July 5, 2009

Netherlands to be on the top of the food chain

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Eric @ 2:44 pm

It must have been about 10 years ago, that I became aware of the difference in attitude towards food between Germans and Dutch. I was having dinner with a German friend, when she joked over a slice of quadruple-stranded DNA tomato, that the Dutch were a clever people, packaging sea water into little red bags and selling these ‘water bombs’ worldwide as tomatoes. My reply that apparently the world was stupid enough to buy said water bombs was less well received…

Germans want their food to be ‘bio’: organically grown, without the use of fertilizer or pesticides. The section for ‘bio’ food products in supermarkets shows a continuous growth, on the expense of their non-bio counterparts and ‘bio’ supermarkets pop up on more and more street corners. Living in Munich for over four years, I must admit that I haven’t done any serious grocery shopping in the Netherlands as of lately. I do have the impression, though, that this awareness for the origin and nature of food stuffs is far less pronounced in the Netherlands than here in Germany.

I will thus be very interested to see how minister for agriculture Gerda Verburg’s plans for sustainable food (report ‘Duurzaam Voedsel’) will become effective. The goal is ambitious: “the Netherlands must lead the way worldwide to a sustainable and climate neutral production of food stuffs and be at the top of this movement by 2015” (source (German)). Considering that the Netherlands are apparently the second largest exporter of agricultural products, and on a budget of 20 million euro, this goal might even be viable.

Intensive campaigning and convincing marketing must raise the interest and awareness of the Dutch consumer for sustainable food products and set the trend for choosing ‘bio’. Additionally, the minister plans to fight the enormous waste of food products. An estimated 1.6 million euro worth of food is thrown away in the Netherlands on an annual basis and another 2 billion euro is lost during production and transport.

I think that the only way to get anyone, including the Dutch, to buy ‘bio’ is to make sure that it’s at the same price level as regular food stuffs. I do hope, however, that the minister’s plans include other options than a massive subsidy on bio products, and that a large part of the cash will be invested in research and development. After all, the Netherlands can’t continue to sell water bombs to the world…

(Photo: freefoto.com)

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March 1, 2009

Omnipresence in the 21st century

Filed under: Art,Religion,Weird by Eric @ 10:21 pm

Artist Johan van der Dong is on a holy mission. During a half-year long experiment, or work of art, Van der Dong wants to bring God closer to the modern man and woman, and got Him a (cell) phone. That definitely gives a new ring to the word ‘omnipresence’.

Van der Dong and a number of poets will leave recorded voice mail messages for people to listen to, in case God doesn’t want to answer his calls. The artist is hoping for people to leave their messages on God’s voice mail and intends to replay those messages in the ‘Kunstruimte Nooderstation Noordoost’ in Groningen. “Of course, we’ll do that in such a way that no one can recognise the voices”, says Van der Dong.

Now, you can call me cheap, but the Dutchman in me can’t help wondering why anyone would want to spend money calling a mobile phone number and getting his answering machine, while a simple prayer is for free and just as effective…

(Link: Telegraaf, Photo: atheisme.free.fr)

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February 21, 2009

Monkey business

Filed under: Animals,General by Eric @ 5:10 pm

Gyasi, financial gururillaWhat do you do, when all the money you invested in stocks and options is losing weight faster than the contestants in the tv show de Afvallers XXL? Whom do you turn to, when your own financial advisor is only foreseeing doom and gloom and you’re desperatly looking for impartial and unbiased tips on where to put those 50 eurocents you still call your capital?

Enter Gyasi, a six year old gorilla, currently living with her family in Primate Park Apenheul in Apeldoorn. Over the next thirteen weeks, Gyasi will pick one share listed on the AEX from a stock of ten, each week. In order to raise Gyasi’s interest in the experiment and possibly also to ensure an impartial and unbiased selection, Gyasi will not pick the share directly, but she will be presented a row of numbered walnuts. Each number corresponds to a share on the AEX. The walnut that gets munched first, will be the winner for the week.

The real question, of course, is: will Gyasi outperform the dolphins from the Harderwijk Dolfinarium?

Link and photo: freesun.be

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January 31, 2009

Spyker going strong in spite of global recession

Filed under: Automobiles by Eric @ 11:48 am

While other car manufacturers world-wide are struggling to survive and hoping on governmental support to help them through the current recession, Dutch car manufacturer Spyker puts out a press release stating that in 2008 they almost doubled their production compared to 2007. And it doesn’t stop here: “Overall, we are optimistic that we will see a further increase in production and our distribution network this year”, says Victor R. Muller, Spyker’s Chief Executive Officer.

There aren’t too many Dutch car manufacturers and despite its historical background, Spyker is a relative newcomer. Establishing these results in a very competitive niche market, in which even Porsche and Ferrari are considered to be cars for the common people, is definitely a feat that calls for a big thumbs up!

Photo of a Spyker C12 Zagato by Joosthug, some rights reserved.

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January 2, 2009

2009 International Year of Astronomy

Filed under: Science by Eric @ 2:13 pm

IYA2009 official logo

Yesterday, the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) started. Launched by UNESCO and IAU, 135 countries are participating in this initiative to bring the universe and astronomy closer to the people, using the slogan the Universe: Yours to discover. The official opening event will take place in Paris, on 15-16 January. The Dutch opening ceremony is scheduled for 21 January. Throughout the year, you can expect symposiums, exhibitions and other cultural events related to astronomy taking place in a universe near you! More information on what will take place when and where can be found on the Dutch IYA2009 site.

Hang on, you’re waiting for the Dutch angle on this international news? To be honest, there is none in particular, apart from my hope that the Dutch will again do some remarkable astronomical discoveries this year, like Hanny’s Voorwerp or the giant exo-planet (Dutch).

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November 27, 2008

Dutch less paranoid than Germans

Filed under: Online by Eric @ 12:16 am
Who am I?

…At least when it comes to being afraid of online identity theft. The third Unisys security index, a ‘social indicator regarding how safe consumers feel on key areas of security‘, puts the Netherlands at spot 15, with an score of 87 on a scale from 0 to 300. This covers not only online security, but also national, personal and financial security.

The Germans, scoring a whopping 160 points on the index, are the most concerned Europeans with respect to identity theft. Yet, not even half would accept biometric technology to verify identities, something the Dutch are the most willing to accept.

(Link: Automatiseringgids, Photo: craphound.com)

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November 15, 2008

Electro-magnetic suspension makes cars zoom

Filed under: Automobiles,Science by Eric @ 2:43 pm

If it’s up to doctoral student LaurenÅ£iu Encică, cars of the future will zoom by on electro-magnetic suspension. This system shall replace the combination of shock absorbers and springs used in today’s cars, which is cheap, but not optimal.

Encică’s reseach focused on using a combination of permanent magnets and electro-magnetic coils. The permanent magnets provide passive suspension, much like the good old mechanical suspension system. The electro-magnetic coils add an active component to the mix, allowing the system to respond to changing road conditions much faster than current systems.

Don’t expect Encică’s electro-magnetic suspension to be under your car any time soon, though. Measuring about 20 by 80 centimeters, the prototype he built is still a bit too bulky to fit under an average car and further research will be neccessary to make the design smaller and less energy consuming. Encică expects it will take another five to ten years for his system to hit the road.

(Link: TUE, Photo: Quasimondo)

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