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October 15, 2014

Grieving parties must purchase software to fill in tax form

Filed under: General,IT by Orangemaster @ 10:44 am

Roughly translated the Dutch tax office’s motto is, ‘We can’t make it more pleasant, but we can make it easier’, which is often use to preface the exact opposite, as I am about to do.

Some guy’s stepmother dies. Besides coming to terms with the situation, there’s paperwork to be done for the tax office. Many forms have been digitised over the years, but not the one form this guy needs to fill out. In fact, some 140,000 people need to fill out this form every year, but its 27 pages. Our guy says he’ll need to sit down and spend hours figuring it out.

Nope, he can’t send it in digitally. For that one form, he needs to purchase software from one of two publishers who make it for accountants and it costs 610 euro. Our guy is justifiably upset and decides to write to Parliament because sending in most tax forms is usually free. After all the two companies that make this professional software are able to send in their corporate tax forms for free. The tax office didn’t think that people doing taxes for the deceased was a priority, but you wonder why they think it’s OK to force ordinary citizens to buy expensive, almost useless software to fill in one form. Politicians have said they agree, but changing the rules won’t happen overnight.

Tax office cock-ups are a great source of entertainment:

Tax office in Friesland refuses Frisian letter. You can’t talk to the tax office in any other language than Dutch for legal reasons, something we hadn’t mentioned back then.

Tax office tells woman to divorce for benefits. Taxes before bros, thinks the government.

(Link: www.welingelichtekringen.nl)

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October 14, 2014

Stones adorning hotel could fall down at any time

Filed under: Architecture by Orangemaster @ 3:03 pm

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Loose stones on the façade of the DoubleTree hotel in Amsterdam next to Central Station has been called a ‘life-threatening situation’ in a report obtained by newspaper Telegraaf this week. In fact the hotel director is suing project developer MAB who built the hotel three years ago for 140 million euro. The long story short is that the stones aren’t set properly and could very well fall and injure people – or worse.

For all of you in Amsterdam, I suggest not walking the busy route from the hotel to the city library (OBA). Sure, probably nothing will happen, but you don’t want to be the one who gets hit by a falling stone. At the time of writing this, the English-language press was still quiet about the news.

(Link: www.dichtbij.nl, Photo of DoubleTree Hotel Amsterdam by ptc24, some rights reserved.

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Crazy verdict: Dutch Rail may abolish paper tickets

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:44 am

lady-justice-chaoukiThe business court of The Hague has determined that Dutch Rail can abolish paper train tickets even though the law says a traveller has a right to an objective proof of the right to travel.

The court felt that the new electronic travel card system (OV Chipkaart) suffices because there are five places where you can confirm you have the right to travel. Arnoud Engelfriet lists them all:

  1. The display of the electronic gate at the time of checking in.
  2. The display of the vending machine.
  3. A paper print-out at the service desk.
  4. A transaction data listing on the Dutch Rail website.
  5. The display of the train conductor’s travel card reader.

Engelfriet and his commenters point out that there are numerous problems with this verdict.

  1. The electronic display only shows that you’ve checked in for a very short time, especially if somebody checks in a fraction of a second later (this happens a lot during rush hour).
  2. If you are in a rush, you are not going to stand in line at the vending machine or service desk.
  3. The Internet listings are only updated after a significant delay.
  4. Train conductors are “masters at being impossible to find”, according to Rikus Spithorst of travellers association ‘Voor Beter OV’ (‘for better public transport’). (Doesn’t that make train conductors hobbits?)

Basically this means that you either show up five minutes early for your daily commute to double check you are actually checked in or you pay a tax in the form of fines every time you fail to check in for whatever reason.

What bothers me is that in the case of a conflict between a traveller and Dutch Rail (and only the OV Chipkaart in place) travellers now have to rely completely on the antagonistic party to provide them with the proof that they have in fact travelled legally. Travelling without a valid ticket is a criminal offence, so why would the state make rules that make it practically impossible for a suspect to defend their innocence?

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October 12, 2014

Rembrandt’s light in Danielle van Zadelhoff’s photos

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 9:30 pm

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If you have the chance, visit the Press Museum in Amsterdam to view Danielle van Zadelhoff’s photos.

An exhibition of her work will be held there one week only, from 23 October to 29 October. If that window is a little bit too narrow for you, don’t despair. Van Zadelhoff regularly posts her photos to her Facebook account.

Danielle van Zadelhoff is a self-taught photographer. She did a short stint at a photography school, but according to Fotografie magazine (PDF here) her teachers thought she was so good, there wasn’t much they could teach her. In 2006 she and her husband bought a mansion called Spokenhof (lit. ‘garden of ghosts’) in Boechout, Belgium, a renaissance castle that doubles as a studio for her renaissance-like portraits.

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October 11, 2014

Skull made from toy soldiers by Dimitri Spijk

Filed under: Art by Branko Collin @ 11:30 pm

skull-smaller-dimitri-spijkHengelo-based artist Dimitri Spijk made this skull out of toy soldiers.

Spijk doesn’t appear to have a website, but I found this photo on his Facebook account. The price of the work is 1,000 euro, although it’s unclear if it’s still for sale.

Check Spijk’s Timeline for other works, I already saw a painting (“for the aspiring Spijk collector” as the artist writes) for 50 euro and a birdseed helmet with the text “voer vogels, niet oorlog” (‘feed birds, don’t make war’—in Dutch it is a pun) for 75 euro.

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October 10, 2014

Chair translates body motion into on-screen cursor

Filed under: Design by Orangemaster @ 9:45 am

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Govert Flint has designed a chair that allows users to control the cursor with a range of body movements. He designed this dynamic chair so one could move in all directions, and worked with programmer Sami Sabik to translate the motions of users into on-screen actions.

“I started to think about how we make chairs that are disconnected from their activity. Working in the office is an activity we sit for. From then on I tried to design a chair based on body movements.”

Three accelerometers positioned around the chair measure movement in X, Y and Z directions. Collected data is then transferred along wires to a computer, which is programmed to use the information to move a cursor around a computer screen positioned at a user’s eye level. One sensor located below the seat calculates the chair position relative to the X and Y planes. The user’s shifts forward, backward and side to side move the cursor in corresponding directions on the screen

The dynamic and chair and much more will be on display during the
Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven from 18 to 25 October.

(Link: www.dezeen.com, Photo www.lisaklappe.com)

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October 9, 2014

Rembrandt now has 70 more paintings to his name

Filed under: Art by Orangemaster @ 9:10 am

Yesterday at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam Ernst van de Wetering, head of the Rembrandt Research Group, gave a sixth and final presentation of a sizable catalogue of Rembrandt’s works in which 70 ‘new’ paintings have been added.

Determining whether or not an artwork is the real deal is a science that either devalues or upgrades paintings, changing history in the process. Before saying it’s a Rembrandt or an artwork of one of his pupils or contemporaries, the paintings had to undergo the scrutiny of X-rays, infrared, checking the layers of paint, varnish, canvas, and anything else that would prove that it was authentic.

Rembrandt’s oeuvre now consists of 340 paintings, much to the delight of museums such as the Louvre in Paris and even the Rijksmuseum that now has more real Rembrandts on display. The painting in this posting, ‘Old Man with Beard’, was added to Rembrandt van Rijn’s portfolio in 2011.

Ernst van de Wetering’s catalogue is entitled ‘A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings’, the definite guide for now until technology might make restorers and others reopen the case.

(Link: www.telegraaf.nl, Image: Old Man with Beard, from 1630)

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October 8, 2014

Film of Alkmaar painstakingly compares 1914 with 2014

Filed under: Film,Photography by Orangemaster @ 12:48 pm

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Dutch photographer Frits de Beer, along with Tara Rikkers and Michael de Vreugd have created a movie depicting their native town of Alkmaar, North Holland where the old (1914) and the new (2014) are shown side-by-side and shot-per-shot for a wonderfully precise comparison between the two eras.

“After identifying many locations that remained relatively unchanged over the past century, De Beer went out with a camera to recreate the shots. In each one, he aimed to match up the exact angle and framing that was captured in the 1914 film.”

Alkmaar 100 jaar, www.fritsdebeer.nl Tara Rikkers, Michael de Vreugd from fritsdebeer.nl on Vimeo.

(Link: www.dutchdailynews.com, Photo: petapixel.com)

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October 7, 2014

Five top Dutch DJs adorning postage stamps

Filed under: Music by Orangemaster @ 10:49 am

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During the now world-famous Amsterdam Dance Event that runs from October 15 to 19, five Dutch DJs will receive their very own set of Dutch postage stamps with their faces on it. PostNL, who issues Dutch stamps, considers these five DJs to be, “leading names in the dance music world,” and it would be hard to disagree with that considering the monies they generate.

Then again, since DJing is too often synonymous with dance music, many other Dutch DJs probably deserve a stamp, which is what VICE argues, a few of which have inspired the ones that made it onto the stamps.

The multicoloured faces of Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Hardwell and Tiësto are the ones on the stamps, while VICE suggests other major names like Dimitri, Antal and Joris Voorn. It’s simple: you’re famous and rich because you’re known outside the country then stamp, you’re great, but remain a domestic or European affair, no stamp. And of course, there’s the glaring lack of women such as Isis and maybe some from this list.

(Links: www.nu.nl, thump.vice.com, Image: www.postnl.nl)

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October 6, 2014

Wok Agreement keeps Asian chefs in the Netherlands for now

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 5:30 pm

chin-ind-restaurant-branko-collinAsian restaurants in the Netherlands will receive 3,150 work permits for the next two years.

This may be good news for the 400 or so chefs that are currently unemployed because their permits ran out. Originally the permits were not renewed because the Dutch government thought the restaurants should hire European chefs. Government departments did not agree with the restaurant sector on how difficult it is to cook with a wok.

Frank Chan, vice-president of the Association of Chinese Hospitality Entrepreneurs, told VICE that as a result of the original work permit reduction a hundred restaurants had to close shop. It’s not clear whether this is in addition to or including the restaurants that closed because young Dutch-Chinese entrepreneurs prefer running hotels.

A new agreement between the Dutch government and the sector, already dubbed the Wok Agreement, states that restaurants get a period of two years in which their number of work permits will remain at the current level on the condition that they start training European chefs.

Kaji But of the Sea Palace restaurant in Amsterdam thinks more time is needed. Dutch chefs don’t speak Cantonese and Chinese chefs tend to learn the trade while working in the kitchen but not through formal education, he says. VICE adds that last summer a seven-day course for Asian chefs was introduced to the country which includes a nasi bami bootcamp.

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