Filling in your gender on online forms for the city of Amsterdam has recently become a thing of the past, unless it is legally required. “All residents of Amsterdam should feel at home in the way in which the city communicates with them”, and addressing people with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ just doesn’t work in today’s world. Amsterdam also claims to be the first Dutch city to have ditched gender in its communication.
In Dutch, authorities often write letters with ‘Dear Sir/Madam [last name]’, which already says they don’t care who or what you are, while some will argue that they are just trying to cover their bases. I often translate online forms into English, having to explain to Dutch clients that Mr and Mrs doesn’t work: there’s also Ms, Miss and if the world progresses the way it is, Mx could also be the next one at least in English. The concept of addressing women based on their marital status is archaic and obsolete.
As well, entering your gender only to get letters with ‘Dear Sir/Madam [last name], means it was unnecessary in the first place. Any time I’ve received letters addressed to me as ‘Sir’ I’ve chucked them out and anyone online who dares send me business letters with ‘Dear Sirs’ gets ignored. If you call me up from a bank and ask to speak to the man of the house or my husband, I will find you and hunt you down.
Mermaids have always been popular whether you believe the happy ever after Ariel version or, like me, your parents read you the original Hans Christian Andersen tale featuring daggers, blood and pain. You can also read the difference between mermaids and sirens as the two are often conflated.
Parents Leo and Denise Bergsen were looking for a mermaid tail for their daughter who wanted one and couldn’t find one anywhere in the country. They decided set up a shop called Dutch Tails in Spijkenisse, South Holland that caters to the mermaid inclined, including professional mermaids. They make and sell mermaid outfits and also sell ‘monovins’ and fun swim stuff.
The couple say that very few boys have asked for a mermaid tail and that besides the hordes of little girls ages 6 to 12 who want one, more and more teenagers and adults are asking as well. “Blue is the most popular colour, then pink and purple. Orange not so much.”
The first webcam I ever watched back in the mid nineties was that of a litterbox were viewers waited to spot the cat using it. Over the litterbox there would be different messages everyday like ‘send tuna’. If you caught the cat going to the box you were asked to take a screenshot of it (nobody had digital cameras or mobile phones with digital cameras back then), you could send it to the owner and he would send you something cool, I don’t remember.
The Archie software company in Purmerend has set up a webcam on a roundabout to test its software. Funny thing is some 250,000 Dutch people have checked it out and it’s getting traction. A journalist on Twitter who wrote about it said he witnessed a car that wouldn’t yield to a scooter, which they should do, making his viewing ‘eventful’. For anyone who wants to see how a typical Dutch town deals with bike paths and cars, this is for you. The stream is in 1080HD and looks good.
It makes me want to go and skate around it for a while. For all we know a happening is being planned. A marching band going around in circles, could be fun. Stay tuned.
Dutch siblings Erik (24) and Josephine (22) lost track of each other when their parents split up in 1999, as Josephine stayed in Breda with her mom while Erik and his twin brother Maarten went to live in Belgium.
Sixteen years later Erik and Josephine ‘swiped right’ on dating app Tinder, matched up, and started flirting. However, Erik felt that something was off and eventually shared his suspicions with others online. Erik and Josephine talked about their childhood, and then the pieces fell into place: they were family. They met up in Tilburg and reconnected. Twin brother Maarten is also happy about
‘Volg de Das’ (‘Follow the badger’) is a webcam that was set up by forest rangers Aaldrik and Pauline who are logging their adventures in Dutch watching a family of badgers. The badgers can be seen in the evenings and at night, and if you spot them you can send in your film clips.
In other badger news, our reality badger family is branching out and getting a second webcam soon, so more people can watch them. Who knows, maybe Dutch artist Bart Jansen who makes gadgets out of dead animals will have a eye on them too if they happen to die for his badger submarine.
The first Monday of the month at noon is when the entire country gets to listen to a modern-day air raid siren, a test to make sure it’s all working in the event of a flood or if zombies ever become a thing. The government wants to replace it with NL-alert, which was the world’s text message-based emergency broadcast system, as well as use social media, websites and the radio to warn people, probably in Dutch only.
Webwereld.nl points out a host of problems with NL-alert: it still doesn’t work with 4G mobile phones and doesn’t always work if your phone is too new, too old or not configured to receive NL-alert. If your mobile network breaks down, you won’t get a warning, either. If you don’t own a mobile or if something happens in one town and you work in another, which is most of the Dutch population, you won’t get a message until your commute home and it could be too late. If you’re driving in your car where it’s illegal to use your phone and you’re not listening to the radio, you’ll find out much later as well. If you’re a person that turns off your mobile at night to get some decent sleep you also won’t get the message, as disasters would then really need to happen during the day.
And if you’re a visitor or a tourist with no mobile or a foreign network, the zombies will get you first.
Sure, if enough people know something bad is happening you’ll find out as well, but it’s still patchy. The current alarm system seems to be the only ‘old school’ way to warn almost everybody, but it does cost 4 million euro a year and doesn’t always work, either.
A ruling from the District Court of The Hague says that Dutch telecoms no longer have to retain Internet and phone traffic data for law enforcement purposes because the retention law infringes on the privacy of the Dutch. The law required telecoms to save the communication and location data of everyone in the country from six months up to year, which was disproportionate for the courts. Saving all that data in order to fight possible crimes made everyone a suspect, never mind how bad the government is at data storage.
Journalists, lawyers and activists are thrilled with the verdict because it would ensure the confidentiality of their communications. However, the whole thing is unsure because the now former Minister of Justice and Safety Ivo Opstelten and his deputy Fred Teeven have had to resign over a shady pay off with a drug dealer and new people need to be appointed.
A bill is already before Parliament to scrap the retention law, but until it’s a done deal – like the above-mentioned drug dealer pay off – it’s not over yet.
The Language Centre of the University of Groningen has received 20,000 responses from people all around the world wanting to take their free, online Dutch courses. The amount of people signed up was so unexpected, the university cracked open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate its success. The Dutch course was offered on futurelearn.com where millions of people browse through free courses offered by all kinds of universities.
According to the Telegraaf, people want to learn Dutch to find a job, because they have a Dutch partner or just out of curiosity. Asylum seekers and potential immigrants could also try to learn Dutch this way although they would need regular access to a computer with Internet, which for many of them is not a given. Another issue is that the course explanations are in English, so someone needs to be able to understand English first before they can go Dutch.
Dutch sexy story site sexverhalen.com (‘sex stories’) has made some changes in order to appeal to the blind and visually impaired, apparently a unique concept in the Netherlands.
First major tweak is having the story read by a sultry female voice instead of the computerised voice of the user’s software. I’m guessing this specific tweak is mainly aimed at men after a quick look at the titles of the stories. If you prefer to listen to a story instead of reading it, then anyone can enjoy the audio version of the stories provided a sultry female voice works for you.
Started in May 2013, but currently gaining momentum, a bunch of Dutch gamers have decided to build a large part of Amsterdam on a 1:1 scale in Minecraft using Google Maps and Google Earth.
“People called us crazy when we decided to build our own City Amsterdam on 1:1 scale. We started out with a giant map we built with World Painter. After that the building begun.” The group has completed Central Station, Dam Square and the Nemo museum and have about 90% more to go.
If you want to help out, ‘hop into the creative server’, say the makers on www.planetminecraft.com and start building typical Dutch Amsterdam houses.