Sunday 28 February 2010


[Post published by Liviu on Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

A week ago I have finally received by mail the Voordeelurenabonnement (The off-peak discount pass).

The story of my Voordeelurenabonnement

Since I filled in the form in mid November, you can imagine something went wrong.

Although NS (this is the Dutch Railway Company) was supposed to send it to me by mail in three weeks, they did not. I did not worry because I thought NS would synchronize perfectly (they really seem able to do this, I am not joking) and send me the final pass a few days before the temporary one expires. Since the temporary one was expiring at mid February, I went to the Zuid station NS office at the beginning of February to ask whether something happened - I did it for my own mental comfort rather than thinking there was a problem...

The clerk was surprised to hear I have not received the pass by mail, so he handled the problem rapidly:
  1. Phoned the NS headquarters which confirmed to have lost the form (wow! I could not believe that)
  2. Gave me a 1 month extension to the temporary pass
  3. Gave me another form to fill in and bring along with a passport photo - he wrote on the form my client number, since I have been inserted as a client in the system, but apparently something went wrong afterwards.
    Joke: maybe the system does not allow Iacob, but only Jacob?

One day later, when I returned the form I was very inspired to emphasize that my name is with I not J (they always write Jacob here!) and he wrote that on top of the form.

Due to that phone call, the NS headquarters also sent me one week later another form to fill in, since they acknowledged their mistake. However, I did not fill that since I have already filled the form one week before.
However, guess what? Besides my client number, the form also had my name printed on it: yes, it was written Jacob...

The pass I've received by mail recently has my name perfectly written on it, therefore I was very inspired to emphasize to the clerk how my name was spelled correctly.

Further details on the Voordeelurenabonnement

The Voordeelurenabonnement is an OV-chipkaart (in English for non-Dutch speakers), just like my anonymous GVB card.

Why buy a Voordeelurenabonnement?
The discount suits very nice the needs of a Dutch native or a person living a long time in Netherlands, by offering nice discounts (see the 40% discount during off-peak periods tab) when traveling by train. However, I lack the time and mood for traveling - ok, this is my problem and I should get it solved.

One has to write on the form his/her bank account number, so NS automatically withdraws money (after one year) from one's account to renew the pass. That means I shall have to send them an e-mail probably in October to announce them I've closed my bank operations in the Netherlands and returned home, since I will be back in Romania starting mid July - thank you Google Calendar for storing that reminder for me!

Monday 22 February 2010

Fire regulations, escape plan ad so on.

[Post published by Liviu on Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

On Feb 19th, during a 2 hours time interval, I've received 5 (yes, five) e-mails from De Key regarding fire regulations.

The first mail explained all fire causes and the fire regulations, gave advice on how to prevent fire and what to do in case of fire and so on. It also mentioned printing the escape plan - so the e-mail should have had an... attachment, which was not attached.

So, the second mail arrived with the sole purpose of delivering the attachment. Bad luck, no attachment attached.

So, the 3rd and 4th e-mails arrived: same text as the first one, but different subjects and no attachment.

Finally, the 5th mail got it right.

Then  I looked at the escape plan and realized they got one thing wrong there: Windows appear opening to the inside of the room, but they actually open towards the outside.
Indeed, I look too much at details, but hey! What can I do? I can't stop looking and debugging and pointing out the faults. It's not my problem - it's the victory of the system that educated me until now and the system that continues the work!

Sunday 21 February 2010

INNA (Romanian singer) - in the Dutch mainstream... Cool, music on!

[Post published by Liviu on Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

When I went to the TNT Post Office this week I heard a song on the radio in the PO that the guy at the desk was really enjoying, i.e. singing a bit and looking a bit distracted; a couple of days before he was acting perfectly normal, so I suspected he either liked the song or had another reason to be happy.
I thought to myself: Indeed, another catchy song. Come on, man, focus, weight the envelope, put the stamps on it. Chop, chop, time is money!

After I exited the PO I realized I heard the song before and felt a bit familiar: the voice, the lyrics... - I knew I heard/watched something like that on YouTube...

This week-end I heard the same song in front of my student house - when people arrive and open the doors from their cars one can hear the radio playing inside. Well, it was the same song...

So, I googled the lyrics. Want to know the outcome?
OK, it's obvious due to the title: it was Inna, a Romanian singer, who has launched pretty recently...

Inna's YouTube channel.
Inna's official site.

The song I've heard on the radio and on cars' radios: Inna - Hot.

Funny enough, the Dutch Top 40 (Wikipedia description) contains Inna feat. Bob Taylor - Deja Vu on the 9th place. Awesome! Note that when clicking the download button, one has the options of downloading the 2 songs I've indexed so far.

Conclusion: Great job! Keep it going, Inna!

Wednesday 17 February 2010

TNT in Netherlands: How to find the closest post office to one's home

[Post publicat de Liviu pe Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]


One needs to find and go to a TNT Post Office or TNT box etc., e.g. (1) the closest one to his/her home, or (2) a Post Office offering specific / complete services etc.
How does one find such a location?


After landing on:
  1. The Dutch TNT site
  2. The English abridged (i.e Client Service section) version
  3. The international TNT site
I returned to the Dutch site and using my (not so) extensive Dutch knowledge I finally landed on the page which displays all the TNT services centered to one's post code. Just enter the post code and click search, i.e. Zeok for non-Dutch speakers.
Or one can use the next page, which allows to select both post code / city and the desired type of service. Indeed, it's only in Dutch and that may pose problems.

The most advanced / useful solution I can provide, after hacking some parameters in the address bar, is this page displaying the interface in part in English, with the same options of selecting both post code / city and the desired type of service.

Side note: Regarding the English version of the site, I'd like TNT's slogan to become: Sure we can have the whole website in English!

Monday 15 February 2010

I can [but should I] VOTE in the Netherlands?

[Post published by Liviu on Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

On the 11th of February I received an envelope from the Municipality of Amsterdam, telling me I can vote on 3rd of March, 2010, where and when should I vote etc.
The envelope contained 2 (almost) identical cards identifying myself: name, address, post code, date of birth etc. Pretty cool I would say.

I had them translated, via Google Translate: front side and back side.
Apparently I have to bring these 2 cards with me, my passport and a copy of my passport.

I have always been a strong supporter of democracy, and I see voting as the perfect tool to enforce democracy. Therefore, I can barely refrain myself not to go vote.

Q: Who should I vote with? I have no idea what they vote here: lists proposed by parties or people by name?

Q: Why vote only for the City Council? I want to choose the Mayor or something cooler!
Could we vote for a new Queen? That would be awesome!

Mixed feelings regarding this:
  1. I must admit I'm freaked out when thinking to go vote in Netherlands. I have that feeling I'm getting into something it's not my business. I expect them to speak pretty bad English there, which combined to the fact that I do not know how the whole process works here would make the whole thing even weirder - do I want to make the world a weirder place?
  2. However, it would prove my commitment to democracy, voting and so on. I shall become unquestionable in my intentions!
  3. I would become the first (of all of my friends) to have voted in elections counting for a foreign country's politics.
  4. Given my bad experience with the Dutch health care system (I will blog later on this), (1) I'm not sure whether it would be appropriate to interfere with the local governing system, and (2) I have lost the feeling / desire to interact with the system.
Tough decision. Oh well, I'll think about it until then. The MSc project is screaming for me at the moment.

Update - 17th of February

I've received in my mailbox today a free copy of the Verkiezingskrant (en: election newspaper) which technically describes the election process on 12 pages: 11.25 in Dutch and 0.75 in English. Obviously, the English description is pretty shallow, but (hooray!) there are 2 links to 2 websites: one in Dutch and one in (hooray!) English.

The English website seems pretty ok, I shall thoroughly read it in the future.

I like the political parties list (with links to their websites).
Due to a bit of research, I've discovered these parties' representativeness (therefore power) in the Dutch Parliament, which I expect to guide me in my decision process, should I finally decide to vote.

Update - 3rd of March: I voted.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

VU mail

[Post publicat de Liviu pe Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

This post presents the 3 e-mail services we've had (until now) here at the FEW of VU.

First, there was Horde, with its hard to use interface. It took me a few weeks to get used with it.

Second, there was roundcube, with a better looking interface, but still feeling like Horde: I've always though of it as Horde's face lift.

Third, now we have Outlook Web App, which finally looks shiny and gives one that stupid-proof feeling when using the interface. I like it. However, there was a problem at first: the interface appeared in Dutch only and I could not manage to change it, due to some sort of a bug; I read and searched all the manuals at Digidesk, then searched Outlook's help, but still couldn't solve it since some options in the menu were stubborn enough not to appear/show when clicking on them although the help clearly said they should appear; in the end I decided mailing UCIT Servicedesk which provided me the solution: I had to login using the light version, then do the tricks I have already read about but did not work in the full/standard version. This so much reminded of Windows' sometimes log-in-Safe-Mode behavior :)
I must emphasize VU's perfect organization in switching to Outlook: (1) a few weeks before the switch we received a couple of e-mails announcing the switch and also a letter by regular mail, and (2) the UCIT Servicedesk dealing with any IT problems related to the VU.

As a side note, the spam filter has worked quite bad overall. Indeed, I might have gotten used to GMails' spam filter which works perfectly and my standards are sky high now.