What is worse than dog shit?

Dog shit in a plastic bag.

dogpoo

Dog shit in a plastic bag has the advantage of not sticking to your foot if you step in it, but it doesn’t wash away in the rain and it doesn’t biodegrade. I honestly don’t get this – the dog owner has done the hard part, and then just left it there, as if carrying a sealed plastic bag a mere 30 metres to the nearest rubbish bin was way too much effort.

And now I am the crazy who photographs dog shit. Excellent.

REALLY???

dutchnews2

“News Quiz Sunday; the 25-year-old Afke Kuipers from Groningen was killed in Ghana. For which charity did she work as a volunteer” (translation mine)

It’s a pretty sad day when a young woman’s death becomes a quiz question, only days after her death. Did the journalist/editor not think about her family and friends in the Netherlands who might read this?

Heartless and shameful.

Happy New Year!

fireworksrubbish

Firework’s rubbish. Happy New Year Amsterdam

Amsterdam celebrated with the usual random fireworks, it has a certain local charm to it but I wonder how long we’ll go on with the current anarchic ideal of everyone being smart enough to let of fireworks. Unlike pretty much every other city in the world we don’t do the single big show here, instead anyone can buy fireworks buy them and let them off.

In theory they’re supposed to be let off between 10am on the 31st of December and 2am on 1 January. In practice it starts earlier – I heard fireworks from the 28th of December and I can still hear them now. But even if the time limit was kept that’s sixteen hours of intermittent explosions everyone gets to listen to – it’s exhausting.

There is a movement to ban fireworks on the basis that they are;

  • dangerous, every year there are accidents with fireworks and the A&E departments are kept busy. Last year two people died as a result of fireworks accidents.
  • messy, the streets today are coloured red from the wrappers and littered with spent rocket cases
  • frightening for children and pets, one friend spent the night comforting a terrified 2 year old
  • risk of property damage

But there is resistance to the ban based on the fact that fireworks are;

  • traditional
  • fun

The tradition part is true – sort of. In centuries past royalty and nobility would use fireworks as part of their feasts, but it’s really only since the end of WW2 that Dutch individuals have been able to afford to buy fireworks in any great numbers (source).

The fun part is also true – sort of. I have great memories of my first years here seeing families sharing fireworks on the street, and of street parties to ring in the new year. It was a lot of fun. But the current high firepower explosion type of fireworks are not fun for most people.

To be fair many of the high firepower fireworks may be illegal – every year thousands of fireworks are smuggled over the border from Belgium where (apparently) the laws are less strict. The current restrictions are pretty much unenforceable.

When politicians have been challenged on banning fireworks the reponse is that for a ban to be effective it would need to be EU-wide. GroenLinks set up a complaints line, and had over 50,000 complaints by Monday morning. But other political parties do not see any reason to change the current legal situation.

When I first came her it was quite charming, families out with children letting off fireworks, everyone wishing each other “beste wensen” and strangers toasting each other with champagne. Yesterday was  constant explosions – banging noises from the morning, often very loud, frightening for pets and small children, and I honestly didn’t want to go and walk around the city.

The antics of a few have spoilt it for the majority – I’d support a enforced ban on fireworks and a more limited time when they could be set off. I’d also support an outright ban.

Alternatively put all the loud bang crazies into the Bijlmer Arena and let them set each other alight.

Meanwhile capital cities the world over organise fantastic fireworks displays for their inhabitants. Couldn’t we do that here?

Boy Racers

I live in the middle of the Jordaan. I love where I live…. mostly.

Two things I do not love about where I live just now; plumbing problem and Vespa ralleys.

I have a plumbing problem, specifically every load of laundry is currently costing me two towels to mop up the leakage. I feel like the sourcerer’s apprentice.

Last night, starting sometime after midnight (I can be quite accurate on the time because I was mopping up after a load of washing until 11.30) a bunch of guys with their Vespas gathered at the corner of my street for no productive reason beyond testing the echo capacity of the various streets in the neighbourhood.

Based on my observations for Vespas to run well you need to

  1. rev the engine frequently
  2. take short sprints of around 50 metres around every half hour
  3. pile three people onto them

Apparently they don’t work well if you wear a helmet at night.

The noise is pretty hard to sleep through, afterall the motorbikes were named after wasps. I lay in bed practising yoga breathing and trying to attain a zen enough state to fall asleep. When that didn’t work I lay in bed fuming and ranting to myself that young people nowdays have no sense of social responsibility, don’t they have homes to go to, and jobs to wake up for in the morning.

This went on until sometime between 2 and 3 – I’m less exact of the time it ended because I put my iPod on and listened to music to block out the noise from outside.

But this morning standing in my pjs, looking at my messed up kitchen, I came up with a better solution; buy more buckets, store the water, and have target practice on the boy racers.

image from iralifack via flickr


From Racist to Ridiculous

Various Dutch MPs, presumably reflecting the view of Dutch voters, periodically try to ban the Burka.

I’m no fan of the Burka as I’ve written before, however the Dutch constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Which to me means that if a woman follows Islam, and believes she should wear a burka as part of that religion she should be able to choose to wear it. Yes, I know, sometimes it is not her choice but a rule enforced by her male relatives, this is an argument used by proponents of banning the burka to position removing her right to choose what to wear as feminist. I would say that forcing her to abandon the burka is not freeing her from domination by her father or husband.

But this week the plans to ban the burka have taken a madly Politically Correct turn;

‘I am drafting legislation on face-covering clothing which will apply to all Dutch nationals,’ the minister is quoted as saying in the Telegraaf.

‘We still have to decide how far we will go to deal with motorbike helments (sic), carnival costumes and balaclavas during the Elfstentocht [skating race],’ the minister said.

So in order to maintain some veil of fairness the government is banning all face coverings including masks worn at parties, motorbike helmets and balaclavas in winter sports.

Do they realise how completely ridiculous this is getting? Or is this an attempt to make the legislation so absurd that it will never be passed.

Now that it’s over…

Queen’s Day that is, I want have a short rant.

In the last year the city council has adopted a strategy aimed at changing the image of Amsterdam from coffee shops and red light district to something classier, conferences and culture. Research showed that most of the material out there about Amsterdam focused on the backpacker market which are typically travelling on the cheap. The city council realised that by moving up market a little, to conference goers and middle class visitors (I doubt the used the term, the probably used “professionals on holiday”). Since then they’ve put up the website “Iamsterdam.com” and sponsored events. So far so good. In fact very good – finally there’s an official source of information about Amsterdam in English (and German, French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese).

But here’s my gripe, I saw this marking on the pavement a couple of days before Queen’s Day.

Using masking tape is the standard method to mark your selling spot. So I assumed that the good councillors had come up with some stall for Queen’s Day; selling I Amsterdam tshirts or throwing pies at images of the mayor perhaps. I looked forward to finding out on Queen’s Day.

But there was nothing – apparently this was advertising space for the city council. I really don’t get it. I doubt anyone in the Jordaan did not know that the 30 April was Queen’s Day, so the advertisement was wasted. And on the day they didn’t use the space!

I think this was a very lame attempt at guerilla advertising. It misses because it has hijacked an existing medium but with no purpose. Sorry Gemente, this is a fail.

Stupid EU Rule

I was out to dinner last week at one of my favourite restaurants; it’s a restaurant with great food, a seasonal menu, charming service and a cat with an attitude to match her girth. To be honest the cat is one of the attractions.

After a wonderful meal my friend and I got talking to the head waiter, initially about wine (to establish our cultural credentials) and then about the cat (we’re not that cultured) who seems to oversee the restaurant with great authority.

Apparently cats are now illegal in Amsterdam restaurants for hygiene reasons, I can’t find anything online but in theory it’s due to an EU directive.

I can understand that cats might be a hygiene problem particularly if they’re not properly cared for, but there’s a very good reason to have a cat in an Amsterdam restaurant. These old buildings are riddled with mice, the mere presence of a cat acts as a deterrent. It works around here apart from the mice the resident cat brings in as gifts for me.

The other way to get rid of mice involves vigilance and chemicals. If I, as the customer, have to choose from a menu of cat, mouse, poison; I choose the cat.

So now restaurants are playing their own cat and mouse game with the inspectors. I’m on the side of the restaurants.

image from Andrew Beeston via flickr