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April 1, 2008

Posted by Patrick at 08:09 AM *

I asked Abi Sutherland for directions from the airport. Longtime readers of Making Light will be unsurprised to see the manner in which she answered.

A country the size of a commuter rail system Canal-city Amsterdam, close-built of bricks
Water-girt capital, welcomes a visitor.
Wordsmith and bitwise, Hugo-marked editor
Arriving in Schiphol, portal of planes.

Passport-stamped, customs-cleared, holding his luggage
Out on the concourse, the voyager seeks
Train-ticket vendors, kiosks for coinage
Or card-swiping men, a small fee they charge.

Landscape with windmill Indeed, between Eastercon and several days in London, I visited the Netherlands—specifically, to meet co-blogger Abi and engage in high-level meta-blog analytical gossip about you. (Not that you should worry. We consulted with Teresa, Jim, and Avram over the phone, and we’ve decided to let you live.)

That established, we spent a day exploring Amsterdam on bicycles, demonstrating to my satisfaction that the entire city, and probably the entire country, were carefully arranged by the Illuminati as a means by which to throw me into an admiring, somewhat slack-jawed trance. That’s without visiting any of the city’s “coffee houses,” you understand.

Zaandam his aim, north of the river
Hoorn-ward the trains speeding him there.
Many the services, Sloterdijk-changing
Easily managed, frequent and fast.

Others go straighter, fewer in number
Five minutes over the mid-hour mark
Web-aware wanderer, Blackberry-bearer
Long ago learned this from

Canal infrastructure I tell you what, if the planet’s seas really do rise, I’m going to the Netherlands, where most of the country is already below sea level and the general attitude is “what’s a few more feet on the dikes?” Not only have these people been keeping the North Sea out since the Middle Ages, but they also work at it 24/7. If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.

Dismounting in Zaandam, twin-platform station
Seeks he the escalators, rising above.
There waits his hostess, binder and blogger
Car-driver, key-bearer, transport to town.

Bike lane vs. car lane No American’s quick blog post about Amsterdam would be complete without a passage of boggled amazement over the dominance of bicycles over cars. Yes, you heard me right. Abi warned me that “once we get into the middle of town, you’ll be a god.” When I noticed that many streets offered wider lanes for cycles than for automobiles, I began to get the idea. When, on a narrow sidestreet where bikes and cars share the same lane, I had to pull to the left to avoid a parked car—and realized that the multiple cars behind me were immediately slowing down to give me space—I really got the idea. As far as I can tell, in the Netherlands, bicycles are the default; it’s cars that have to plead their case.

Paradise If by some mischance the concourse is vacant
Absent American, long-haired and late
Soon will arrive, car-parked and ready
Thus will our visitor patiently wait.

Next time I’ll give Amsterdam, and the Netherlands, more than two nights and a day. Meanwhile, Abi and Martin are fabulous hosts, and many, many thanks to them for letting me briefly invade their world.

(Complete Flickr set here.)

Comments on Amsterdam:
#1 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 09:50 AM:

Huh. Looking at your flickr set you were literally minutes away from where I live.

Miffed now.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:09 AM:

Sorry, Martin, I'm afraid I exercised moderator privilege and
monopolized Patrick. It was a short visit, and I had never met him

Next time he's in town, I was thinking we should do a small meetup for een pilsje at Noorderlicht (what better place for a Making Light meeting?)

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:16 AM:

It was an incredibly fast visit. But in fact as I was on the way
back to Schiphol it belatedly occurred to me that I should have dropped
Martin an email.

#4 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:42 AM:

re cmt #2 Oh, man, Abi - give more than two weeks' lead time on that, and I'd so be on a train to Amsterdam.

Crazy(and only a couple hours' away from her dear hubby's old stomping grounds)Soph

#5 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 11:28 AM:

The pic you took along the Prinsengracht looking towards the Westerkerk is the same view, taken from the same bridge, as one I took last summer and now use as my desktop.

#6 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Where is my teleporter?! I wanna go back!! Besides all the obvious stuff, I recommend biking around Waterland.

#7 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 01:18 PM:

This is reminding me that I need to get off my behind and get all my
great pictures from Japan posted on my blog with cool descriptive
captions and snarky editorial comments about the circumstances of the
trip. I am teh lameness. But the sheer quantity of pictures one can
accumulate with a digital camera (borrowed, at the time, but now I have
my own cool toy) is just intimidating.

#8 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 01:49 PM:

The directions just cement my long held opinion that Abi is probably
the coolest person I've never actually met. How do you DO that?

And, now I want to go to the Netherlands. So I'll just add that to
my list of countries I have to somehow make time (and money) for...

#9 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:14 PM:

And, now I want to go to the Netherlands.

I highly recommend it. For a long time I was going back every year;
now it's devolved to something closer to every other year, on average,
but not for lack of interest.

I figure I just have to keep going back until I finally get around
to seeing the Rijksmuseum. Or, rather, the collection; I did a hard hat
tour of the renovations a couple of years ago. That was fun. :) (Plus,
I surprised myself with how much I understood of what the guide was

I've been trying for years to convince my father he should go; he'd
really like it, I'm sure. The funny thing is, one of the reasons he
balks at my suggestions that he go to Europe is fear of the language
barrier. It's a fear he's finally getting around by joining me for part
of my UK trip this August/September, yet I'm pretty sure he'd have less
of a language problem in the Netherlands. Particularly since we'll be
spending a good portion of his time in the UK in Edinburgh.

*sigh* Now I'm really, really craving cheap supermarket speculaas.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:20 PM:

"Amsterdam." Yeah, right. Couldn't you come up with a more believable name?

#11 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Whenever I visit the Netherlands, am I always amazed by how flat it
is, a flat you can't find in the US, a flat you really can't describe
because it's so amazingly flat.

#12 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Lovely pictures. We were }{ this close to staying at the Botel over
Easter, but found somewhere on Damrak that was abut 10 euro/night

(We made it over to Amsterdam Noord once, but Cafe Ot en Sien was closed)

#13 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:51 PM:

#11: The first time I was there, I couldn't believe how flat it was.
We joked on leaving that we could tell when the train crossed over into
Germany because suddenly there was geography.

#14 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 03:12 PM:

#11 & #13 - Have you ever been to Iowa? It's also very, very
flat. Put a marble at one end, and will roll to the other end of the

#15 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 03:19 PM:

Flat, except for the rivers which stick up out of the landscape.
Gave me a good croggle when I first looked *up* to see a ship
overtaking me.

#16 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 03:48 PM:

As far as I can tell, in the Netherlands, bicycles are the default; it’s cars that have to plead their case.

*sniff* It's like... civilization.

#17 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 03:51 PM:

To borrow a phrase, anyone who is tired of Amsterdam is tired of life.

Must go back, must go back, must go back . . .

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 04:08 PM:

EClaire @8:

How do you DO that?

I was halfway through writing them in normal prose when a rhythm
crept into my head and wouldn't leave. On further examination, it was
from Jo Walton's fantastic Three Bears Norse.

So then I went back and added all the alliterative bits and heroic
nomenclature. It was the middle of a pretty bad time at work, and I
needed to do something gloriously and magnificently useless.

I'm glad you like it.

#19 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 04:12 PM:

"Knock, knock"

"Who's there?"


"Amsterdam who?"

"Amsterdam door - I'm knocking."

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 04:18 PM:

My husband, who grew up in the Netherlands*, simply cannot get his
head around why everyone else spends so much time and energy praising
the bike culture here. My Dutch colleagues are much the same. For the
people around me, this is normal.

One of the pleasures of having guests is watching their heads
explode (no helmets, either, which helps the visual effect) when they
really get it. It reminds me once again how fortunate I am to live and
cycle here.


* But is Scottish. It's complicated.

#21 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 05:28 PM:

It is always a pleasure to take people biking to and through Amsterdam; it wakes me up from my casual acceptance of the delights of riding here.

Patrick's reaction was typical. He went from being a little too
aggressive on the road, asserting space the cars were perfectly happy
to cede him, through a stunned acceptance of the natural order of
things on the Dutch roads, and back to crogglement when he caught
himself trusting cars to give him precedence. Then he realized that no one was wearing a helmet, and reached his own personal Singularity.

through fresh eyes, is also more of a wonder than I had remembered.
It's a good city for goshwow moments, if you're entranced by layered
cities. Unlike Edinburgh, where all the layers are for the same modes
of transport, Amsterdam
is a city where you cycle over a bridge while a boat is passing
underneath. The class separation makes the geographical separation seem
more dramatic than it really is.

As for the "high-level meta-blog gossip", we exchanged slow and
lofty counsel, like Gandalf on a visit to Tom Bombadil. Wise words were
spoken in measured tones. Deep arts were discussed. Then the four year
old came in and turned upside down on the sofa, revealing rather more
of her tights than is common in the counsels of the wise.

And Patrick plays a mean guitar.

#22 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 06:29 PM:

oh wow, I haven't been to Amsterdam in forever. It's a beautiful, beautiful city when the weather and the American Fratboys are behaving themselves.

And #9, Jennifer Barber--you've been there multiple times, and you never made it to the Rijksmuseum? What, pray tell, were you doing?

And Susan @ #7, where in Japan were you? I'm assuming Tokyo/Kyoto?
Those two cities alone are worth a thousand pictures (thus a million
words, I guess?)

#23 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Jim: Yokohama (for worldcon), Tokyo very briefly (a few hours),
Kyoto, and Hiroshima, with a day trip to Kamekura. I need to break the
photo-sorting project into manageable chunks; right now the prospect of
going through and editing however many hundreds of pictures it is is
just overwhelming, which is why it's still not done seven months later.

#24 ::: Bob Rossney ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 08:12 PM:

My favorite thing at the Rijksmuseum was the little postcard of Girl
With a Pearl Earring taped to the back of a cash register in the gift
shop, with a little speech balloon reading "I'm in the Mauritshuis, in
the Hague."

I don't know that I've ever seen a more beautiful urban sight than
the walk down Sarphatikade during and after a late-August sunset.

#25 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:38 AM:

Abi: teh win.

Patrick: teh lucky.

Me: teh very, very, very jealous, especially since my sister's grade 12
class just got back from a trip to London, Paris, and Normandy. And now
this! *sigh*

The "Paradise" picture is going on my desktop to drool over.

#26 ::: Marina Muilwijk ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:26 AM:

he[Patrick] caught himself trusting cars to give him precedence [while cycling].

If you ever try walking in Amsterdam
(or any other Dutch city), be careful of the flip-side: many cyclists
are so used to getting precedence, that they behave as if they always
have a right to it. Even if this poses a danger to pedestrians (cycling
on a busy pavement, for instance; it's illegal, but that doesn't stop

Still, even with the bicycles, I think walking is the best way to
see the city. And I invite you all to visit the lovely city of Utrecht
as well.

#27 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:28 AM:

Patrick, why should your observations differ from those of EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU'VE EVER HEARD OF who has visited Amsterdam?

The first time I visited the Netherlands, I almost walked right through customs at Schipohl, it was so low key.

The first time I was at a busy corner in Amsterdam and the traffic light
changed, and the pedestrians and the bicycles and the little motor
bikes, and the cars and the little trucks, and the streetcar all waited
their turns and went efficiently through the intersection, it felt as
though I'd gone deaf.

When I saw how close the Hague is to Amsterdam, I rented a bike in Amsterdam and cycled. Except I went somewhere a little out of the way to make it a two day trip instead of only one.

#28 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:30 AM:

#11 -- Silicon "Valley" is also tidal mudflats.

#29 ::: Greig Christie ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:47 AM:

I would second the recommendation for a visit to Utrecht. If anything I preferred it to Amsterdam.

#30 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 09:19 AM:

you've been there multiple times, and you never made it to the Rijksmuseum? What, pray tell, were you doing?

Hanging out with people from, walking around
whatever city I happened to be in, and, er, seeing musicals. My
priorities are a little...peculiar.

In my defense, it's only these last two trips (on one of which I did the hard hat tour) that I was actually staying in Amsterdam at any point. And the second of those, I was only in the city for two days.

#31 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 09:20 AM:

There's also the world's biggest IX. It's Holland, so they might not shoot you if you turned up all curious like.

#32 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Hm, I am reminded that most times I've been in Amsterdam
(and everytime where Schiphol has been featuring in my plans for the
day), I have mostly been in transit (either back home, coming from non-Amsterdam or getting out of Amsterdam as fast as possible). Last few times, to go to Leiden. At some point, I should probably make a point of actually going to Amsterdam, I suppose.

#33 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:38 AM:

abi told me you were visiting: I should have known she would have
greeted you with song. I think you managed to explain, as she has
tried, the way of bicycles there.

Now I know I must see it for myself to know it, but the sense is more immediate.

She also says you play a mean guitar.

#34 ::: Sarah Wesson ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:11 PM:

I’ve lurked here for quite some time now, and am finally emerging from the anonysphere to defend . . . Iowa.

#14: Magenta, if you think all of Iowa is flat (and, yeah, sure,
most of it is), you’ve missed the Quad-Cities on the eastern border--
where the Mississippi runs west and it looks like Iowa took a bite out
of Illinois. We’ve got some serious hills, valleys, and bluffs around

In fact, come on over in July and try the annual Bix 7 road race,
which winds through some of the prettiest—and steepest—scenery I’ve
ever limped past. It starts at the foot of Brady Street Hill, which is
about a half-mile stretch at a 12% grade—you don’t need cleats, but it
does do a number on your calves!

Slinking back into lurkage now. . .

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:02 PM:

I have lived in Iowa--Iowa City, to be precise, from 1963 to
1967--and I can confirm that it is by no means as flat as what I saw of
the Netherlands. Iowa has rolling hills and river valleys breaking up
the flat.

#36 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:26 PM:

On the other hand, I suspect I would find the astonishing flatness
familiar and welcome. (Through the water being above might not seem
so). Manitoba and Saskatchewan as a whole are not so flat as their
reputations (Some gorgeous river valleys out there), but the area right
around Winnipeg is.

#37 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Susan: I feel your pain. I still have about 4,000 photos from the
Galapagos which I've not more than cursorially gone through (to trash
the absolute crap). I have too many gigabytes of extra pictures.

Workflow is a constant problem.

nb to one and all. The baby (I am acting as nanny for a newborn much
of the time of late) hates you. It seems my chuckle (a deep, loud,
almost evil-overlord sort of thing, so I am told) is frightening to
him. You make me do it too often.

Happily Irish drinking songs (a rebel songs) are pleasing to him,
even when I am singing them. Now if only my one-handed typing were

#38 ::: Melinda Snodgrass ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 04:08 PM:

I loved Holland when I went there for the world con in the Hague.
The people seemed wonderfully sane -- nobody losing their minds over
gay marriage or teaching sex education.

I took day trips to Delft and to see William of Orange's palace at Het Loo, and Walter Jon Williams and I made a long, train, bus, walking trip to visit Kinderdijk
that has nineteen windmills all built around 1740. As we stood looking
across the canals and fields Walter mused "Hmm, the eighteenth century
version of the Very Large Array."

was a lovely city, and the museums were first rate. I wish I'd had more
time. They also have great dressage horses in the Netherlands. A
personal interest of mine.

#39 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 05:23 PM:

I remember the trolleys being a bit of a worry when I crossed the street, but maybe I hadn't reached the Singularity yet.

One additional thing to mention is that the Dutch truly understand
french fries. A really fresh hot fry with satay sauce is better than a
coffee house.

#40 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:21 PM:

#36 Lenora --- By "right around Winnipeg" you must mean "a 1000 kilometer radius"??? :-)

Driving up from Minneapolis, we decided that the Earth doesn't even
curve from Grand Forks to Lake Manitoba... One can dig a hole three
feet deep, jump in, and still see for hundreds of kilometers in every direction...

On the other hand, as we entered Winnipeg, we noticed two things: It
was without question the cleanest city we have ever seen, and they
serve vinegar for your fries at McDonald's, which is how we've been
eating them ever since. Teh YUMMY, nom nom nom!!!!

#41 ::: Chris K ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 05:53 AM:

Wow, I'm actually here right now for work for two weeks. It's still mind-boggling.

Thanks all for the suggestions, now I have some ideas on what to do for the upcoming weekends!

#42 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 10:40 AM:

Sasha's comment on the Netherlands, when we were flying into
Schiopol, over all the high-tech windmills, was that it is the country
where Canute won.

#43 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Jo Walton @ 42: Sasha just made me choke on my coffee. What a marvelous line!

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Jo Walton @ 42

"Will this plane Netherland, Sasha?"

"It Canute."

#45 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 02:49 PM:

******* G R O A N ! ! ! *******

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 03:31 PM:

b>Edward Oleander @ 45... There I was, thinking I'd kept the site
pun-free for many days and this is the appreciation I get. Humph.
Amsterdammed if I do, Amsterdammed if I don't.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Mark Twain is reputed to have said, "Buy land; they're not making any more of it." Not the case here.

#48 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 04:21 PM:

abi @47 -- it was fascinating to discover that they added canals to a new development in Amsterdam. Despite all the concerns about keeping water in bounds, people don't want to do without it entirely.

#49 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 05:40 PM:

I went to Amsterdam
for a day or so last summer, at the end of a whirlwind bus tour of
Europe with drunken teenagers, which was not nearly as fun as it might
sound if you were hit upside the head with a brick. But Amsterdam was brilliant.

What I hold it most in my heart for: having decent food, finally.

In France, we could have any food you liked, so long as it involved
eggs and ham. In Italy, we ran into alas weak Italian stuff.

But Amsterdam,
we happened across a place with real food: like a Mongolian barbeque,
you got to pick your meats and veggies and sauces and noodles, and they
cooked it up for you. Incredibly tasty. And you got to sit at a bar
watching tourists head towards a square full of rappers and
coffeeshops, with occasional streetcars plowing their way through...

Like the English, seems that the Dutch brought home good food from their empire. Really helps.

Also, it was pride week when I was there, and while I didn't see
much going on, I did get some excellent colorful flashy umbrellas (and
managed to get them back intact, a rather difficult thing on foot with
a zillion plane transfers).

I guess when I was there I saw Amsterdam
more as a city to live in than a city to visit. It reminded me of home
in the Bay Area. Except with much better bicycles. And bus drivers that
didn't drive away when you were pelting towards them at top speed. And
more trees and brick roads that smelled nice.

Oh! At the train station there was a huge mass of bicycles in a
bicycle parking garage... It was hairy with them. Fascinating!

#50 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 05:57 PM:

****Head Explodes****

Blindly handing Serge rag to clean up...

#51 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Madeline F #49:

And restaurant cats in a pizzeria on the main drag away from the
railway station. Later, we found a restaurant about a block away from
our canal-side hotel that had been there about 400 years--and looked
it. The food might or might not have been the Dutch equivalent of a
"menu turistico", but we didn't care; the room looked straight out of a
Rembrandt interior. The next morning, the most civilized hotel
breakfast buffet I've ever enjoyed. I'd just come from several months
in Venice, and the canals seemed ridiculously wide, not to mention this
nonsense of allowing cars on the canal-sides.

I'm having a little trouble getting my head around your comparison
to SF; the thing that has always struck me about The City is all the
hills, particularly every time I climbed one.

#52 ::: Barry Newton ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 12:25 AM:

We went to Worldcon at the Hague a number of years ago, and took a
tourister bus trip around the country. Conversing with the guide was
very educational:

(1) The Dutch have devolved responsibility for dike and drainage
maintenance to the very local level. IIRC, failure to maintain drainage
passing over your property would result in your village fining you
heavily. I expect that any citizen could converse knowledgeably on
hydrology. . .

(2) There is apparently an agricultural protocol for reclaiming land
that was once seabottom--a series of specific plants sown for specific
periods--that pull the salt out of the soil. I asked about this after
remembering that the Romans salted the site of Carthage to prevent
anyone rebuilding. It would be fascinating to know how that was worked
out. Strikes me as right up there with the discovery of fire.

#53 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 05:03 AM:

abi has set the bar high. When PNH next visits London, someone will
have to provide directions in Middle English, or in a ballade form, or
encrypted in four-rotor Enigma or something.

Is there a Unicode alphabet for Sherlock Holmes' Dancing Men code?

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 05:12 AM:

Cockney rhyming slang?

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 06:46 AM:

joann @ 51... restaurant cats in a pizzeria

"What's on the meownu, today?"

#56 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 09:26 AM:

Serge @ 55: I knew you'd have some kind of catty remark.

But cats in pizzerias? Just think of all the pussibilities; for one: no anchovy* pizzas.

*Please. I am not a fan of anchovies, unless they're alive. My pizza has ham and pineapple on it.

#57 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 09:32 AM:

It would be nice if the Dutch could be persuaded to export their
technology to Bangladesh, although admittedly my motherland would at
the moment find it hard to adopt its ways because of the lack of good

#58 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 10:57 AM:

#52: Sodium chloride will leave with adequate years of irrigation,
though plants can make it go faster. Reclaimed sea bottom also has
unusual quantities of sulfur, which takes more careful
phytoremediation; and between the industry and the intensive
agriculture of the Netherlands and everyone upstream of them, they have
serious problems with nitrogen pollution. Many interesting problems!
Many solutions!

Simon Schama's tome on the height of the Dutch Renaissance
reproduces emblems of the national spirit as a sort of combined
gardener and civil engineer, wearing the Phrygian cap of liberty.
(Which is an interesting emblem of freedom, since it contains the idea
of having once been a slave.)

#59 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 04:50 PM:

(Which is an interesting emblem of freedom, since it contains the idea of having once been a slave.)

Perhaps it felt that way during times of Austrian or Spanish rule.

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 05:03 PM:

clew @ 58

(Which is an interesting emblem of freedom, since it contains the idea of having once been a slave.)

My guess is those who have a history of oppression against them are
the ones most likely to be willing to work for freedom. In some ways
it's true that a life of comfort is the enemy of liberty; not knowing
better a person may be willing to give up much not to lose the
accustomed life.

#61 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Then he realized that no one was wearing a helmet, and reached his own personal Singularity.

Are the streets that well-kept? (I ask because the closest I ever
came to getting seriously hurt on a bike was from a pothole that threw
me by twisting my front wheel 90 degrees in an instant, rather than
from a car.) I don't recall so from a few hours in Amsterdam before Confiction, but the downtown may not be the best sample.

Jo: Sasha's line is wonderful, but mutes the contribution of
millions of common-level people. It looks from here like a mutual
shaping between humans and their environment; sufficiently impractical,
ceremonial people could not have survived at all, but the requirement
for reality led to people who \would/ extend their methods to clear
more land once they had the first bits under control.

#62 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2008, 01:44 AM:

#14: Magenta, if you think all of Iowa is flat (and, yeah, sure,
most of it is), you’ve missed the Quad-Cities on the eastern border--
where the Mississippi runs west and it looks like Iowa took a bite out
of Illinois. We’ve got some serious hills, valleys, and bluffs around

"I've never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could."

--Dar Williams.

#63 ::: Sarah Wesson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2008, 11:52 AM:

Delurking again just to say:

#62: Dar William's lyrics beat the Iowa Corn Song by a mile. Tune's not bad either.

#64 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Florida seemed remarkably flat to me when I visited it. It isn't
something I'd have expected to notice, but it really gave me a sense of
not being home.

#65 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 09:13 AM:

Spiegel @64-- I agree about Florida. I grew up there and it
IS flat. My first experience riding a bike on a hill was in Iowa (heh).
It was such a foreign feeling, my first thought was that there was something wrong with the bike.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 09:37 AM:

clew #58: That conception of freedom (that it emerges as the antithesis of slavery) is Orlando Patterson's in Freedom in the Making of Western Culture.

#67 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 01:14 PM:

#51 joann: Hah! Yeah, I remember when I first drove through SF, in
my classic hail-dented rusty '83 Volvo station wagon, with my sister
and friends... We looked at a map and saw a street that seemed to be
going north, where we were trying to find (I think) the Golden Gate
Bridge... We headed up a street and saw a yellow diamond warning sign
that said "HILL". No kidding, we snorted, stepping on the gas to
maintain our 25 mph on the incline, until suddenly there was no more
road, only sky, and the car tilted forward like we were at an amusement
park and we all tried out AAAAAAs as I stomped on the brakes to keep us
from hurtling into the Bay...

The Bay Area as a whole, though, does have some flat spots. :) I was
mostly referring to the city feel I got, though. Mix of cultures, wide
variety of little restaurants and stores that had arty things in them,
nice climate, visible water, creative people, public transit...

#68 ::: Paul A. sees a spammer with a stutter ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2008, 10:56 AM:

And other threads as well - check the see-all-by.

#69 ::: Serge sees pics'n spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 08:11 AM:

It's not all spic'n span.

#70 ::: Bill Higgins finds more spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2008, 08:48 AM:

This spammer has been busy in quite a number of threads.

#71 ::: [Cyrillic spam deleted] ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2008, 04:29 AM:

[posted from]

#72 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2008, 05:15 AM:

Spam from

#74 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:58 PM:

Spam from

#75 ::: David Goldfarb points out more crack-spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:08 AM:

This thread too.

#76 ::: beatles ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:50 AM:

Spam from

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