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4:32pm on Sunday, 13th April, 2014:

Afternoon in Amsterdam


My talk at the Gamification for Information Retrieval conference this morning went well, despite my knowing nothing about either Gamification or Information Retrieval. I got out without being lynched, anyway. This meant I had about three hours free this afternoon to explore Amsterdam.

This must be my fourth or fifth time in Amsterdam, and as the first one was for a week I have actually explored it before. It was therefore more like re-acquainting myself with it (without a map: I picked one up from the hotel but it was in my bag when I put it in a locker at the station). I managed to find the Rijksmuseum, which for the first time I've been here was actually open; sadly, not for long enough that I was going to buy a ticket (or, more particularly, queue up to buy a ticket). There were far fewer dogs around than when I first came last century, so much so that I didn't feel I had to watch my every footstep in case I trod in something unpleasant. I suspect that the companies that rent out Segways have found a way to eliminate dogs to the benefit of us all.

There were many more bicycles than I remember, though. Annoyingly, footpaths sometimes turn into cucle lanes with no warning, so I was zoomed past at closed quarters a couple of times. It wouldnt have been fatal if Id been hit (well, not for me; maybe for the cyclist), but it would have hurt. They must lose so many tourists that way.

I did nearly die, though. No, it wasn't of embarrassment as I walked through the wrong part of town and nearly-naked women in windows tapped on them to attract my attention as they thought I looked like the kind of middle-aged man desperate enough to pay for their services. What nearly killed me was a series of loud, unexpected explosions. It turns out that Ajax could win the Dutch football league today, so the centre of Amsterdam was packed with boistrous football fans seeking out bars where they could watch the game with their fellow fans while downing agricultural strength Heineken. Some of these fans had explosives. I don't know what they were, but I'm fairly certain that igniting them without a licence must be illegal. They were so loud they set off car alarms. They also made me jump out of my skin with shock, and it's this that nearly killed me. I heard the first one when I was indoors so that wasn't so bad, but the second one I was outside and quite close. The pain in my chest from the effects the surge of adrenalin had on my heart lasted for 5 minutes. There were another three explosions, all making me jump (but not as much as the second), then I hid in a department store. I did hear another one maybe an hour later, but my guess is that the policd managed to confiscate the fireworks or whatever they were from the original perpretrators and this last one was anisolated incident from another group.

I'm about to arrive at Schipol about 4 hours before my flight, butI figured it was safer to do that than hang around in central Amsterdam if Ajax won.

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).