March 7th, 2012

The justice system and our identity

I was not really thinking I would sit out this Ted Talk.

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

But I urge each and every one of you. Invest those 24 minutes. Please. Thank you.Художник

February 2nd, 2012

The Gun

I don’t like weapons. At all. I don’t like war (naturally), I do not like the excesses of war. I don’t appreciate violence (which is why I hardly watch any television anymore). Then on TED, with a definite Dutch accent, Peter van Uhm, the Dutch chief of defense, explains why he choose The Gun.

Maybe it is good to mention that in my country we have no tradition of “respect for the soldier”, the “honor of serving once country”, that is rooted far far deeper in US society.

Note: Van Uhm lost a son in the Afghanistan war in 2008.художник на икониИкони на светци

January 18th, 2012

The crisis

Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are suffering badly because of the current credit crunch, created by insane money-inflaters. Still, Dutch ASML had the best year ever in it’s history. Who is ASML you say? They are the #1 supplier (together with Nikon if I’m not mistaken) to the chip producing industy. Think dozens of ASML machines (called wafer steppers) humming away in Intel’s, Toshiba’s, Samsung’s etc. factories.

And where are all those chippies going? <sarcasm>In the things we really cannot miss in our day to day struggle. Like erm, flat screen TV’s, iPad’s. Yeah we’re doing bad.</sarcasm>

I truly feel sorry for the people who find themselves stuck at the wrong end of the current issues. And for those who truly think they cannot do without the iStuff.

January 15th, 2012

The publisher

Tim O’Reilly (yes the publisher; if ever you need a technical book and find one on the subject,my experience is you can buy with your eyes closed. Always top material) is an amazingly outspoken person on his Google+ account. A short excerpt from his latest post, referring to an article in the Washington Post.

“… The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.”

Here’s a list of the issues discussed in the article:

  • Assassination of U.S. citizens
  • Indefinite detention
  • No right to a civilian trial
  • Warrantless searches
  • Secret Evidence
  • US officials have immunity from War Crimes prosecution
  • Secret courts with secret evidence
  • Immunity from Judicial review
  • Continuous monitoring of citizens
  • Extraordinary rendition

It was easy to blame Bush for introducing these new powers in the anti-terrorist mania after 9/11. What’s inexcusable is the way that President Obama’s administration has extended these powers. Change indeed. The first politician who really stands for restoring freedom would make me abandon Obama in a heartbeat. Give me a politician of any party who will make a serious commitment to restoring our nation’s commitment to freedom, and he or she will have my vote.

I am reluctant to blare from the other side of the pond, but I do think the sentiment is spreading here, for whatever it’s worth. OK, back to the crazy political climate here, sigh.

November 25th, 2011

The Deficit

Stumbling into an “Infographic” and with all the hoopla about Greece, the collapsing Euro etcetera, I thought it be interesting to post two infographics. One unfortunately is in Dutch but bear with me it is a great one. Open this link please. As you can see you can click on a year between 2001 and 2010 and select a them above that. The themes are: Economic growth, National Debt, Shortage on National Balance and Unemployment.

For reference, have a look at US National Debt Clock. For the US, the National Debt is roughly 100% of the GDP. Note that only Greece and Italy exceed the US for that that metric.

On unemployment, it’s a more balanced outcome: the US just under 10%, about 10 countries in Europe are above that.

Also note how the East-European economies, while small, are doing mighty fine.


October 20th, 2011

The World Grid

I reinstalled (now under Ubuntu) a program to donate my spare CPU cycles to the World Community Grid. Right now it is chewing away on a 9 hour workload for the Human Proteome Folding project, after which it will start working on HelpConquer Cancer and FightAids. Assuming I am not in reality decrypting encrypted traffic for the CIA, I think it is a great plan to donate more or less wasted computer cycles to computer hungry research projects in the “Humanity” category. Yes I also donated to SETI long ago. Anyone to join in a “Ptarmigan” team? I will set one up if there are 4 participants.

September 10th, 2011

The threat

Interesting article in Scientific American. It opens with an interesting perspective.

The CIA notes the annual U.S. death rate is 8.38 fatalities per 1,000 citizens, below that of a country like Nigeria but above other places, such as Uzbekistan. The leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer and car accidents, which killed roughly 1.2 million Americans in 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control—more than half of all fatalities in the country. For comparison, terrorists killed no one in the U.S. that year.

Something to think about when considering where money is best spend.

Disclaimer: While here in Europe, things are slightly more relaxed and not so “TSA-ish”, I have not doubt whatsoever, both the above numbers, the spending on mostly fake security as well as the outrageous invasion on privacy is at least comparable (and I am being kind here). Sigh.


September 3rd, 2011

The true meaning of empathy

иконографияOn TED: Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.

About the talk

Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.


The [enemies of empathy] are pity, moral outrage, fear. We have a world paralyzed with fear. The word “terror” is [now] global.

Fear destroying empathy, so true!


February 7th, 2011

The Dunning–Kruger effect

Enlightening isn’t it? Or am I too harsh here?

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to appreciate their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

January 25th, 2011

The violence

In Europe, the how should I put it, “general opinion” is more or less that the American society is more cruel, more violent, than us sophisticated lot (uh huh, please DO read the sarcasm). Still, a major difference exists which I have touched here long ago and that is the availability of firearms. Where in the US, you are allowed, no obliged almost, to protect your family and property, in most of Europe violence is a “state monopoly”. The implications have many gray areas which is really out of the scope of this entry.

More interesting though is that the “more cruel, more violent” notion seems to slowly permeate in the US. An American analysis.

The recent murderous acts of violence committed by Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona cannot be reduced to the mental instability of young man out of touch with reality. Nor can such a horrendous act be reduced to a breakdown in civil discourse. Such rationales are too easy, and emulate what Frank Rich has called “classic American denial.” (…)

I want to suggest that underlying the Arizona shootings is a culture of cruelty that has become so widespread in American society that the violence it produces is largely taken for granted, often dismissed in terms that cut it off from any larger systemic forces at work in the society.

I am not entirely sure yet I buy into this analysis. The comments are interesting too (ignoring the extreme guns-freedom blah). Especially imho when they DO refer to Europe.

Think the overall message of the article is clear and sound, referring to the American culture is a bit too simplistic as here in Europe we see without the easy access to arms identical trends. Governments are not doing their jobs, instead going for the easy way and running from one media hype to the next with a magnifier allowing fear to take over from common sense. Please lets stick together, use our brains and respect each species as only then we have a change to survive a couple of more generations on this planet.

The last sentence a bit dramatic but I didn’t want to censor and I am always in favor of using our brains. What do you think?