Judo Champions, Mars, and Flamingos

Sunning
Here’s a quick news roundup for you all.

The flamingos at the Amersfoort Zoo here in the Utrecht region have laid four eggs. This is the first time the birds have bred in ten years! The eggs hatch around 28 days, so we should have some more flamingos in the region by the end of the month.

Last night, right before the men’s 100m race, some idiot threw a bottle down onto the track behind the runners. Fortunately, the runners weren’t hit or truly distracted. Fortunately — for everyone who hates that kind of idiocy and poor sportsmanship — Edith Bosch, one of the Dutch women who won an Olympic medal in judo this year, was sitting right behind the idiot. Horrified by what he had done, she gave him a hard smack on the back with the flat of her hand. Somehow, I suspect the hit of a judo champion might have a bit more force and power behind it! Good for her! Too bad she missed the actual race.

Finally, it was exciting to wake up to the news this morning of Curiosity’s landing on Mars. It turns out that a scientist at Utrecht University played a role in the project. Inge Loes ten Kate worked for five years on one of the instruments that is aboard the Mars rover. The instrument will be analysing soil and gas samples. She’ll continue to be involved in the project over the next two years.

Numbers, Dutch Style

Achtentwintig
A few weeks ago, the tv series Fringe (which you should all be watching) started off an episode with various people gathered around radios, listening for certain numbers. The first numbers we heard? They were in Dutch! If you’ve seen the episode, you will remember the reactions the characters had upon hearing the numbers: heads clutched between hands in agony. Technically, it wasn’t that the numbers were in Dutch that caused the pain, although when I first began learning Dutch numbers, I must admit I probably looked the same at times!

Back when I was learning French in high school, I remember thinking that the French way of counting the 90s was bizarre: four twenty ten (four times twenty plus 10). Why make it more difficult than it needs to be! Then I discovered how the Dutch do two-digit numbers. Take 28 for example, as seen in the address in the photo. In English, you would say twenty-eight. In Dutch, it’s “eight and twenty”. Any number from 21 to 99 (excluding 30, 40, etc.) is done this way: eenentwintig (21), negenennegentig (99). It makes sense, and I still prefer it to the French mathematics, but it does take some getting used to.

The difference can also lead to confusion when translated. As an English speaker, when I mentally translate the numbers, it’s not uncommon for me to hear achtentwintig (28), but transpose it to 82 in my head. The Dutch have the same problem sometimes when trying to say a number in English. For them sixty-three can become 36. It’s all a matter of perspective.

This is one of those things that can be frustrating, but can also be interesting. It’s one of those little differences that I enjoy … unless I’m trying to keep a lot of numbers straight at one time!