January 31st, 2007

Royal Trivia

The Queen has her birthday today. It is custom here that all people have a day off on “Queensday”. Since her birhday is in January, she decided when she got the throne (well, she can formally decide next to nothing, other than appointing the “formator”, the person compiling the administration after elections) to keep Queensday on her (late) mothers birthday, April 30th. Not only is Queensday in all economical reality a sunday, it is also an event where everybody takes out his junk to the street and tries to sell it. Amsterdam in particular is a HUGE, but livish mess.

January 30th, 2007

The motives of terrorists

A scientist here did a study of the 31 terrorist plots here in Europe that actually led to convictions. Of those 31, 3 were a success if you allow me to put it that way (London, Madrid and the murdering of countryman, filmmaker, critic and a$$h$$e Theo van Gogh). The other 28 plots were prevented but did lead to conviction. Although it was generally believed these plots were both financed as well as supported by Al-Qaida, the report paints a completely different picture. 60% of the cases were (to be) committed by young, North-African men. Most were not supported by ANY outside system or group, but motivated by anger about i.e. what is done to the Muslims or Palistinians of this world. The plots were often cracked because the youngsters were high profile braggers maybe even a reason why the “real” guys don’t even consider touching them. I think study this should be valuable input on the war on moisture terror.

January 24th, 2007

The technology put to use

Ok, ok, I am both a techy and I have something with stuff that goes up in the air. A few people build a real time noise monitoring tool covering the area around our international airport Schiphol Amsterdam (and two more regional airports). As can be expected, there is a constant battle between people living in the area and the authorities. The authorities have tools and models, the people are annoyed by the noise and don’t believe them and feel complaints are simply denied. The tool comprises of around 50 roof mount sensors with embedded computers sending their data to a central database server. Nothing new, except that it is non-governmental and non-airport authorities owned. Now the real cool thing is that they also installed a few receivers mapping the navigational data the plane maintains itself and transmits through its S-mode transponder onto the noise map. While not all aircraft have S-mode transponders and not all navigation data is correct (sometimes you can see an airplane landing a mile next to the runway), it is a very clever way of mapping flight data without relying on ATC or airport provided data. Even more interesting they map the data two dimensional through a flash application but also three dimensional and with a 30 minute graphical history on google earth (switch on the corresponding tree). When run next to the live feed of i.e. Schiphol approach or tower (free registration on atcbox required), you feel kinda in the middle of the action


Note: Due to recent publications, the system is sometimes heavily overloaded.

Disclaimer: I love the sound of a screaming jet engine spooling up and the faint smell of burning kerosine, but I am pretty sure I would feel different if I’d live near the airport.

January 8th, 2007

I smell something: Hollywood Vista, Marc Marlow and the Anchorage City Council

Well, well… the voters have spoken. It seems that most of us want a cleaner more honest form of government; at least as far as our elected representatives are concerned. But the Anchorage Daily News, despite frequent editorials that decry unethical behavior by elected officials, has once again waited until the last minute to report on an important local story. To my way of thinking this puts ADN in the same barrel with the scumbags who’ve taken bribes and lied to us in the past because it precludes our involvement in our government. I think that ADN’s delay is intentional and planned. Like so many other stories that ADN has reported on short notice or after the fact, the story, if acted on by the citizens of Anchorage, might have a real impact and disrupt what has already been planned. Well at least ADN reported this story before the fact (albeit only 2-”working days” before) rather than reporting the story 2 days after the deal is sealed as ADN has often done in the past.

This time it’s a possible land deal between “big deal” land developer Marc Marlow – and The Municipality of Anchorage (link to PDF of proposed Ordinance No. AO 2006-178). I get my news from the same places that everyone else does, so I was more than a bit surprised when the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) reported on Saturday, January 6, 2007 on page 1 (above the fold) a “POSH look planned for bluff housing;” the very first I’ve heard of it (and I even did a news search with Lexis). It seems that the City plans to sell developer Mark Marlow the 12.5 acres on Government Hill formerly known as “Hollywood Vista” apartments for, according to ADN $3.5 million. Sweet! In return, again according to ADN, Marlow will dedicate 10% of the 90 units he is reportedly planning on building (that’s 9 units folks) as affordable. N.B: for Marlow and The City ADN says $200,000 (almost 1/4 of a million dollars) is affordable.

This is just so much HORSE SHIT; again. Anchorage is in desperate need of affordable housing – but now the city is selling off a big chunk of prime city property to an already rich developer to build more luxury units?????? Did I miss something? Are all those unsold condos in the classified section a figment of my imagination? Is the crime rate in Anchorage also part of my imaginary landscape? Perhaps I’ve been misled to think there is a relationship between the real cost-of-living and crime;a curse on all those eggheads who’ve lead me astray. So I guess it’s business-as-usual here in Anchorage; screw me, screw you, screw any body who’s not a “mover and a shaker” in Anchorage (can you spell ELITES – perhaps read Robert Dahl if you need a definition of elite). Yet again we are going to get fleeced, and The City will tell us it’s for our own good. I can’t wait.

Please consider testifying this Tuesday at the Assembly Meeting and request that The City wait until the residents of Anchorage have had time to study the details of this land deal. ADN reported last Saturday that public testimony will be taken at this Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. At a minimum we should request (demand ??) that the City and Mark Marlow make the “relevant particulars” of their plans public – VERY PUBLIC so that we can study the details before we advise our elected representatives and thereby The Anchorage Assembly how we think our land should be used.

January 1st, 2007

The end of another dictator

There is nothing I can write about the execution of Hussein. Just a quick rundown.

  • It was barbarian and even if one is a proponent of capital punishment, sickening to see how totally respectless and chaotic this was. Don’t get me wrong, the guy was the worst of the worst.
  • The trial was a joke by all international law standards and this is exactly why there is a international court in The Hague (disclaimer: I am from the Netherlands), but no, the U.S. government strongly opposing the international court has even adopted a law legalizing invading the Netherlands if U.S. military are held captive for war crimes there.

Three years ago, I blogged elsewhere on capital punishment. Let me copy it here.

As in [as I know] all European Countries, we don’t have capital punishment. As probably all people, once in a while, things happen where my primary response is something like “kill the f%$#@! bastard”. When that primary feeling is over, I am kind of feeling civilized we don’t have a judicial system supporting that. I ran into this site where an immense amount of information is gathered about [US] Death Penalty. As far as I can judge it, it is reasonably unbiased and factual.

Caution: If you decide to follow this link you may find yourself not the greatest supporter anymore. Some items, i.e. “Botched Executions” is most definate not good for the stomach, so here I’ll only post two more “detached” quotes.

Q: Since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., between 5 and 10 people have been released from death row because they were innocent. A: Incorrect. There have now been over 100 people released from death row with substantial evidence of their innocence. In almost all of these cases, there was a re-trial ending in acquittal, or the state dropped charges after the conviction was thrown out by a higher court.

Despite assistance from the county-supported statewide Capital Crimes Defense Fund, local officials in several Idaho counties are troubled by the economic burden of prosecuting death penalty cases. They are also concerned about a recent federal appellate court ruling that could overturn all existing state death sentences because Idaho’s sentencing procedures were deemed unconstitutional. Cassia County Commissioner Paul Christensen said that in addition to the millions of dollars spent to secure death penalty sentences, it will cost the county an estimated $200,000 each to pursue reimposition of the death penalty in those cases affected by the federal ruling. He said that it costs Idaho taxpayers about $1 million to imprison somebody for life, but a death penalty case may cost five times that. “I think people need to realize the impact it has on our state taxpayers,” said Christensen. Lemhi County Commissioner Robert Cope reported that his county of 7,700 residents could not afford to prosecute a death penalty case even with financial help from the state, and in 1990, Lewis County had to borrow money to pursue a capital conviction. (Idaho Statesman, September 19, 2003)

A note. Johannes van Damme [59] was the last Dutchman executed. He was hanged in Singapore’s Changi prison on the 23rd of September 1994 after what seemed to be undeniable evidence of trafficking about 4 kilograms of hero├»ne, although there is some conspiracy theory. As far as I’ve understood, he was also the second non-Asian ever to be executed there. Years ago I’ve read a detailed proceeding of his last minutes while browsing a book in a bookshop written by the man who supported him. The vivid picture painted in my mind will never go away. When I was in Singapore about two years later, I told the story to the extremely nice couple who drove me me back to Changi Airport [yep, close to the prison, on my request we drove by]. Their response was something like: “He should have been smarter than choosing Singapore as transit”. Well, that does make some sense: on the immigration forms handed out in the aircraft is a little, but clear stamp with only seven green words: Death for drug traffickers under Singapore law. This is the current immigration leaflet [pdf].

More facts about death row in Texas and Federal.

January 1st, 2007

The countries that are changing

Rather silently, two former behind-the-iron-curtain countries have joined the European Union, Bulgaria and Romania (remember? That is where dictator Ceau?escu and his crazy wife were thrown out of power and killed by the people in 1989).

European Union