October 27th, 2007

The fires of Amsterdam

Now that the Californian fires are slowly coming under control it might be time for a “connection”, as Katrina and the flooding of a large part of my country in 1953 is.  But this goes back further. In 1421 and 1452, major parts of Amsterdam burned down. Wooden build houses, no infrastructure to put out fires, add the proper circumstances and there ya go. In 1521 Karel the 5th forbid the building of wooden houses in the city. Even now, there are only 2 all wooden house in all of Amsterdam.

Begeijnhof 34  Begeijnhof 34 “The wooden house”, dated 1470 (says Wikepedia, the website of the city mentions 1425), and probably the oldest wooden house in the Netherlands (picture Wikipedia)

Zeedijk 1  Zeedijk 1, dated aproximately 1550. (Zeedijk is the Red Light district, picture website of the city)

October 25th, 2007

The Wiretappers of Europe revisited

XS4ALL is one of the quality ISP’s here. It’s original founder is the guy behind “we don’t trust voting computers”. The only reason I really don’t like them is that they use the network of the former monopolist KPN, which I consistently refuse to pay any penny more than stricktly necessary. The Dutch lawmakers are forcing ISP’s to install tapping equipment at their own expense, to be used at will by the government. While this has an economical background too, XS4ALL is a provider with principles. They do not deny the government’s right to tap (with the proper procedures in place), but they refuse to pay for the equipment. This could end up in the highest European courts.

XS4ALL appeals the decision of the The Hague court. In it’s decision, the court argued “it was not logical that commercial entities like XS4ALL have to pay for making their network tapable, but found no juridical means to force the state to pay for it.

In the Netherlands, courts cannot rule about the lawfulness of “normal” laws against the constitution. XS4ALL does not deny this, but according to the ISP the court DOES have means to judge on the “tapping-law”, which is if it contradicting European law and rulings.

The court CAN rule about the lawfulness against European treaties and rulings. And since tapping is a matter of common interest, it falls under “commonality law”, and THAT is layed out in European treaties.

This could take years and if they win, the grapes will be sour, as we, the taxpayers will have to pay for the equip instead of XS4ALL customers, but still.

Added: Austria just awarded it’s Big Brother award, given to the worst (potential) privacy violators to my countryman Peter van der Arend. He is head of the ETSI working group Technical Committee on Lawful Interception, which is setting standards which would make all phone and internet networks tapable in an international, uniform way. I won’t start a rant here, go to the EFF to find out more about digital (un)privacy.

Earlier on the nest: The Wiretappers of Europe. The Diebolds of the world.

October 25th, 2007

The world solar challenge

My country won the World Solar Challenge this week. Wikipedia:

The World Solar Challenge is a solar powered-car race over 3021 km (1,877 miles) through central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools.

Added: a link to a cnn report.

October 25th, 2007

The flu

Flu season starting here, I’m up for my shot early next month, as I am in a risk category. Many people think a nasty cold is flu (influenza), but it isn’t. Anyway, some interesting facts I would like to share.

  • Cold season indeed is a flu (and cold) stimulant. But not because we’re more susceptible or the virus gains magic powers by the weather. The reason is simply that we vent our houses less and lock ourselves in too much. Lesson: insulation is good, but keep some air flowing.
  • Best flu (and cold) suppressor is not the shot. Is is: wash your hands, then wash your hands, then wash your hands again. Before and after food, after you-know-what, and in general, as often as possible.
  • Know how to wash hands. Soap does NOT kill bacteria let alone viruses. Soap is an entirely mechanical aid, it bridges water to fatty material, so it helps rinsing off the germs, no chemical magic involved. Knowing that, the routine is: soap hands and rub carefully, up to the wrists and between the fingers (see picture below). Then rinse with lots of water. Use a paper towel and close the valve using the towel.
  • Do not use anti-bacterial soap. It will not kill viruses and the will only help the surviving bacteria to get more resistant.
  • Do not ever sneeze in your hand or on the back of your hand. If is probably worse than sneezing in the air, which is a big nono as we all know. The best thing to do (read any hospital procedure) is to sneeze or cough in the sleeve of your shirt.

Wasing hands

More tips? Post as comments pls. Stay healthy!

Added:  Another study seems to prove that as far as transmission through air (aerosol transmission) is non existing at 30C (90F) and maximized at 5C (40F), which is proof of the seasonal uproar of influenza. Also, low humidity adds to aerosol transmission, adding to the winter effect even more. The scientists from that study strongly suggest vaccination as the method and play down the effect of washing hands, but they do concur it helps a lot against the common cold.

October 23rd, 2007

The sex in Singapore

Today, the law against oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples was lifted in Singapore. Whew! Homosexual sex is still forbidden.

October 22nd, 2007

The battle between Microsoft and the EU

After 3 years of legal debate and appeal, and being backed by the US government, Microsoft finally folded to the EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Fair use excerpt from CNN:

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — Microsoft Corp. agreed to obey key parts of a 2004 antitrust ruling upheld by an appeals court last month, EU regulators said Monday, cutting royalties for rivals and handing information over to open source developers.

The world’s largest software company said separately that it would not appeal the decision, dropping a challenge to a European Commission order that found it guilty of monopoly abuse three years ago.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes reached the deal in a phone call with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in the early hours of the morning, she said, adding that she hoped this “dark chapter” was over.

“As of today, the major issues concerning compliance have been resolved,” Kroes said, but cautioned that Microsoft has ongoing obligations.

Kroes said she regretted that it took so long for Microsoft to comply, because consumers suffered a lack of choice for years as rivals were held back from developing better software.

“It is a victory day for the consumer … not the Commission,” she said.

If the software maker does not keep to the terms of the deal, competitors will be able to take the company to a British court to seek damages.

Microsoft has agreed to three substantial changes, according to the European Commission.

About time. Neelie is a bitch, a Dutch bitch BTW, but that was needed.

Added Feb 27th, 2008:  And another fine, 899 mln Euro is imposed for not sticking to the deal, totalling now 1.68 billion Euro ($2.4 bln). Not learning it seems.

October 20th, 2007

The Turkey



October 17th, 2007

The growth of Skype

Skype, my favorite (and only production grade) IM and VoIP client, passed a 10 million concurrent users today. They will also integrate significantly with social networking giant Myspace (110 million users). That will have a huge impact. They will share/connect IM, presence and voice, starting mid-November. If you’re a MySpace user, you might want to create a Skype account with the same name (if not taken). I do urge you to stay on using Skype2Skype communications, as that is end-to-end encrypted, meaning they what is private stays private.

October 13th, 2007

The swearing

At last, at last at last. I’ve always been teasing my American friends why they wish sex on me ( “Fuck you!”) if they wish me bad. This is a great and in-depth article about swearing.

(…) As secularization has rendered religious swear words less powerful, creative speakers have replaced them with words that have the same degree of affective clout according to the sensibilities of the day. This explains why taboo expressions can have such baffling syntax and semantics. To take just one example, why do people use the ungrammatical Fuck you? And why does no one have a clear sense of what, exactly, Fuck you means? (Some people guess “fuck yourself,” others “get fucked,” and still others “I will fuck you,” but none of these hunches is compelling.) The most likely explanation is that these grammatically baffling curses originated in more intelligible religious curses during the transition from religious to sexual and scatological swearing in English-speaking countries:

Who (in) the hell are you? >> Who the fuck are you?

I don’t give a damn >> I don’t give a fuck; I don’t give a shit.

Holy Mary! >> Holy shit! Holy fuck!

For God’s sake >> For fuck’s sake; For shit’s sake.

Damn you! >> Fuck you!

Of course, this transmutation raises the question of why words for these particular concepts stepped into the breach–why, for example, words for bodily effluvia and their orifices and acts of excretion became taboo. Shit, piss, and asshole, to name but a few, are still unspeakable on network television and unprintable in most newspapers. The New York Times, for example, identified a best-seller by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt as On Bull****. (…)

 Thanks harryoh.

October 13th, 2007

The anger management

OMG I laughed my … off reading this. I am not posting a link here as it came from let’s say a NSFW site,  but Sassy, you made me laugh BIG TIME!

When you occasionally have a really bad day, and you just need to take it out on someone, don’t take it out on someone you know, take it out on someone you don’t know.I was sitting at my desk when I remembered a phone call I’d forgotten to make. I found the number and dialed it.

A man answered, saying “Hello.”I politely said, “This is Chris. Could I please speak with Robyn Carter?”Suddenly a manic voice yelled out in my ear “Get the right f***ing number!” and the phone was slammed down on me. I couldn’t believe that anyone could be so rude .

When I tracked down Robyn’s correct number to call her, I found that I had accidentally transposed the last two digits.After hanging up with her, I decided to call the ‘wrong’ number again.When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled “You’re an asshole!” and hung up.

I wrote his number down with the word ‘asshole’ next to it, and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills or had a really bad day, I’d call him up and yell, “You’re an asshole!” It always cheered me up.

When Caller ID was introduced, I thought my therapeutic ‘asshole’ calling would have to stop. So, I called his number and said, “Hi,this is John Smith from the telephone company. I’m calling to see if you’re familiar with our Caller ID Program?”He yelled “NO!” and slammed down the phone. I quickly called him back and said, “That’s because you’re an asshole!” and hung up.

One day I was at the store, getting ready to pull into a parking Spot. Some guy in a black BMW cut me off and pulled into the spot I had patiently waited for. I hit the horn and yelled that I’d been waiting for that spot, but the idiot ignored me. I noticed a “For Sale” sign in his back window, so I wrote down his number. A couple of days later, right after calling the first asshole (I had is number on speed dial,) I thought that I’d better call the BMW asshole, too.

I said, “Is this the man with the black BMW for sale?”He said, “Yes, it is.” I asked, “Can you tell me where I can see it?” He said, “Yes, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax. It’s a yellow ranch, and the car’s parked right out in front.”

I asked, “What’s your name?” He said, “My name is Don Hansen,” I asked, “When’s a good time to catch you, Don?” He said, “I’m home every evening after five.”

I said, “Listen, Don, can I tell you something?”

He said, “Yes?”

I said, “Don, you’re an asshole!”

Then I hung up, and added his number to my speed dial, too.

Now, when I had a problem, I had two assholes to call.

Then I came up with an idea. I called asshole #1. He said, “Hello.” I said, “You’re an asshole!” (But I didn’t hang up.) He asked, “Are you still there?” I said, “Yeah,” He screamed, “Stop calling me,” I said, “Make me,” He asked, “Who are you?” I said, “My name is Don Hansen.” He said, “Yeah? Where do you live?” I said, “Asshole, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, a yellow ranch, I have a black Beamer parked in front.” He said, “I’m coming over right now, Don. And you had better start saying your prayers.” I said, “Yeah, like I’m really scared, asshole,” and hung up.

Then I called Asshole #2. He said, “Hello?” I said, “Hello, asshole,” He yelled, “If I ever find out who you are…” I said, “You’ll what?” He exclaimed, “I’ll kick your ass,” I answered, “Well, asshole, here’s your chance. I’m coming over right now.”

Then I hung up and immediately called the police, saying that I lived at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, and that I was on my way over there to kill my gay lover.

Then I called Channel 9 News about the gang war going down in Oaktree Blvd. in Fairfax.

I quickly got into my car and headed over to Fairfax. I got there just in time to watch two assholes beating the crap out of each other in front of six cop cars, an overhead news helicopter and surrounded by a news crew.

NOW I feel much better. Anger management really does work.