November 25, 2014

Saudi prince descendant homeless in Leiden

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:05 am


Today Muhammad Bin Talal, the grandson of Muhammad bin Talal of the Saudi Arabian Al Rasheed dynasty and its last prince, is a homeless man in Leiden who lives on a bench near Leiden Central Station.

Bin Talal came to the Netherlands in 1995 as a Master’s student in Social Communication at the Universiteit van Amsterdam and lived with a friend in Leiden. He also had a flush Swiss bank account thanks to his family’s fortune.

Life in Leiden was good until the family fortune had been questionably removed from his bank account by the Swiss, although he was left with some 35,000 euro from the 10 mln that was in it initially. Used to living in hotels, the money eventually ran out and he became homeless and an illegal immigrant, as his student visa ran out. He also doesn’t have a passport, but is not an asylum seeker. How he ever got his student visa is beyond me.

According to BN De Stem, his Saudi family has confirmed his back story, but they didn’t know he lived on the street. They offered him help, but he doesn’t want to owe them anything, a question of pride he says. People bring him food and he’s good with that for now.

(Link: bndestem, Photo of Leiden Central Station by harry_nl, some rights reserved)

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November 5, 2014

Device turns fizzy drink into drinking water

Filed under: Design,Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:45 am

glass water

Rotterdam based Helmut Smits designed a device that turns Coca-Cola into water, called ‘The Real Thing’.

“The installation developed with University of Amsterdam master’s student Martien Würdemann uses a simple distillation process. The Coca-Cola is boiled in a container, producing water vapour that is funnelled into a glass. Minerals are added at the end to make sure it is safe to drink.”

Originally conceived by Smits in 2006, the concept was turned into a complete distillation process for the Sense Nonsense exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, which opened in October during Dutch Design Week.

“When I looked at Coca-Cola that way, I saw dirty brown water, so it was logical to filter it back into clean drinking water, just as we do with all our waste water.”

(Link:, Photo of Glass of water by Cayusa, some rights reserved)

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October 3, 2014

First-ever formal speech in Dutch sign language

Filed under: Dutch first by Orangemaster @ 12:30 pm


Next week, the Universiteit van Amsterdam will hold its very first formal speech in Dutch sign language, which will be translated into spoken language (no confirmation of which ones) by two interpreters, something that does happen in countries like the United States.

Fluent in sign language but not deaf, Professor Beppie van den Bogaerde sees this event as a gesture towards the deaf community. Usually people give speeches and have it translated into sign language, but this time it will be the other way round. I still don’t get why two interpreters are needed, but my best guess would be either they relay each other or there’s a Dutch and English version.

Van den Bogaerde points out that the deaf have each other’s full attention when they communicate because they have to look at each other, which she feels gives the deaf and hard of hearing a better sense of the here and now. My personal take on this from university is that we can speak about 150 words a minute but can understand 450 (three times as much), which means although we are easily distracted, it explains how interpreters can listen and talk at the same time.

The Netherlands has five sign language dialects because they five different schools decided to do their own thing. Based on French sign language, Dutch sign language is not officially recognised and is different than Flemish sign language, which has an unclear origin.

Enjoy a video of Happy by Pharrell Williams, performed and translated into sign language by the American Deaf Camp.

(Link:, Photo of Universiteit van Amsterdam by NiederlandeNet, some rights reserved)

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December 6, 2010

Transgender man wins battle to get name changed on university diploma

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:41 am

Justus Eisfeld won the right to get a new bul, a master’s degree diploma, Parool reported last Wednesday. Eisfeld had undergone a sex change, which required a name change, but the University of Amsterdam refused to issue a new diploma to reflect this new reality.

Minister for Education, Culture and Science Marja van Bijsterveld (one of only three women in the cabinet) has decreed that the university’s official stance, which stated that it is illegal to issue a new diploma, is incorrect. The University of Amsterdam has responded that it is now “very happy” to issue Justus Eisfeld a new document.

An added complication may be that it is generally difficult in civil law countries (i.e. non-Anglophone countries) to have one’s name changed at all. How does this work for our native English speaking readers? If you change your name from John Smith to Autocar Bumblebee III (as you all do!), does that mean you get to rewrite the paper trail?

(Photo by Hildo Krop, some rights reserved)

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December 3, 2009

Amsterdam University library gets redesigned

Filed under: Design by Orangemaster @ 11:40 am


Amsterdam designers Studio Roelof Mulder and Bureau Ira Koers (both sites under construction, almost a pun) have won the Serve and Facilitate (Public) Great Indoors Award for their project University Library of the University of Amsterdam. You have to see all the pictures to get a feel for it.

It claims the date of completion is August 2009, but that has to be a typo.

(Link and photos:

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February 3, 2009

Dutch film theatre to cater to autistic audience

Filed under: Dutch first,Film by Orangemaster @ 9:44 am

Amsterdam film theatre De Uitkijk is planning to develop special screenings for autistic people, as a way of reaching a new film-going audience.

What’s the difference? Less stimuli, which, if I may, would be less ups and downs in the film as regards the volume and the bass will be toned down to avoid vibrations, which frankly they should do in every film theatre. And getting rid of subtitles, which are distracting and plentiful since many films are in English or another European language, are an issue. Warning people about the amount of advertising and trailers is also an idea. Sounds to me like the average person could enjoy this too, not just an autistic audience.

De Uitkijk is working together with the Universiteit van Amsterdam and the Dutch Association for autism. The UK already has autism friendly screenings, and so for De Uitkijk this would be a Dutch first. The first test screening for children will be on 23 February. I wonder if they also plan to have screening for adults.


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September 11, 2008

Preserved interior of Jewish family home found

Filed under: Architecture,History,Religion by Orangemaster @ 9:44 am

Researchers have found a house in Amsterdam-Zuid on the J.J. Viottastraat that has an almost intact 1940s interior which used to belong to a Jewish family. The living room, the most important and usually biggest room of Dutch houses, is apparently more authentic than the Anne Frank House. Alexander Westra, university teacher of heritage studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, confirmed this yesterday.

Westra stumbled upon this unique find last year when he was working on a project on historic interiors in the capital. The family of Jewish banker Lodewijk Korijn left the home in 1942 when they were carted off to concentration camps. And since then, the interior has barely been touched.

Westra believes that the home should be protected heritage. After the war, the house was used by theology students. The living room was their common room. In the vestibule there is still an original dresser integrated to the wainscoting on the wall. Even the lighting from that era still works, which is rare, says Westra. The backroom also features a few original details even though a fire raged through it once. The interior was made in Amsterdam school style.


Update 11:30, by Branko: Alexander Westra, the scientist who made the discovery, sent us some photos he took from the interior. You will find them below the fold. Thanks, Alexander! According to him, the statues of saints and the crucifix were put there by later residents.


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August 28, 2007

One man’s fight for peace and quiet

Filed under: General,Music by Orangemaster @ 9:31 am

Translation: “Don’t play music from the speaker of your mobile phone. It doesn’t make you cool, it makes you fucking annoying.”

Alexander Klöpping, a student at the Universiteit van Amsterdam started a website that expresses his annoyance with people who play loud music from their mobile phones in public transport. His website, fucking irritant (fucking annoying) lets people get it out of their system.

“Enough with this asocial behaviour! Almost every mobile phone comes with earphones, so the decent thing to do is use them.” Unfortunately, then they just turn up the volume, which irritates folks as well, according to the reponses on the site.

A similar movement was launched in London and was a huge success. Four thousand commuters signed a petition against the “noise criminals” and about a 1,000 told their stories online. The government came into action soon after and signs were posted in buses and metros.

For anyone going “oh, but the use of swearing, how poor”, let me explain the cultural context. The Dutch don’t consider swearing in English a bad thing, in fact, it seems to reinforce their point, as swearing in Dutch is considered less cool and wrong.

(Link: Blik op nieuws)

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