December 29th, 2007

The arrangement of Bach

Bach (pronunciation) wrote his Choral for organ BWV659, Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland. A rather nice interpretation is on youtube. Never mind the boring video, it is a audition for the Geneva conservatoire, so fiddling with a camera would probably NOT be a good idea.

Then, more than a century after Bach’s death Italian composer Busoni came along. He (oh blasphemy) arranged quite a few pieces of Bach for piano. Remember that in Bach’s time, the harpsicord and organ, both non-dynamic instruments, meaning, impossible to change the volume by the way of playing, were the prevalent keyboard instruments and only late in his life, the Silbermann piano, predecessor of the modern piano, gained ground. Here is late Vladimir Horowitz romantic interpretation, played in his own home. It’s a cut out from a 1.5 hours documentary.

But I prefer the straight audio, here played by the then only 17 year old Joseph Kingma. Here is the beautiful score from the same website.

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I love this, listen to it every day, a soul connection.

December 29th, 2007

The hole in the ground

There are a three earthly things I would like to do in this life, some more achievable than the other. One of them is visit Yellowstone. This morning, as I was flipping through some links and photo’s I knew again why.

Morning glory pool

December 29th, 2007

The dancing house

A nice international connection. In Praha (Prague), Dutch bank ING, always strong in building very strong architectural buildings (see here and here) had Canadian and a Croatian-Czech architect build “The dancing house”, depicting Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

The dancing house

Image by wikipedia. More info here and here. Thanks Arrakeen.

December 27th, 2007

The would be prime minister

Benazir Bhutto was murdered today at age 54, after surviving an earlier attack in Karachi in October, killing 140. She would have been the almost certain prime minister following the January 8th elections in Pakistan. Your votes please, Al-Qaida or Muschi?

Earlier on the nest: The dictator

December 26th, 2007

The medical myths

Common medical myths, even upheld by some physicians, torn apart by Rachel C Vreeman in the British Medical Journal.

  • People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
  • Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
  • Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
  • Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
  • Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.

Fair use quote:

A 2007 study, examining mobile phones “used in a normal way,” found no interference of any kind during 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms. In contrast, a large survey of anaesthesiologists suggested that use of mobile phones by doctors was associated with reduced risk of medical error or injury resulting from delays in communication.

Thanks VPRO.

December 26th, 2007

The oil case

This TED talk is funnily enough entirely spoken from a US-selfish point of view. The already old presentation (2005) makes a scientific-economical, peer-reviewed case to get entirely rid of oil dependence for transport in a couple of years time, without major governmental influence and actually gaining (American) jobs. Not that the barrel price back then was $26, not the $80+ range we’re seeing today. It is a compelling proposition, and what it did to me is showing at least the real feasibility. Having said that, there is still, 2.5 years later no way for me to buy a truly fuel efficient car (Toyota Prius) here unless I cough up at least $42.000, and that is NOT the sort of car this guy is talking about.

December 24th, 2007

The cluster bombs re-revisited

The Israeli army handed over a report to the military prosecutor stating it’s use of cluster bombs in Southern Lebanon in 2006 was not violating international rules. Therefore, that prosecutor decided last Monday to not press charge against the commanders responsible. The conclusion sharply contradicts those of the UN, which stated that cluster bombs were used far too casually and was not used exclusively against military targets. If it weren’t so serious it was almost good enough a joke for hysterical laughing. The bombs were “dropped on mostly inhabited terrain” and “a military necessity”. Sure, let’s drop some cluster bombs in empty dessert, that will teach those terrorists a lesson.

Facts: The offensive against the Hezbollah took 34 days. Almost 1200 Lebanese were killed, mostly civilians. 157 Israeli were killed, mostly military. After the offensive, over 30 people (usually children, but I have no figures for this specific case) were killed by littered cluster ammunition.

Earlier on the nest: US is investigating Cluster Bombs “fair use” in Lebanon, The cluster bombs revisited

December 23rd, 2007

The bomb and the convicted

On October 12th 2002 a massive bomb exploded in the Eks Sari Club on Bali, Indonesia, killing 202 people, most young tourists from Australia. Four of my countrymen lost their lives in the blast too. Later, a total of 26 people were arrested, 3 of which were considered the leaders. They were sentenced to death. Yesterday, all possibilities of appeals were exhausted and the authorities said the 3 will be executed by the fire squad before the end of January.

This is one of those tough cases where initially one, yes, me too, wants to rip apart the lunatic religious fanatics killing so many youngsters just having fun in the dawn of their lives. But then, would it make us, the people, better? Would it really bring closure for the victim’s families? Would it restore tourism in the area? Would it calm the protesting crowds demanding their lives? Would it end the intense fanatical hatred? Would it end the injustice fueling that hate?

Earlier on the nest: The day against death penaltyThe killing, The killing revisited

December 23rd, 2007

The dasher

Through Google talks I ran into Dasher, a small text input program using language probability and the analog nature (instead of binary key clicking) of our body. The program uses simple movements, whether by mouse, eyetracking or just bending a finger to enter text . Actually I am writing this with dasher. It is very hard to explain how it works , but maybe the best way to describe is using a car analogy. I am driving over the most probable letter combination, mildly steering toward my intended goal.While I don’t see it replacing the keyboard soon it has some cool properties such as language independency. OK, quitting dasher here and typing on. Fantastic for the disabled, RSI affected, and it could come to your PDA or cell phone (for texting) soon. Give it a go, they have a Java applet running in the browser for the heck of it. Sure beats enter text on a numerical phone keyboard.

December 23rd, 2007

The Columbia connection

Seven years ago, Columbia. A 22 year old Dutch young woman visiting is struck by social injustice, poverty and the freedom fighters of the FARC, the guerrilla army. In a haze of admiration and sincere drive to improve the world through stronger means, she decides to join, working as a translator and soldier. Slowly but surely she sees the FARC is a shadow of its ideals. A bunch of self enriching crooks in charge, “cannon meat” at the bottom, entirely corrupt, dangerous. It’s a constant “being hunted” by the Columbian Army (not the nicest lot either). She lost all contact with her parents at home of course. They know what she’s doing, but keeping it hush to not endanger her life. As it turns out later, she does write a diary, as I guess lots of soldiers do, using the name “Eileen”.

Tanja Niemeijer

Nov. 24, 2006: I’m tired, tired of the FARC, tired of the people, tired of communal life. Tired of never having anything for myself. It would be worth it if we knew why we were fighting. But the truth is I don’t believe in this anymore. What kind of organization is this, where some have money, cigarettes, candy, and the rest have to beg, only to be rejected or met with grumbling? This is how it was when I arrived almost four years ago, and it hasn’t changed.

I want to leave here, at least this unit. But for the time being, you know that you’re more or less a prisoner. What can you do? I don’t want to hear any more about being a communist, being honest, not wasting, being obedient. And then see how hypocritical the commanders, like braggarts and traitors, showing no mercy if you dare to criticize them.

Fast forward seven years. A FARC jungle camp is raided by the army. The guerrilla’s flee hastily leaving almost everything behind. Including Tanja Niemeijer’s diaries. The diaries are found and not much later, they are published in the newspaper, including the severe criticism on the FARC leadership. It is said the FARC recruits in European countries and part of her diaries were translated and used to smack some sense in people who are contemplating on joining.

For all we know, she has been disarmed and taken into custody for the information leaking she did by leaving her diary behind. Normally, FARC executes soldiers, but it is reported “as she is a foreigner” that will not happen.