Faux Amsterdam School

Faux Amsterdam School

Housing corporations are demolishing a number of Amsterdam School housing blocks in the Transvaalbuurt in Amsterdam. Not spectacular Amsterdam School as in Spaarndammerbuurt or P.L. Takbuurt, but still. The other day, I noticed that a new building at this location is almost finished. It’s a striking imitation of the Amsterdam School, with brick reliefs, rounded balconies, window patterns and all.

I actually found a document (pdf) of the Oost District stipulating that the original architectural characteristics must be maintained and even prescribing the shape of the corner. One could argue that such a meticulous imitation of a historical style is a bit kitschy, but I think that in this case the result is pretty decent.

The Dutch bicycle


The ‘traditional’ Dutch bicycle originates in British and French predecessors, Zahid Sardar argues in his new book The Dutch Bike. Still, manufacturers cultivated the image of a typically Dutch, utilitarian product that has remained basically the same because it didn’t need improvement. As Timo de Rijk notes in the preface to the book:

Whereas foreigners found the Dutch bike heavy and unwieldy, here it was considered solid and indestructible, and in return the light-weight aluminium bicycles from France were openly maligned as inferior and needlessly equiped with ostentatious and fragile derailleur gears.

In the early 20th century, there were 4,000 bicycle brands in the Netherlands. Sardar refers to well-known manufacturers like Gazelle and Batavus as well as local brands in cities like Utrecht. He discusses the origin of the omafiets and its connection with women’s emancipation, as well as many other cultural and design aspects of the history of the Dutch bicycle.

In addition to the text, there is a wealth of historical photographs, advertisements, a collection of great head badges and other material. Then, at about two-thirds of the book, Sardar turns to modern Dutch bicicycle design, which is a bit of an anticlimax: most of these bicycles look rather silly. Take for example the Van Moof (no match for the elegant Joep) or the OV-fiets (the highly practical bicycle for rent at railway stations and other locations) - not to mention e-bikes and wooden bicycles.

Against this background, it’s good to see that the hippest bicycles in Amsterdam are currently old (girl’s) road bikes. With derailleurs.

For some reason iPhones appear to be unable to show photos from the road bike set and instead show random photos from my photostream.

Clint Eastwood won the LAUGHTER contest

I’m not sure what this says about the audiences at US national party conventions, but among a sample of 16 speeches, Clint Eastwood’s was the one that elicited the most laughter (Rand Paul’s got most applause). Among the presidential candidates, Obama won the applause contest, while being about equally funny as Romney.

For the second lesson of Alberto Cairo’s online data visualisation course, we were asked to comment on and perhaps redesign this convention word count tool created by the NYT. I wouldn’t be able to do such a cool interactive thing myself (I got stuck in the jQuery part of Codeyear), so I decided to focus on differences between individual speeches instead.

First I needed the transcripts – preferably from one single source to make sure the transcription had been done in a uniform way. As far as I could find, Fox News has the largest collection of transcripts online. As a result, Republican speakers are overrepresented in my sample, but that’s ok because the key Democratic speakers are included as well.

I wrote a script to do the word count (I’m sure this could be done in a more elegant way). One problem with my script was that html-code got included in the total word count. I thought I could correct this by subtracting 1,000 from each word count, but this didn’t work so well, so I had to make some corrections.

This assignment was a bit of a rush job so I hope I didn’t make any stupid mistakes.

Data visualisation course assignment

As part of Alberto Cairo’s data visualisation course, we’ve been asked to take a look at this graphic of social media use in selected countries and see how it can be improved. What struck me most (although this probably would not surprise social media experts) is the high level of activity in emerging economies. Above is my reinterpretation of the data. As a general indicator of social media use, I calculated the average of the listed types of social media use (upload photos; upload videos; manage profile; blogging; microblogging). Note that the data are from 2009.