Federal Reserve it wanted some of its money back, to which the bank said it could take a while.

The American attitude has sparked rumours that the Federal Reserve has stolen the gold that a number of foreign nations have entrusted to it and is now scrambling to buy it back so that it can be returned to its owners.

(Photo by Sprott Money, some rights reserved)

Tags: , , , , ,

Dutch parliament to bin secure voting in favour of electronic voting

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:42 am

vote-counting-rnwThree weeks ago there were municipal elections and according to AD on 27 March there is a big discrepancy between the number of voters that showed up and the number of votes counted.

In 235 of the 380 municipalities that participated, the numbers didn’t add up. AD claims that at least 7,387 errors were made. Some of the municipalities decided to have a recount, NRC reported the same day, Wassenaar and Heerlen among them.

Counting both voters and votes makes it harder to commit fraud. The ‘ghost votes’ (spookstemmen) as AD termed the discrepancies led to commotion in parliament. Members for PvdA, D66, GroenLinks and VVD declared themselves to be in favour of the reintroduction of electronic voting which works much less transparent and is therefore much harder to check for fraud.

The fact that a discrepancy between votes and voters was discovered means that manual counting works. The political parties mentioned above said they only wanted to reintroduce electronic counting if it is completely secure. Considering that the job to build these computers must be given to the cheapest supplier according to European laws will pretty much ensure that security will end up at the bottom of the list of requirements though.

(Photo by Branko Collin, some rights reserved)

Tags: , , ,

March 31, 2014

Bitcoin on the Dutch income tax form

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 1:49 pm


It was only last year that finance minister Dijsselbloem told Dutch parliament how he was going to treat Bitcoin and already the virtual currency has found its way into the income tax forms.

What you see here is a screenshot of the form I used last weekend to report my income. There is a box for “other possessions” which includes goods, trust funds, inheritances that have yet to be divided and so on. The last line of the yellow explanatory box (enlarged in the illustration) says “virtual mediums of payment (for instance bitcoins)”. Unfortunately the “more information” link doesn’t help you find out how to value your Bitcoins. I am sure that is something left for the likes of Kluwer and Elsevier with their tax guides and tax almanacs.

Since the income tax law of 2001, Dutch income tax is calculated over the money you make from work (box 1), from investments (box 2) and from property minus debt (box 3).

(Thanks to commenter Corné at Iusmentis for pointing this out)

Tags: , , , ,

March 18, 2014

Men’s Dutch roller derby goes international, 24oranges hits local TV

Filed under: Dutch first,General by Orangemaster @ 11:33 am

A Dutch first that I had the pleasure of watching live and in person was the first-ever performance of Team Netherlands, the national men’s roller derby team. They played some tough teams, but caught a well-deserved win against Sweden. The video below is of their last game against Finland. The Men’s Roller Derby World Cup – the first ever world cup for the men – was held last weekend in Birmingham, England and I was lucky enough to be one of the many announcers for the event, announcing games for both Team Netherlands and Team Belgium in Dutch on the live feed. In December of this year, the women of Team Netherlands will make their debut in Dallas, Texas for the women’s second ever world cup.

Orangemaster, aka Natasha (me), was on newly founded local television show and established podcast What’s Up Amsterdam, an English-language guide to Amsterdam, presented by the witty Nathan Tytor. This was their second show and lucky for us, we had the chance to mention [shoehorn?] 24oranges in there somewhere (see video 1).

Tags: , , , , , , ,

March 16, 2014

Remarkable election posters from the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:22 pm

The municipal elections are around the corner and many news outlets took the opportunity to discuss what they feel are the funniest (Binnenlands Bestuur), clumsiest (AD) or outright silliest (Adformatie) election posters of the current campaign.

political-posters-kunstgras political-parties-plap

The hockey poster for VVD (“we want more artificial grass for our hockey players”) caused one punter to say: “VVD has an eye for the serious problems of the rich”.

The poster for Platform Lokale Partijen will raise an eyebrow with those familiar with the earlier work of satirists Van Kooten and De Bie. The two men on the poster are the spitting image of two early 1980s’ characters of the comedians, the two extreme right-wing politicians (and part-time crooks) Jacobse and Van Es. The duo killed off the characters when a certain part of the electorate started to take the over-the-top policies of their fictional party seriously.

political-posters-koen-hawinkels political-posters-srh

Koen Hawinkels became a minor Facebook sensation with his “do me” campaign—presumably everybody thought “why?” In Dutch “Koen” rhymes with “doen”. The party with the curious name Sociaal Rechts (‘social right-wing’) drew attention for obvious reasons; their poster shows a man spanking somebody else’s bare bottom. If you look closer you will see that the victim’s underwear sports the logos of two other parties, VVD and PvdA, who currently form the national government.

Tags: , , , , ,

March 12, 2014

Nothing’s changed in Dutch women’s position at the bottom

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 10:25 am

The title of the Dutch Daily News article says it all: ‘The Netherlands ranks in bottom 10 performing countries for women in business’. “The Netherlands cites just 10 percent of senior roles occupied by women, a minute decrease from the previous year (11 percent).” This says nothing about the preponderance of Dutch women running small businesses, because that’s actually good news.

Every year around International Women’s Day (8 March) the Dutch government says it wants more women in top positions, but at the same time, its policies continue to perpetrate an insidious tradition of having new moms stay at home sometimes for years and then maybe pick up some part-time work. What’s more, lots of women without children have part-time jobs because they have a man paying the real bills, continuing a pattern that has outlived its use. However, it is true that part-time work is much more protected than in other countries and that you can still earn some decent money, albeit not enough to have the luxuries that many women enjoy as paid by their man’s full-time job.

While part-time work in other Western countries is associated with students and pensioners, in the Netherlands it is slowly turning into a synonym for unambitious Dutch women by the media. Personally, this hurts because I can think of dozens of women that work like crazy and don’t fit this bill, even remotely. And I say Dutch because apparently many immigrants don’t have options and work their lesser paid asses off, male of female, kids or no kids. We never hear them talking about having a choice, either, that’s for the more privileged group to defend.

The government blames big business, big business blames women having children (as if men weren’t part of the process), women with children blame childcare and childcare blames the government.

What I’ve learnt over the years is that many women don’t want to work more hours, but that’s easy to do when the rest of the money comes in as long as you keep your relationship intact. Part-time work for women is seen as normal, whereas elsewhere in Europe it’s seen as shortchanging someone out of a real job. However, part-time work remains career killer number one, that’s why men work full-time and remain chairmen of the board, not women.

In 2014, as far as having women in high places, The Netherlands is still the ‘unemancipated 1950s housewife’ of Western Europe.

2013: Lack of women in top management roles in the Netherlands

2012: Dutch women are unequal, change is slow and ‘Some 60% of women cannot earn their own keep’

2010: Women with partners prefer part-time jobs

2009: Women have low impact on Dutch work force

(Link:, Photo of Birthday cake by C J Sorg, some rights reserved)

Tags: , , ,

February 18, 2014

Canadian street names in Overvecht, Utrecht

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 9:41 am

Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 11.48.41 AM

It hit me when I motored through the Overvecht neighbourhood of Utrecht that all the street names end in ‘dreef’ (roughly, ‘avenue’ or probably ‘drive’, [click on the image for a closer look], a bit of a 1970s trend someone once told me although I don’t know if that’s true.

Since I was heading to Manitobadreef and was curious as to why the street was named after a lesser known Canadian province, I wanted to know what other streets had Canadian names. Sure, there were tons more with American states (Texasdreef, Nevadadreef, Mississippidreef) and someone should check into those, but I couldn’t possibly imagine that Manitoba was the only Canadian one.

The Overvecht wikipedia page (Dutch only) tells me that there are street names from ‘America’, which means they are probably erroneously assuming that ‘America’ also covers Canada. Then they’ll say ‘we mean North America’ and then I’d retort ‘but you’ve missed Mexico’ [still a shocker at Dutch parties, Mexico is part of North America], as Mexicodreef was bundled with the South American and Central American names’. The article has some glimmer of self-awareness by stating that Australia has been completely ignored, so it could always be worse.

Back to the Canadian names per province:

  • Manitobadreef
  • Winnipegdreef
  • That’s two for Manitoba, the province and the capital. Nicely done.

  • Ontariodreef
  • Ottawadreef
  • Torontodreef
  • Three for Ontario, the province, the nation’s capital and the province’s capital. Well done.

  • Edmontondreef
  • The capital of the province of Alberta is mentioned, but not Calgary, city of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Edmonton does have that huge mall.

  • Vancouverdreef
  • The province of British Columbia was probably too long, the metropolis gets a mention, but no Victoria, the capital, which most people have to look up. But OK, everybody knows Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

  • Quebecdreef
  • The province of Quebec gets a mention, but no Montréal though, home of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The capital is Quebec City, so this is good enough.

  • Labradordreef
  • Labrador is part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland. A very odd choice, you’d think they went for the breed of dog.

  • Sint Laurensdreef
  • I’m guessing it’s part of the river names they use in Overvecht for cross streets, so decent choice.

It’s still really hard to beat a neighbourhood named after Lord of the Rings characters.

Tags: , , , ,

February 7, 2014

Banning weed smoking legal despite weed being illegal

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 2:27 pm

In 2011 Amsterdam challenged and eventually won in high court the right to designate certain areas as as non-pot smoking zones. Rotterdam recently challenged the law as well and has also won its case. If smoking pot in these areas is deemed unsafe, then it becomes a matter of public order and can be legally enforced, as long as the cities take this up in their local public ordinance.

The reason why this wasn’t cut and dry was that the Opium Law governing soft drugs basically states that marijuana is illegal, again something many people still don’t know because the law is willfully ignored. And since marijuana is illegal you can’t forbid it again, as that would be crazy talk.

However, due to the oddness of the Dutch situation both cities now have a workaround. Stopping people from smoking altogether is often enough, but in many places people are allowed to smoke outside, regardless of how funny their cigarette smells.

(Link:, Photo of No-blow (and no drinking) sign by Erik Joling, some rights reserved)

Tags: , , , , ,

Older posts »