Archive for the 'English' Category

Squirrel bridge

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Squirrel bridges like these also amount to the apparent 6000 wildlife crossings internet memes tend to brag about.

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The country of the future

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Recently, someone pointed me to a video on Facebook praising The Netherlands for being the country of the future, backed by 7 facts. Sadly, a lot of these facts are mixed with fiction to such an extent it is safe to call them a fabrication or the result of wishful thinking.

1 The video states that The Netherlands is the only country in the world without stray dogs.
Although stray dogs are rare, stating it is the only country without stray dogs equates to jumping to conclusions.

2 There indeed is a solar powered bike lane which was opened in 2014. It has become common practice all over the world to fit all kinds of surfaces with solar panels.
The SolaRoad in Krommenie might indeed be the first purpose built cycling path equipped with solar panels, but one of the main reasons therefore lies in the fact it is not common practice elsewhere in the world to even build specific roads for cyclists only in the first place.

3 The video states there are charging points for cars every 50 meters.
In The Netherlands, there are roughly 18000 charging stations for cars – on a total surface of 41.5 square kilometers.
You don’t need to be a math geek to figure out hundreds of thousands charging stations would be needed to find one every 50 meters – unless, of course, you’re patient enough to charge a car by using a regular wall outlet.

4 There are no cars on some of the Frisian Islands, and in some small towns like Giethoorn and Orvelte. This is, however, exceptional. The Dutch are glued to their car to an extent it’d require a thermal lance to separate them from it – even if other means of transport are faster, cheaper or more economical or efficient, the car remains their preferred means of travel.

5 In April 2016, motion was backed by a majority of the House of Representatives calling to strive for merely selling zero-emission cars by 2025. This does in no way mean diesel or gasoline powered cars will be banned, or that they will no longer be available by 2025. The Dutch government has neither the intention nor the ability to sign a ban on combustion engines into law.

6 The video states 19 prisons had to shut down due to low crime rates.
There were plans to close 26 prisons between 2013 and 2018 and build 2 new ones. A majority of these have indeed closed their doors.
Though statistics do prove there is a decline in crime and there are significantly less people imprisoned than a decade ago, the closures lined out in the Masterplan DJI 2013-2018 are mainly meant to cut costs. As facilities close, electronically monitored house arrest is on the rise and it bacame common to house two detainees in one prison cell rather than one person per cell. All these measures add up, so it is an exaggeration to state dozens of prisons had to close because there is less crime. That’s just one single piece of the puzzle.

7 The video states there are 6000 wildlife crossings. This statement is accompanied by an image of an impressive ecoduct, spanning a 6 lane motorway.
In reality, 68 so called ecoducts are (being) built. Aside from those, there, obviously, also are simpler animal crossings in use, like squirrel bridges, toad tunnels and level deer crossings. Even if you take all these into account, the number 6000 is a blatent overstatement raising false assumptions.

Though parts of the aforementioned video are flattering, on a whole, exaggerations and misrepresentations of facts does more wrong than good.

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2121

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The Belgian brewer Brussels Beer Project recently wrote out a competition in which people are invited to suggest new kinds of beer.
The ones I have suggested are these;

Beerdrop
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1727

Porter brought to taste with licorice, aniseed and caramel, giving it the aroma and flavour of licorice. In The Netherlands, this candy is referred to using the word drop and the average Dutchman munches away 2 kilograms of it per year.

Nat Neuzeke
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1729

Another wildly popular candy are cuberdons, also known as Gentse Neuzekes. The candy consists mainly of sugar, gum arabic and raspberry.
In beer, it would resemble a framboise with a mildly higher viscosity than usual, to recreate the mouthfeel of actual cuberdons.

KBAC.eu
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1730

In the former Soviet republics, kvass is a more popular softdrink than Coca Cola.
It is made from old bread, yeast and water. Due to the absence of hops, kvass is not considered beer, yet it is closely related, and, though an aquired taste, it deserves more appreciation in the West than it is currently getting.
KBAC is the homogryph of kvass written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

MMXVII
http://www.beerproject.be/en/contest/1731

Cervesia inspired by the recipe the Romans used 2017 years ago.

Until November 30th it is possible to vote for one or all of these suggestions by following the aforementioned links, and leaving a rating of 1-5.
If I win, I promise to buy a round of drinks :)

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Jakarta

Friday, February 12th, 2016

On the first morning of my stay, I join my host on her way to work. This involves a ride on the back of a moped, two short hauls aboard a minivan and a trip in her colleague’s car. We’ll have breakfast in the local market at a stall going by the name ibu Rita. Food containers with ready made meals are on display, and upon request they get served on a plate. Delicious. Then, breakfast gets washed away with delight black coffee from a fully operational roaster named Rosso. Java often is associated with coffee, and that’s for a reason. My tastebuds shamelessly feasts on this cup of black gold. What a delight :)
From here, I am helped onto an express bus taking me to central Jakarta. Though, well, Jakarta is so spread out, even the center is rather large. It is nice and impressive to walk amidst its colossal cityscape filled with shiny highrises. After some walking, I reach the landmark of the city, better known as Monas, which, indeed, means National Monument. A proud arrow shaped statue, rising up into the sky and housing a museum in its base. A museum which, sadly, appears to be closed.
To stay hydrated, I buy a small bottle of soda on a nearby market. Two guys try to persuade me into playing a game that involves throwing woorden rings toward packs of cigarettes. I kindly dismiss their offer, stating I’m a non-smoker.
In the park surrounding the Monas several other statues are found. One of the most striking ones is a statue showing three Javanese women, of which one is dancing and another breastfeeding a child.
From here, it is my intention to visit a Padan restaurant. Fate had other plans, though, and some heavy tropical rainfall caused me to look for shelter at a coffee place that also proved to serve beer and food. Not what I had in mind, but still rather good, and a good way to mentally prepare myself for the way back home. The first leg of that trip proved easy and convenient. The new Transjakarta bus system uses designated lanes, allowing it to zoom past traffic, and all that’s needed to ride it is opening a gate by gently tapping it with a smartcard, deducting 3500 rupiah from the balance stored on it.This brought me to Blok M fast and in a convenient fashion.
The rest of the trip proved a bit less convenient. Having to go to a part of the city not yet served by transJakarta sentenced me to using MetroMini. Small orange and blue buses equipped with seats that’re officially too small to accommodate me. My upper legs are simply too long to fit in between my own seatrest and the one in front of me. Traffic is dense and only moving forward slowly, and the interior of the bus is rather noisy, due to driving with opened doors and street musicians jumping in here and there to play a short set and walk around the bus carrying an empty foil bag, collecting money. The noise and the smoke has a noticable effect. My eyes sting, my throat hurts, my head aches and you can actually taste the carbohydrates in the air. Compared to this, the very last leg of the trip is easy. At There are lots of intersections where motorcyclists casually seem to hang out, but when passing by their true intention becomes obvious. These are ojeks, working as an informal kind of taxi service. Hitching a ride is easy, and before you know it, I’m back where this day started.

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Schiphol

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

As much time you may or may not dedicate to packing and heading to the airport, eventually you do end up feeling rushed. In this event, I blame Microsoft for that. Before leaving, I wanted to perform the recomended monthly test of the ground fault circuit breaker I so often end up skipping, before switching off all circuits except for the one feeding the fridge. Yet, my laptop decided it was a good time to install updates and service packages just as I made my way to the circuit board and I decided it would be better to leave it powered for the time being and wait until it finished. This actually bought me some time to take out a last bag of trash, so Johan Cruijff was right when he said “Elk nadeel hep z’n voordeel”

Though I had already checked in online yesterday, it does give peace of mind to have dropped off all checked luggage and be cleared by customs. Arriving at the railway platform minutes after the train left and having to wait for another to arrive did, obviously, not bring me any closer to this peace of mind – but it should, yes should, be manageable to be at the counter before it closes. And indeed, I did arrive at the counter more than one and a half hours before the scheduled departure of the flight, and after being greeted by ecceptionally friendly ground staff and dropping off my luggage, it is time to go through customs. Beside the booths where humans perform the passport checks, there are now some automated gates, apparently able to optically read out passports and
match it with the info on the RFID chip. It appears The Netherlands secretly seceded from the European Union, though – because, when I tried it, a message popped claiming these gates are only to be used by EU citizens. Which, to my best knowledge, I still am…

Not feeling any urge to shop or visit a cafe, I decide to manage some last emails and such near the gate where the gracious little bird that’ll bring me to Dubai is already parked. The difference in size is striking, compared to the Aeroflot jet at the adjacent gate. Obviously, I take some pictures. I still have that awkward hobby of wanting to snap an image of every plane I’ve ever flown on. Why? It just happens to be one of the things you start doing and never stop with.

As the gate opens, the same ground stewardess who initially printed my boardung pass and issued the claim ticket for my bag also is the one scanning my boarding pass and granting entrance to the gate. It takes significantly less time to embark the plane than the previous time I flew to Dubai, but the reason behind that is that the economy class of this flight is not nearly filled to capacity. I’ve got an entire row of seats aboard this A380 at my disposal, which proves a great opportunity to get some rest. As much as I dislike reclining seatbacks, that much I appreciate being able to occupy three or four seats at once and turn them into a makeshift bed. though they offer literally thousands of things to do or watch aboard this flight, nothing beats getting some sleep – or, well, sleep, and the ability to connect to the internet throughout the flight. What happened to Justine Sacco in 2013 has become a thing of the past :)

In Dubai, there’s a four hour layover. Leaving plenty of time for some food and drinks. The airline issued a meal voucher, which bought me a sandwich and a soda – and afterward, my creditcard bought me a delightful cup of coffee, and a Lebanese lager to pass the time until the gate opens for my flight to Jakarta.

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The Theater Experience

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Some things are worth waiting for. October 26th, 2014, 05:27 AM I bought a ticket to a concert to be held nearly a full year later. It felt awkward to buy a concert ticket nearly a year in advance, but this, this was nothing but a no-brainer. I had to be there. And what’s a year if you’ve been secretly wishing for this to happen for a full decade?
In 2004 musical mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen released his sixth Ayreon studio album. A host of musicians brought together for a stunning 2 disc concept album The Human Equation. Just like the previous 5 album released under the Ayreon bandname, the entire album tells a story, and each song can be compared to a chapter in a book. Each song broadens and deepens the experience.
While listening, it remains essential to read along in the CD booklet to keep track of everything happening, and even then it’s a wild a wild and intense rollercoaster you want to ride again as soon as you’ve recovered from the previous ride. And during that second, third, fourth ride you’ll discover even more layers and depths in the brilliant storylines.
Sadly, the only way this music could be enjoyed was by playing the studio albums. The Ayreon website hosts an FAQ, and one of the most freqently asked questions is whether the music will ever be performed live on stage. The answer given on the website to that is negative. Wikipedia, too, clearly states that “Due to its particular nature, Ayreon was never played live” – but to every rule there’s an exception, and that one exception happens to happen this very weekend.
Though, personally, I still am particularly fond of the very first Ayreon album “The final experiment” and always hoped it would be made into a movie. Anime, obviously, since to me it has a rather distinct Ghibli‘esque aura surrounding it. Partially due to the awkward mixture of fantasy and science fiction found in “The Final Experiment”. Which, also, explains why “The Human Equation” is the story fit to be turned into a stage performance. Rather than in a world occupied by magicians and spaceships, it takes place in a world where people commute from home to their busy jobs by cars, and where people do and experience things we all can relate to. More than a decade after the release of “The Human Equation” it’s performed as a stage play under the name “The Theater Equation” – One weekend only, one venue only.

September 18th, 2015. The long wait is rewarded. A train ride takes me to Rotterdam Centraal, from where I walk toward the Erasmusbrug – which brings me to the opposite side of the river, where the Nieuwe Luxor Theater is located, and therein restaurant Leipzig, where I’ll enjoy a three course meal prior to the concert.
The concert itself is everything one could expect and more. The stage is set with a car wreck, hospital bed and other props needed to play out the entire rock opera as if it were a Broadway musical – and it works. The music and acting complement each other, and rather than having to read, listen and digest at the same time to keep up with the storyline, when played out the story literally unfolds before your own eyes in an even more incisive way than when listening to the album alone. As if you’re actually witnessing it.

The one time I got slightly distracted was during the song “Loser” – because, for me, there’s an interesting anecdote attached to that song.
In June 2004, a mere month after The Human Equation was released, I visited the Arrow Rock Festival. Shortly before Alice Cooper would start his performance, a tall, long haired figre clearly recognized as Arjen Lucassen stood amidst the crowd, and chanted parts of the lyrics of “Loser” – obviously because the original lead vocalist on that song, the late Mike Baker, deliberately tried to sound like Alice Cooper, because that tone of voice fit the role of “father” in The Human Equation so well. Obviously, I was rather pleased that this happened within earshot, and that it made sense to me. For some reason I was under the impression only a fraction (if any) of the other people in front of the tented stage were aware who this tall long haired guy in their midst was, and why he kept shouting the word “loser” while awaiting Alice Cooper to hit the stage.

Aside from that one moment my mind wandered off to an amusing memory from times past, the first half was a delight to gaze upon – though second balcony, way up, was possibly not the best place to see it from. The supporting visuals projected on the backdrop were largely invisible, and at times it was difficult to see which character was singing and what their part in the story was. I came to regret not listening to the album a couple of times over the past year, or during the trainride to Rotterdam.

During intermission, it’s raining dramatically outside. The many lights surrounding the modern Rotterdam architecture illuminate the big droplets of rain, creating an interesting contrast of light and shadow outside. Inside, intermission is spent cozy and convenient with some snacks and a drink, pre-ordered and pre-paid prior to the show. A concept worthy to be copied by others. It’s a delight not having to cope with queues during intermission, but truly enjoy it as a relaxing and refresing break.

Second half is the part in which all the mystery unravels. The music sounds as good performed live as it does on the album, and the story carries on up to the point where it becomes clear why and how the accident could occur, and why the wife and best friend kept visiting the hospital for three weeks straight. Everything unravels. The hospital scenes ends – and then there’s that twist. The same twist the album ends with, but on stage there’s an extra twisted twist. Twisted.

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The effect of the March 20th eclipse on the European power supply

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Friday, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. Weather permitting, this will be an extraordinary and spectaculary miraculous sight well worth the trip north.

Throughout Europe, the moon will partially cover the sun. Whoever looks up to the sun at the right time, through proper filters, will see the sun’s apparent shape change from a disc into a
croissant. As this happens, the moon casts a shadow over Europe, dimming the light of the sun. Shadows become blurry and the color of the sky darkens toward a darker kind of blue, like an eerily awkward twilight.

Over the past couple of weeks, many news outlets covered the story that this event could cause the European power grid to become unstable. The Express even fotoshopped a gloomy image of a thick annular solar eclipse into a night shot of the Elizabeth Tower in a story they dramatically titled BLACKOUT warning: Biggest solar eclipse since 1999 could lead to power cuts across Europe. This article should be taken with more than just a single grain of salt, since it starts by falsely claiming “the UK is plummeted into darkness by a total eclipse of the sun” – which it is not. It won’t get darker than it does each and every evening. Also, the risks of power outages in the UK are negligible. The installed capacity of solar panels in the UK is too low to cause a major unbalance in the UK’s power supply. Same can de said about the imports and exports through the interconnectors to continental Europe. And since both Interconnexion France Angleterre and BritNed are direct current connections, disturbances in the grid frequency of the continantal European grid won’t drag the UK’s grid down with it.

Theoretically, though, these disturbances could occur in continental Europe this friday. In the enitire European power grid, all three phases oscillate on a beautiful, perfectly maintained frequency of 50 Hertz. This is the grid’s heartbeat, and the gentle humming you can hear in the vicinity of a high voltage transformer.
All power plants connected to this grid will carefully measure and respond to it and do their utmost to cancel out any disturbances. If the frequency drops below 50 Hz, it means more power is consumed than generated, so powerplants will fire up. If the frequency rises above this 50 Hz, it means that supply exceeds demand, so powerplants will produce less to, again, balance supply and demand.

An ever increasing part of the central European energy supply is generated using renewable resources. The greatest powerhouse in this, is Germany; both the Energiewende and the Atomausstieg greatly decreased the amount nuclear power yet boosted the amount of solar and wind power in the energy mix – with trusted coal and lignite powered plants to provide grid stability by maintaining the 50 Hz grid frequency. Machines that were once engineered to continuously run baseload are retrofitted to run part load, from where they can fire up or down, whenever needed. On days with changable weather, balancing is a very dynamic process, since changes in wind velocity or cloud cover immediately and drastically affect the inflow of renewable energy.
That is what is bound to happen during friday’s solar eclipse, too. In the time the lunar shadow sweeps across Europe, the input of all solar panels will decrease. Just as they would at dusk. Then, though, once the Earth comes out of the lunar shadow again, the amount of solar energy produced will increase at an incredibly steep ramp. This effect does not compare to what happens every morning when the sun rises, since the sun had already risen – and is close to noon. When the production of solar energy peaks. It is this ramp that makes the tabloids speculate it could cause a cascade effect, leading up to a total blackout like the one the northeast of the USA experienced little over a decade ago. After all, the fossil fueled powerplants hooked to the grid will have to compensate for all the excess electricity suddenly produced by décreasing their own production. In a controlled fashion, of course. After all, the beautiful 50 Hz grid frequency has to be maintained at all cost, and if it fluctuates too much, or rises or drops too steep, it could cause a load rejection of either a powerplant, an interconnector between countries, or a solar inverter or all of the above.

Fortunately, the utility providers are well aware of all this and have taken appropriate measures to cope with it. This keeps everyone happy; the tabloids can publish their scaremongering horror stories, while the rest keeps enjoying continuous supply of electricity – and the most fortunate ones will a hauntingly beautiful solar eclipse.

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Skydive

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

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ESA astronaut André Kuipers’ tour of the International Space Station

Thursday, August 16th, 2012


Een gezellige rondleiding door een zwevend buitenaards complex, zo groot als een voetbalveld, waar alles op z’n plek wordt gehouden met klittenband en Duct-tape en waar rozijntjes uit de lucht worden gehapt.

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It’s huge!

Friday, July 30th, 2010

This Sunday, it’ll be three weeks ago this happened right in front of my, and a lot of other lucky people’s, eyes. Up on the mountain, in the cold snow, with nearly no clouds in the sky. The sun low over the horizon gave it a special bonus; moon illusion made it appear as if the eclipsed sun was huge. Larger than life.

Bovenstaand filmpje is ongeveer wat ik zag, bijna drie weken geleden, hoog op de berg. Een haast onbewolkte lucht en de verduisterde zon, laag boven de horizon veroorzaakten de maan-illusie. Hierdoor leek alles enorm groot. Best een mooi gezicht.

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We’ve got to stop meeting like this

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Some things never fail to amaze. Not even 5 years after they happened.
Exactly 5 years ago, my brother and I conveniently strolled the streets of Panama City, where we noticed a cheerful crowd of people leaving a church named Santuario Nacional. Yet, the people outside the church didn’t look Panamanian. Their tone of skin was lighter, and there were even raid haired people amongst the crowd.
This reminded us that only a few days before we spoke to an Irish girl whose name was pronounced as Mary (possibly spelled Mairi?) who was in Panama to be able to attend her brother’s marriage. Would this be… that person’s wedding?

This indeed turned out to be the case. As we held our pace on the sidewalk to watch the newly weds leave the church, a man smiled wide and said ‘We’ve got to stop meeting like this’… as it turned out, on our way to Panama, we enjoyed a cold beer at the same pub during the stopover on Newark, were aboard the same plane to Panama, waited in the same queue to pass the border, spent some days in the same beach resort, and then, fate brings the same people to a sidewalk outside a church. Coincidences can be fun…

All this happened exactly 5 years ago, today. If fate didn’t pull any nasty tricks, an Irish man and a Panamanian girl have got something worth celebrating today. Congrats.

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Kerstavond

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Middels dit berichtje wil ik iedereen een goede laatste week van het jaar toewensen. In Plaats van het omhakken van een boom voor in m’n woonkamer, heb ik dankzij Oxfam Novib juist bomen aan laten planten in Mozambique. Een vakantiehuisje, daar, is voorlopig nog boven m’n budget :P

Een goed, vruchtbaar en liefdevol 2010 toegewenst.

By means of this message I would like to wish everybody all the best for the last week of the year 2009. Rather than pulling down a tree to put in my living room, or process into postcards, I decided to let others plant a number of fruit bearing, shade giving trees in Mozambique on my behalf. As much as I hope these trees will grow strong and fruitful, so I hope 2010 will bring to you what you need most.

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The aftermath

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Since it’s alomst 3 years ago since the last update on my life, written in this lingua franca, I will once again sum things up.
Let’s see.. to continue where the last update ended; everything came to a good end. I did get to see the annular solar eclipse in French Guiana. The possibility to combine a trip there with both viewing the sun partially getting obscured by the moon shortly after sunrise from a beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and the planned launch of an Ariane rocket made it really, really worthwhile to undertake that trip. Eventually, it turned out to be too good to be true – the rocket launch was postponed till after my flight back home, but, wow, I did have a lovely holiday. I spent a night in a hammock on an open boat in the middle of piraña infested waters, in the middle of one of the most breathtaking natural reserves you can imagine, where I woke up to the call of birds while the fog crept up the hillslopes in the distance. Drove all the way from Cayenne to de border with Suriname, and crossed the Maroni to visit places like Albina and Bigiston.
Needless to say, I took numerous photos during that trip.
Also, obtaining a new job turned out to be no problem at all. A secondment agency offered me a job, starting right after I returned back home from my trip to French Guiana, and I still work for them. I moved to another place, too. In may 2008, I moved to a small commuter town named Weesp.
Also in that year, yet again, I got to see a solar eclipse. A total one, which I observed from the banks of the river Ob in the city Nizhnevartovsk. Of course this was combined with a nice trip through Russia with stops in Yekaterinburg, Moscow and Golden Ring cities like Vladimir, Suzdal and Sergiev Posad. Both the Diamond Ring and the Golden Ring, combined in a single trip… not bad!
Speaking of rings… this year, too, I managed to see the total solar eclipse. Since it would be the longest one of the century, it sounded like a good plan to go for maximum duration. Which happened to happen at sea, where, luckily, a cruise ship would be present. Passengers and staff of this ship got to see a whopping six minutes, forty two seconds and three tenth of a second of totality. A period of darkened skies long enough to gaze upon that big hole in the sky in total awe, look around to see the twilight colors on the horizon, all around you on this big, big, almost ripple free ocean, see planets and bright stars appear in the sky, and for Peter Rogina and Kirsten Conant it was even long enough to pop a question, and a bottle of champagne afterward, since they decided that for them it would be a good thing to get engaged.


Peter and Kirsten. Best wished to them for the future.

For the rest, this cruise was a wonderful opportunity to see some more of the word, with port calls in South Korea, Japan and arrival in China. Finally, I can say that I climbed the Chinese Wall and walked in the Forbidden City.
Unfortunately, the high temperatures and the draft of air conditioners left their marks. At the moment, I’m feverish and sneezy.

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Zeg maar DAG

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Vorig jaar verdween de papieren uitgave van DAG al uit het straatbeeld, nu verdwijnt ook website dag.nl

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I’m 1337 :P

Monday, May 11th, 2009

last loging: 13:37!

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