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Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

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Photo: Nederlandse Spoorwegen
A special book given out as gift to readers during National Book Week is accepted instead of a ticket on the train.

The Dutch seem to be ahead of the curve on many things. I’ve posted about their friendly communities for people with dementia, about their environmental innovation, about their biking culture. This story is on their support for reading books.

Jon Stone writes at the Independent, “Dutch book lovers got free rail travel across their country’s entire network [in March] as part of the Netherlands’ annual book week celebrations.

“Every year since 1932 the Netherlands has encouraged reading with Boekenweek – a celebration of literature marked with literary festivals and book signings across the country.

“Traditionally, a well-known Dutch author writes a special novel – the ‘book week gift’ or Boekenweekgeschenk – which is given out for free to people who buy books during the festivities or sign up to a library.

“But the special book – this year the novel Jas Van Belofte by celebrated author Jan Siebelink, can also be presented instead of a rail ticket on every train in the country on the Sunday of book week.

“Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch state railway company, has long been a sponsor of the annual festivities – and even organises book readings signings by top authors on its trains.

” ‘It is good to see all those happily surprised faces of travellers,’ author Jan Siebelink said after boarding a train for the city of Utrecht to meet passengers and read his book. …

“This year the book week gift was given out by bookshops to anyone who spent €12.50 on Dutch-language books.” More here.

And check out this cool article by Feargus O’Sullivan at CityLab, in which he describes a wide array of unusual ways to pay fares — ideas from all around the world.

Because of a problem with rail passes, he writes, England’s Virgin Trains let people pay with an avocado for a while. And “Indonesia’s second city, Surabaya, came up with a novel way of clearing its streets of plastic waste last autumn: It has been encouraging passengers to trade in trash for bus tickets.”

Among other creative approaches, Russia promoted the Winter Olympics by offering passes for doing a certain number of squats, Berlin partnered with Adidas to offer sneakers with a pass in the tongue, and Japan started experimenting with cryptocurrency.

Can you think of other ideas cities should try? Maybe on Giving Tuesday, transit systems could allow free travel for proof you gave to a charity.

 

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Photo: Eric Helgas for the New York Times
Tiny books, called dwarsliggers in the Netherlands, are the size of a cellphone and feature extremely thin pages that a reader can flip horizontally as if scrolling.

When I was a kid, I loved the Golden Book collections that the publishers miniaturized. I still have the set I got for my own children, and I notice that my grandchildren are drawn to the surprising size. So I’m guessing that a kind of tiny book already popular in Europe is going to take hold in the US, not just with kids.

Alexandra Alter writes at the New York Times, “As a physical object and a feat of technology, the printed book is hard to improve upon. Apart from minor cosmetic tweaks, the form has barely evolved since the codex first arose as an appealing alternative to scrolls around 2,000 years ago.

“So when Julie Strauss-Gabel, the president and publisher of Dutton Books for Young Readers, discovered ‘dwarsliggers’ — tiny, pocket-size, horizontal flipbacks that have become a wildly popular print format in the Netherlands — it felt like a revelation.

“ ‘I saw it and I was like, boom,’ she said. ‘I started a mission to figure out how we could do that here.’

“[In October], Dutton, which is part of Penguin Random House, began releasing its first batch of mini books, with four reissued novels by the best-selling young-adult novelist John Green. The tiny editions are the size of a cellphone and no thicker than your thumb, with paper as thin as onion skin. They can be read with one hand — the text flows horizontally, and you can flip the pages upward, like swiping a smartphone. …

“Mr. Green was already familiar with dwarsliggers, which he first saw several years ago, when he was living in Amsterdam (the term comes from the Dutch words ‘dwars,’ or crossways, and ‘liggen,’ to lie, and also means a person or thing that stands out as different). In the last decade or so, the format has spread across Europe, and nearly 10 million copies have been sold, with mini editions of popular contemporary authors like Dan Brown, John le Carré, Ian McEwan and Isabel Allende, as well as classics by Agatha Christie and F. Scott Fitzgerald. …

“ ‘Like a lot of writers, I’m a complete nerd for book making and the little details that make a physical book really special,’ Mr. Green said. ‘It didn’t feel like a gimmick, it feels like an interesting, different way to read.’ …

“Dutton and Mr. Green are hoping that younger readers from a generation that grew up with the internet and smartphones might be receptive to the concept of a miniature flipbook.

“ ‘Young people are still learning how they like to read,’ Mr. Green said. ‘It is much closer to a cellphone experience than standard books, but it’s much closer to a book than a cellphone. The whole problem with reading on a phone is that my phone also does so many other things.’ …

“Ms. Strauss-Gabel began her mission to import flipbacks to America this year, when she received Dutch editions of two of Mr. Green’s novels. She was startled by their size and ingenious design — the spine operates like a hinge that swings open, making it easier to turn the pages. She contacted the Dutch printer, Royal Jongbloed, and asked if Dutton could become partners with the company to print English editions. …

“But getting English flipback editions of Mr. Green’s books proved endlessly complicated. Jongbloed is currently the only printer in the world that makes them, using ultrathin but durable paper from a mill in a village in Finland. The first sample pages that Jongbloed sent looked cluttered, with letters and words crammed too close together. …

“ ‘I have no idea how people will respond to this,’ Mr. Green said. ‘They’re objects that you almost can’t get until you’re touching them.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here. I expect that one-handed reading will improve life in crowded subways, where commuters are likely to need the other hand just to hold on.

Photo: AbeBooks
Remember these?

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2048

Photo: Gemeente Zwolle
The plastic bicycle path in Zwolle, the Netherlands, is a test for building roads from plastic waste in the future.

I don’t know if it’s because, historically, they’ve had to protect their land from the encroaching sea, but the Dutch seem to be repeat innovators. This blog has covered a lot of new ideas from the Netherlands. (3-D printed houses, anyone? Wind power for trains?) Today’s post is on a possible use for discarded plastic bottles.

Daniel Boffey writes at the Guardian, “The world’s first plastic bicycle path made of recycled bottles, cups and packaging has opened in the Netherlands, as part of a pilot that could see similar roads open up across the country.

“The 30-metre path, made of recycled plastic equivalent to more than 218,000 plastic cups, is expected to be three times as durable as an asphalt alternative. It also contains sensors to monitor the road’s performance, including its temperature, the number of bikes that pass over it and its ability to cope with the traffic.

“The prefabricated sections of cycle path are light and hollow making them easy to transport and 70% quicker to install. Cables and utility pipes are able to be easily fitted inside, and the path is designed to drain off rainwater. … It is believed that many of the benefits of the paths will apply to plastic roads.

“The path’s inventors, Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, said: ‘This first pilot is a big step towards a sustainable and future-proof road made of recycled plastic waste. When we invented the concept, we didn’t know how to build a plastic road, now we know.’

“Asphalt concrete is responsible for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, equivalent to 2% of global road transport emissions. …

“Earlier this year the EU [European Union] launched an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act on plastic waste and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030. … Each year, 25m tonnes of plastic waste is generated by Europeans, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.”

The idea has real possibilities, but the concerns of groups hoping to end the use of plastics altogether need to be addressed. “Plastic Soup has warned that small particles of the plastic could find their way into the living environment due to heat, wear and run-off.” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m just glad people are trying to find solutions to some of the damage that human activity has done to the planet. The issues are in the news right now as both great powers and small, climate-impacted countries are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to improve on the Paris Agreement.

By the way, if you are on twitter, do follow Sweden’s 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg), who is speaking truth to power in Poland: “I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.” I just read that Venice is likely to succumb of sea-level rise. Greta’s urgency is warranted. Young people give me hope.

And read a wonderful, inspiring book by former president of Ireland Mary Robinson called Climate Justice, which connects human rights and poverty to the effects of global warming and offers hope in the shape of brave, ordinary people.

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Photo: Houben/Van Mierlo architecten
New homes in the Netherlands are being created with a 3-D printer. 

Now for something completely different: how those creative Dutch are using 3-D printers to create homes.

Gianluca Mezzofiore reports at CNN, “Living in a community of 3D-printed homes will soon be reality in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

“In what is considered a world first, a single-floor, three-room house made of 3D-printed concrete will be ready for occupation in 2019. More than 20 people have already registered their interest in the house since Dutch construction company Van Wijnen announced the project. …

” ‘We need a technical revolution in the constructing area to respond to the shortage of skilled bricklayers in the Netherlands and all over the world,’ Rudy van Gurp, a manager at Van Wijnen, told CNN. ‘3D printing makes things quicker, better, cheaper and more sustainable by using less material. It also fosters creativity and freedom in the design.’

“Working along with the Eindhoven University of Technology, the construction firm is printing a special type of concrete for the house’s exterior and inner walls by adding layer upon layer.

In laying concrete only where it is needed, the amount of cement being used is significantly lower, which helps cut down on costs and environmentally destructive carbon-dioxide emissions. Van Gurp estimates that 3D-printed walls of the new houses will be 5 centimeters thick, while normally they would be about 10 to 15 centimeters. …

“At the moment, research costs and regulation restraints outweigh the benefits of 3D houses, but we may see mass production of these in the next few years, van Gurp said.”

For more pictures and details, go to CNN, here.

Photo: Houben/Van Mierlo architecten
A 3-D printer lays down layer upon layer of concrete for a new home.

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Photo: YouTube
One of the calendars used in the Dutch prison system to encourage prisoners to help solve cold cases.

Here’s a new twist on solving cold cases. It’s being implemented in the Netherlands, and I was going to say, “Trust the creative Dutch to come up with this idea!” But it turns out they got the idea from the United States.

Daniel Boffey writes at the Guardian, “Prisoners across the Netherlands are to be issued with calendars for their cells featuring unsolved murders or disappearances as part of a drive by the Dutch police to crack unsolved cases.

“The so-called cold case calendars will be handed to all 30,000 prisoners in the country after a trial run in five jails in the north resulted in 160 tips to the police.

“Each week of the year in the brightly coloured 2018-19 calendars will be illustrated with a photograph of a missing person and details of the case. The hope is that many of those in jail will know details of some of the crimes or may have heard other criminals chatting about them. …

“Jeroen Hammer, the calendar’s inventor, told Dutch newspapers the calendars had also proved popular with bored prisoners, although some had regarded the initiative as an attempt to turn them against their own. …

“The calendar has been printed in Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, English and Russian to maximise its impact, and a €800,000 reward is being made available for those whose information ends in a successful conviction. …

“The police say they can offer anonymity to people in certain cases.

“ ‘There is no penalty for keeping information about a criminal offence committed. Therefore, you do not have to fear persecution if you have been sharing information, even after years of deliberation,’ they said.

“The idea of the calendars was borrowed from the United States, where every year several states distribute a deck of cards containing information about cold cases among prisoners.”

More here. Someone should study whether participating prisoners are motivated mostly by the reward, by boredom, by outrage at certain crimes, or something else.

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Photo: Ronald van der Meijs
In January, this candle organ was on exhibit in the Netherlands. 

You may recall my January 2014 post about zebra finches playing instruments at a museum (here) and a December 2016 post on Croatia’s sea organ (here). The sea organ harnessed the tides to push water through narrow passages leading to organ pipes under marble stairs.

How many ways there are to make music! So much need for music!

Today’s post is about an artist who created a candle pipe organ. Lauren Young at Atlas Obscura explains.

“There’s a curious low industrial hum emanating from what used to be a fish market built in 1769. At De Vishal gallery in Haarlem, Netherlands, a large nine-pipe organ operated by burning candles purrs a continuous concert.

“In the video, Dutch artist Ronald van der Meijs shows his elaborate musical mechanism. Inspired by the Muller Organ housed at Grote Kerk church next to the gallery, the series of pipes looks like a massive artillery weapon connected to wooden beam air ducts. The intricate system requires careful maintenance — van der Meijs changes out the candles multiple times a day as they burn.

“For the pipe organ, ‘the candles are the musicians,’ van der Meijs explains. The candles vary in size. As the wax melts, the pitch of each pipe shifts slowly and irregularly. The shortening of the candles causes a vertical movement in each mechanism, pulling a wheel connected to a brass valve at the front end of each pipe. Opening the valves allows for different toned pitches.” More.

The mechanical kookiness makes me smile and reminds me of Rube-Goldberg-esque egg-breaking machines I have known. (See this February 2013 post.)

 

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All Dutch electric trains are now powered by wind energy, the national railway company NS has said.

“Since 1 January, 100% of our trains are running on wind energy,” said NS spokesman, Ton Boon. …

“We in fact reached our goal a year earlier than planned,” said Boon, adding that an increase in the number of wind farms across the country and off the coast of the Netherlands had helped NS achieve its aim.

“[Dutch electricity company Eneco] and NS said on a joint website that around 600,000 passengers daily are ‘the first in the world’ to travel thanks to wind energy. NS operates about 5,500 train trips a day.

“One windmill running for an hour can power a train for 120 miles, the companies said. They hope to reduce the energy used per passenger by a further 35% by 2020 compared with 2005.” More at the Guardian, here.

Meanwhile in London, researchers are looking into solar-powered trains.

As Michael Holder said in BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network, “Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains. …

“The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains.” More.

I wonder what sounds solar- and wind-powered trains make. Can we still say choo-choo-choo and whoo-oo-OO with our grandchildren? And who will update Thomas the Train?

Photo: Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images
Intercity train arriving at Leiden Central railway station, Netherlands.

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