January 3, 2022

Some of 24 Oranges’ most memorable posts

Filed under: Architecture,Bicycles,Dutch first,Gaming,General,History,Science,Weird by Orangemaster @ 9:16 am

We started 24 Oranges in February 2007 and in late January 2022 it will become a column over at DutchNews.nl, also called 24 Oranges. After 4,100 posts under our belts, we might feel the need to post here every once in a while in the future, but have no current plans to continue. As two self-employed people, we’ve had to make sure we had enough work and energy to keep going, and honestly we just don’t these days.

Before we sign off indefinitely, let’s look back at a few of the stories that we still talk about in no particular order.

1. A beautifully preserved Jewish home in Amsterdam

We didn’t break this story, but we scooped all the Dutch media in getting the right to use pictures, which we’re very proud of. All we did was ask nicely, while other media tried to ask us, which was odd because we didn’t have the rights.

Recently discovered Jewish interior will not be wrecked for now.

2. The Dutch neighbourhood built by the Nazis

It’s not the province of Limburg’s fault for being a few kilometres from the Germany border. In this case, the city of Heerlen, which was occupied back in the day, has an entire neighbourhood with an eerie Dutch look on the outside, but efficient spaces for families on the inside.

Visiting a neighbourhood built by Hitler.

3. Diehard elderly Frisian man finishes 240 km bike race

Statistically, our cycling stories have always done well since we have the biggest this and the first that when it comes to bikes. Here’s a story about elderly Frisian man Wiebe Idsinga finishing a 240 km bike tour as the last man cycling, but he finished it. Watch the video in the link below.

Diehard elderly Frisian man finishes 240 km bike race.

4. Friesland home to world’s oldest working planetarium

This story made me finally visit the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker in 2020 at a time when museums where one of the few things open. I even bought a booklet in French to send to my engineer father who knows it off by heart. It was one of the most impressive things I’ve every seen, and I’m happy to say it will become UNESCO heritage in 2023.

Friesland home to world’s oldest working planetarium.

5. Man found not guilty after blacking out hospital

This gaming story went around the world, and it’s truly the kind of weird news we liked to write about. A man shut down a hospital during a psychotic episode, thinking he was playing Silent Hill. The gaming community helped this story go viral.

Man found not guilty after blacking out hospital.

6. A French Canadian soldier single-handedly freed Zwolle

I wrote this story while visiting my parents in Québec, and anytime I could write a story that had a Canadian and Dutch angle to it, I did. This story is incredible to say the least, and people in Zwolle absolutely know who Léo Major is to this day.

The French Canadian soldier who freed Zwolle.

7. Fertility doctor uses his own sperm

A creepy story about a doctor who might have produced about 60 children, a story that had sequels in the media. The doctor died and then everybody scrambled to try and find out if they were one of his kids, with all the legal red tape this entails.

Dutch fertility doctor bragged about using his sperm.

8. Sexist advert denigrates Dutch women and men

After publishing this I got a call from Nyenrode Business Universiteit asking us why we were picking on them. I said many things, including they have openly assumed that managers are all dumb straight men and that women can’t be taken seriously. The man confessed his wife told him the same thing and they eventually pulled the advert.

Sexist advert denigrates Dutch women and men.

9. Photoshoot with original Leeuwenhoek microscope and specimens

Although Leeuwenhoek’s specimens have been imaged before, this was the first time that the latest digital techniques have been applied to the surviving specimens. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek from Delft, one of the world’s first microbiologists, had a special collection of specimens. Follow the link to get the whole story.

Photoshoot with original Leeuwenhoek microscope and specimens.

10. Subsidizing astrologers for job seekers raises eyebrows

I remember this story pissing off quite a bit of Dutch folks in the category throwing money out the window. Some government re-integration projects for the unemployed included help from astrologers, tarot readers, and folks that talk to space aliens.

Subsidizing astrologers for job seekers raises eyebrows.

Take good care of yourselves and each other, thanks for checking us out!

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December 31, 2020

The year 2020 on 24oranges – my favourite stories

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:55 am

Like every year I present you my favourite stories of the past twelve months.

As you might expect, there will be some coverage of the health crisis below. However, what might surprise you is that my top story is not a post, but a month. A virus makes a lousy protagonist, but a great prism. The things we take for granted can suddenly be seen in a different light. In April we only wrote covid-themed posts: about an artist stuck in the country because of the virus, about the impact on unsold potatoes and about the oldest survivor of the disease.

Another tale from the trenches was that of a Belgian beer store that suddenly found itself involuntarily included in a Dutch lockdown when Belgium closed its border with the Netherlands for non-essential traffic in May. At that time Bart Cuypers’ Bierparadijs could only be reached through the Netherlands.

Amsterdam and Utrecht have been inspecting their canal walls over the past year, and it was about time. In Amsterdam, one such wall actually collapsed in September. On the other hand, Utrecht ended up in the news when the city used ground-penetrating radar and found that there may be as many as 60 still undiscovered wharf cellars.

I don’t know which YouTuber taught me this, either Justin Rosniak or Not Just Bikes, but apparently it’s easier to find funds for large infrastructure projects (which require ribbon cuttings, flag placings and other assorted photo opportunities for politicians) than it is for day to day operations. That’s why things like the biggest bike bridge in Europe fill me with unease when I read about them. If we didn’t need such bridges before, then where did this suddenly spring from?

Other posts that tickled my fancy:

And finally, what should in a way be the ironic news of the year: Dutch shortage of medical devices on the horizon. Published in January, when covid-19 was still considered strictly a Chinese affair, the lesson here seems to be that we should not let capitalism be our only compass for value. Did we learn from it?

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September 1, 2020

24 Oranges stays on Flickr, but no longer as ‘Pro’

Filed under: General,Photography by Branko Collin @ 5:57 pm

In 2008 we joined Flickr, a photo sharing site that was also one of the first social networks. Shortly after we switched to their Pro account because it made sense at the time – back then it looked like we might soon be bumping into the limits of the free account.

Recently, the new owners of Flickr, Smugmug, have done us the honour and favour of stimulating us to re-evaluate how we want to keep using the service by raising the price of the Pro account by 300%.

We have decided to stay on Flickr, but switched to the free account. The effect on you, dear readers, should be limited. We have maxed out the number of photos we can post to Flickr, so we can no longer do that. In the coming months Flickr may also decide to delete our oldest 232 photos. Smugmug have said that they will not remove CC licensed photos, but it is not clear if they mean all such photos or just the ones that would cause a PR stink if deleted.

We have always distributed our Flickr photos under a Creative Commons license. Please rest assured that this license remains valid, even if you can no longer find the photo.

(As a tip for your copyright audits, you may be able to find the link between a photo and a permissive license on the Wayback machine, even after a Flickr user decided to change a license; also, Wikimedia Commons often copies photos, including their licenses, from Flickr.)

(Photo by Liz West, some rights reserved)

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December 31, 2019

24 Oranges Rewind 2019

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:29 am

The year 2019 in review for 24 Oranges starts with one of the coolest stories I have read in a while: microscope pioneer Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s original specimens were photographed by Wim van Egmond through one of the former’s original microscopes. Among the specimens were the optic nerve of a cow, a slice of cork, and ‘heavenly paper’, a matter that people in the seventeenth century described as paper fallen from heaven but that Van Leeuwenhoek brusquely identified as some sort of dried-out pond scum.

The cutest story must have been that of a kitten stowed away on a fishing boat that sailed from Harlingen, Friesland. The fishers took pity on the animal and let it gorge itself on fresh herring. They could swear little Katrien put on some weight during the trip.

Have you given up on the idea of a Huxleyan hell scape of soma and surveillance? Then we had some good news for you, yes you! In Helmond—because what is in a name?—you could get free housing for a year. The catch? Companies would get to record your every move using sensors, and harvest the resulting data. “Own your data”, they called it, because the scheme turned your complete lack of privacy into a handful of pennies.

You may have heard of a verbal agreement being legally binding, but Dutch law doesn’t have much to say about how you agree on anything, as an unnamed amateur football club from Rotterdam found out to its own detriment. A contract written on a coaster was enough to force the club to pay one of its players 11.000 euro in back pay.

In 1991 Manja Blok became the first female operational F-16 pilot in the world, and in 1993 she became the first Dutch Air Force pilot since WWII to engage in armed combat. We probably should write an article about her some day. Blok has left the Air Force long since and this is not that story. The days of a progressive Dutch Air Force and competent pilots seem behind us, now that Dutch fighter pilots actually shoot their own planes during exercises. In January an F-16 managed to catch up with the bullets from its own MA61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun at a military range on the island of Vlieland.

While Dutch universities closed their Dutch language studies, the Dutch tried their hand at seagull scream impressions. The Netherlands also experienced its warmest summer day in history.

Finally, for us at 24 Oranges HQ personally 2019 stood out mostly because of a short but sweet experiment in a different medium. We had our own radio show! From May to October we had a weekly programme on Broadcast Amsterdam called Happy Hour in which Orangemaster and I discussed the local news. Sadly, we had to give it up (doing the show took up Orangemaster’s only free night), but we had a great little run!

Related: last year’s review.

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December 29, 2018

My favourite postings of 2018

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:56 pm

This year got off to a good start with the heart-warming story of florist Dick Hagestein promising his local competitor Jan Roskam a new kidney.

Three months later, it turned out that unfortunately, Hagestein had his own health problems that would have made a kidney transplant unwise (Rijmond.nl, Dutch).

A single man taking on an entire army is something you only see in cheap Hollywood films, in sad Jaap Fischer songs, and… in history. Seventy-eight years ago, French Canadian soldier Léo Major chased the Nazis out of the city of Zwolle.

In Rotterdam, two teenage girls used their keen fashion sense to help capture 70 pickpockets. The clothes of thieves are three years out of style, apparently.

Speaking of Dutch children doing the job of grown-ups, a secondary school class in Tilburg spotted a maths error in the government’s tax plans for 2019. It netted them a cake and a thank you note from a Secretary of State.

A stolen Willem de Kooning painting was retrieved after 32 years through no particular fault of the thieving couple who had kept the painting in their living room until their death. An art dealer recognised the painting in the estate.

The National Archives have created a website where the descendants of eighty-thousand 18th century Surinamese slaves can track down their ancestors in a digitised register. Seven hundred volunteers worked on the digitisation process.

Our story of an overturned piano at Amsterdam Central Station is perhaps not the most riveting tale of last year, but having popular author J.K. Rowling talk about it on Twitter will skew our visitor statistics for months. In a single day, she brought in as many visitors as we normally get in a month.

And finally, unlikely police deputies played a major part in this year’s stories. As in Rome 2400 years ago, when geese alerted the guards of the temple of Juno to Gallic invaders, this year honking geese alerted the citizens of Sint Willebrord to a nearby XTC lab, and a toddler ratted out her father when she told the other kids at day care, while talking about hobbies, that her dad had a lot of green plants in the attic. Paul N. was convicted to 80 hours of community service and had to let go of his other hobby, shooting guns.

Happy 2019 from us at 24 Oranges HQ!


May 30, 2018

PSA: “Your Comment is Awaiting Moderation”

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:28 pm

When you post a comment on 24 Oranges, you should be seeing a message that says “Your comment is awaiting moderation”.

This means that we have received your comment, but a human being needs to look at it to determine it is a proper comment and not just spam.

Unfortunately it appears this message has disappeared, so that now when you post a comment, the site just shows you an empty form. I don’t know what causes this, but rest assured that a) we are looking into it and b) your comments are still being received.


December 31, 2017

Branko’s favourite stories of 2017

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 7:24 pm

fireworks-branko-collinOn the dying hours of the year, I present you with my favourite postings of 2017. If you only read this in the next year, I hope you are washing away your last traditional oliebol with a mug of strong coffee.

In 2017, parents wanted their children to be born in the ‘right’ hospital, not because of the care they would receive, but because of the birth certificate; it had to list the proper city. As if the birth place of your child were some cool brand.

A bicycle bridge was 3D printed and installed in Gemert. Plastic tchotchkes resembling Delftware miniature houses managed to sell enough at 50 euro a piece to make an overpriced kickstarter succeed.

Cool teacher Matthijs Jansen has been busy inventing gym class games to keep his students happy. The kids seem to appreciate the effort, with one girl saying he is the coolest ‘meester’ (male teacher) of the school. “To be fair”, she added, “he is the only meester we have.”

The world-famous bike path underneath the even more famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been making the Dutch capital a lot of money. The city has fined 27,000 moped owners 90 euro each for illegally using the path. If you need to go from the city center to the South of Amsterdam or vice versa, that bike path is often the fastest route.

Other stories from 2017 that drew my eye were:

Finally a ton of casual sexism portrayed the Netherlands in a bad light (here, here, here and here), and to top this off, the top 15 richest Dutch artists are all men.

See also: Branko’s favourite postings of 2016.

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February 26, 2017

24 Oranges has been around for 10 years

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 4:19 pm


As of 24 February 2017, 24 Oranges has been around for 10 years. Ten years. We have no idea where the time went.

However, instead of a story today, we’re hanging out at 24 Oranges HQ with food and drinks, and working on a video we hope to be able to present to you soon enough.

If you have any questions you’ve always wanted to ask us, now’s the time! Drop us a note in the comments and we’ll see what we can do with it in our video.

As you know, there’s only two of us trying to keep up with the Dutch world around us, but even if we skip a day or two sometimes to catch up on sleep or travel, we plan on continuing to pressing Dutch things for your pleasure.

Thanks for all of your tips, help, advertising and comments so far. Cheers!

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December 29, 2015

Different kinds of noise: looking back on 2015

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 7:46 pm

oliebollen-andy-smithThe year 2015 was the year of ‘concerned citizens’ who made a lot of noise whenever different looking asylum seekers threatened to appear. However, that didn’t stop us from finding some great stories in 2015.

One way to escape this annoying din is by taking an airplane and flying above it, except that planes taking off and landing actually produce a lot more sound than you’d think. For this Schiphol Airport came up with an ingenious landscaping solution.

We like to write about beautiful things when we can. Did you catch the video of opera singer Ambrož Bajec-Lapajne undergoing brain surgery? In order to check whether the surgeons were keeping important areas of the brain intact, the tenor sang parts of Schubert’s lied ‘Gute Nacht’ during the operation.

Jolene Carlier designed a cool little popcorn maker and Hendrik Willem Mesdag once wrote a sweet love letter on the back of a tiny landscape painting, discovered only this year.

A friendly civil servant in Utrecht thought his parks were too clean for the team building exercise brewer InBev had in mind for some of its employees, so he put some litter back in. Just what politicians, multinationals and pundits alike needed – they all fired up their outrage engines.

Single and same-sex parents are still experiencing many problems not only raising children, but also getting them in the first place. Single women are systematically excluded from IVF treatments and gay couples find that the world gets increasingly smaller when it comes to surrogacy (external link, Dutch). Currently three baby hatches in the country, with plans for more, allow mothers to safely abandon their baby.

The oldest living bonds in the world were issued in the Dutch Golden Age to pay for dikes and other works that control the flow of water. An American university travels once every generation to Houten to collect a few euro in interest from the local water board and to keep their bearer bond alive.

It was also a good year for dogs who got their own money. Unfortunately for them, it’s counterfeit money.

(Photo of oliebollen by Andy Smith, some rights reserved)

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